Monday, February 1, 2010

Great Expectations of Genius Part II

In a bit of a follow-up to the discussion within my review of Steamboy, I want to talk about the book I just finished reading, The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau - a sequel to The City of Ember

I went into this book with high expectations. The City of Ember story has occupied some prime real estate in my imagination since I read it a year and half ago. I'd heard mixed things about the follow-up books and was skeptical that they were an attempt by an author to simply cash on it on first novel hit. But my enduring curiosity to find out what happened to Lina and Doon won out and I dove in.

My reaction to this book was a complete reversal from my experience with Steamboy. What I discovered was a book that, in my opinion, overshadows it's already wonderful predecessor. 

The City of Ember drew its strength of story from its truly brilliant concept. The characters were endearing, but essentially functional to the story. Plot was everything, and it was done exceptionally well. The People of Sparks is a very different book. The writing is what shines through and the heart of the characters drives the plot. But like Ember, the town of Sparks seems to materialize before your eyes while reading. 

What was really remarkable in my opinion was the way DuPrau captured the sense of wonder the Emberites felt with each new discovery they made...especially as these "discoveries" are things that the reader takes for granted. 

-Over his head, the sky was a deep, clear blue, a thousand times bigger than the black lid that had covered Ember, and around him the green-and-golden land seemed to stretch away without end. Doon kept wondering where the edges were.- 

As a writer, we always try to present the world in a way that seems give the ordinary a fresh perspective. I couldn't image the daunting task she must have faced, staring at the blank screen, and trying to make our entire world feel like a new discovery. It's a thousand times easier to invent a compelling world, than it is to make our own feel magical. 

On top of the wonderful writing, there is certainly a page-turning plot that I didn't want to step away from. Not to mention that it's a pretty profound and deconstructed look at the nature of conflict escalation, resolution, courage, kindness, greed and forgiveness. And that's not exaggeration, it truly is. 

-In the sunlight, [the city] looked more sad than terrible. Over the rolling, grass-covered mounds, the skeletons of the old towers stood like watchmen. The trees bent their backs before the wind, and the wind swept ripples across the surface of the green water that wrapped around the city’s edges. Maybe, thought Lina, the sparkling city she’s seen in her mind was a vision from the distant future, not the distant past. Maybe someday the people of Ember—or the great-great-grandchildren of today’s people of Ember—would come back here and build the city again.-  

Bravo! If they do...I hope to read about it. 

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