The City of Ember and Interview with Jeanne DuPrau

September 9, 2013 Interviews, Reviews 4 ★★★★★

The City of Ember and Interview with Jeanne DuPrauThe City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Series: Book of Ember #1
on 5/25/2004
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 270
Format: Paperback
» Buy on Amazon

Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness….

But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them


The City of Ember is a dystopian book set in the far future. Before a nuclear war breaks out, the government secretly builds an underground city and sends select citizens there to live underground for hundreds of years until the surface is safe to inhabit again. The book follows Lina and Doon, two young teenagers who attempt to solve the mystery of how to leave Ember.

The book was one of the few that rekindled my love of reading. I really enjoyed the setting and the characters. Following the teens on their discovery was interesting, as was learning how the citizens coped with day-to-day needs and difficulties. To add to the problems, the city was well past its prime and on the verge of breakdown. And of course making the bad guys of the story be self-centered out-of-touch politicians was quite believable. Lena is a very interesting character…she is very head strong, doesn’t take no for an answer, and won’t leave any stone unturned as she looks for the truth. She faces off again those in power several times and ultimately becomes a leader in the search for freedom.

This is a good novel for preteens on up to adults.

City of Ember is followed by The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and the Diamond of Darkhold.

There is a graphic novel of City of Ember. Buy it on Amazon: The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel (Books of Ember)

Interview with Author Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember was made into a motion picture with an all-star cast and an amazing set design. But ultimately it failed to connect with audiences and did not succeed. What was your opinion of the movie, and is there anything you would have changed if you could redo it? How close was the movie to your own personal vision of Ember? Did you have any input into the portions that veered from the book plot?

I had mixed feelings about the movie. I thought they designed a spectacular city (though it was different from what I envisioned, which was much darker and bleaker), and I liked the main actors, especially Bill Murray as the mayor. I wasn’t so pleased about the changes they made to the story–adding monster insects and moles, putting in a confusing subplot about Doon’s father, and omitting some important scenes. But I had no say in the making of the movie beyond suggesting some changes in the script. Actually, I suggested a lot of changes, but most of them weren’t made. Filmmakers like to create their own vision of a story; I understood that from the start of the project–but I did think their vision could have been a little closer to mine!

If you had to pick one group to belong to, would you have belonged to the City of Ember, or to Sparks?

Both sides were having a hard time, but I would probably have wanted to join in with the people of Ember. They were the ones having a thrilling, though hard, adventure, seeing the wonders of the Earth for the first time.

Do you have any plans for future Ember prequels or any Ember-related books?

There’s the graphic novel of The City of Ember. But besides that, I have no plans to add to the series.

It has been a few years since your last novel. Can you talk about what you’ve been working on, and what the next novel will be?

After I wrote The Diamond of Darkhold, I was pretty burned out. Since then I’ve had a few ideas for another book, and I’ve started work on two of those ideas. I’m finding it slow going–I keep throwing out what I’ve written and starting over–but I hope to have something finished before too long. I don’t want to say anything about it yet, except that, like the Ember books, it takes place in the future.

What are some novels you read recently that you enjoyed?

I liked Tenth of December, by George Saunders (short stories) and A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers. I liked the strange and fascinating Patrick Melrose novels, by Edward St. Aubyn. Philip Pullman is an author I admire–the His Dark Materials trilogy especially. Though my own books are usually classified as science fiction, I don’t read much in that genre, and I’ve ceased trying to keep up with what’s new in children’s and YA fiction. There’s just so much!


About Jeanne DuPrau

Jeanne DuPrau spends several hours of every day at her computer, thinking up sentences. She has this quote taped to her wall: “A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people” (Thomas Mann).

This gives her courage, because she finds writing very hard. So many words to choose from! So many different things that could happen in a story at any moment! Writing is one tough decision after another.

But it’s also the most satisfying thing she knows how to do. So she keeps doing it. So far, she has written four novels, six books of non-fiction, and quite a few essays and stories.

Jeanne DuPrau doesn’t write every minute of every day. She also putters around in her garden. She lives in California, where it’s easy to grow everything from apples to zinnias.

Jeanne DuPrau doesn’t have children, but she has two nephews, a niece, and a dog. The dog lives with her. His name is Jockey. Jeanne and Jockey get along well, though their interests are different. Jockey is not very fond of reading, for example, and Jeanne doesn’t much like chasing squirrels. But they agree on walks, naps, and trips in the car to surprise destinations. Ethan also likes to help in the garden.

4 Responses to “The City of Ember and Interview with Jeanne DuPrau”

  1. Marni J

    Wow! An interview with the amazing Jeanne DuPrau! I loved all the Ember books and shared that love with my oldest daughter. We were both disappointed with the movie and changes but it didn’t change our love for the books, characters and their evolution.

    • Michael

      I still like the movie but overall disappointed with what they did. They made the whole boat scene way over complicated. There is no way builders would rely on advanced technology to raise the river and all that, when it could fail. And technology like that wasn’t used elsewhere in the city. The way the book did it was perfect. And then the boats being lockers that were way too small, being launched with nobody controlling it, and the whole river ride (aka Disney). Plus the killer mole, etc. I could go on and on. It kindof saddens me as it just made the movie fail all the worse and kill any hope of Sparks movie

  2. Kelly

    I haven’t read the books or seen the movie, but I have City of Ember on my Kindle.
    I’ve heard awesome things about it, and found it when I was looking for books to read if you’ve loved The Hunger Games.

    Awesome interview!

    • Michael

      Oh you definitely need to read it, and the first sequel The People of Sparks. They are really well done in my opinion.