The People of Sparks

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Jeanne DuPrau
Corgi
0552552399
Feb 2006

The sequel to The City of Ember, which I haven�t read, this book does a fair job of standing by itself as a single story.

We�re in post-apocalypse mode here. Sometime in the distant future four hundred inhabitants of an underground city have managed to find their way to a surface that they didn�t even know existed. Their city, Ember, is �dying� thanks to lack of power for the lights and shortages of various essentials, but here in the great outdoors they are as infants without knowledge of stars or seasons or weather. Luckily for them they happen upon one of the very few post-disaster villages, Sparks, a place where years of hardship and toil have finally resulted in quite a thriving and self-sufficient little community. Needless to say, the people of Sparks are a little nonplussed to have a population greater than their own suddenly descend upon them. Nevertheless they agree that aid must be given, and as a short-term measure they house the newcomers in the decrepit old Pioneer Hotel, offering to feed them and teach them survival skills in exchange for hard work: strictly a six-month arrangement.

Yet in time the strain of having these two groups living side by side, draining the resources of a single village, begins to cause friction: friction which is exploited and egged on by individuals on either side in whom the alienating concept of �us� and �them� runs deepest. Thus Sparks teeters towards its own mini apocalypse, a war that may destroy this village just as completely as the larger version did with the great cities of the past.

Who, we wonder, in this atmosphere of distrust and anger, can lead the way to a different more loving path?

Jeanne DuPrau writes very naturally and without visible effort. She depicts a highly believable, warts-and-all series of characters thrown together by circumstances and it is to her credit that the reader is not drawn to favour either �side�. She keeps her post-apocalyptic vision simple and convincing (the story might almost have been set in the pioneering days of the American west) and although such scenarios have been explored many times, we do care about this world she�s made, and the characters that must struggle through it.

Despite a little heavy-handedness in some of the moral content, the anti-war message of The People of Sparks is more valid now than ever before. All you leaders out there intent on demonising fellow human beings for your own paranoid reasons, do please have a read.



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This page contains a single entry by Patrick Cave published on February 26, 2006 10:05 AM.

Jabob's Ladder was the previous entry in this blog.

The World According to Humprhey is the next entry in this blog.

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