The world building is pretty terrible. I never got the sense that the City was in the slightest a work of engineering a...moreThis book barely hit two stars.
The world building is pretty terrible. I never got the sense that the City was in the slightest a work of engineering and not a work of literature with particular constraints designed to serve the story. Even if you wanted a setting that served the same literary purpose, a better and more believable one could have been contrived with a bit of thought. If you are going to write science fiction, you have to do the world building. The fact that you are writing juvenile fiction is no excuse. Good juvenile fiction doesn't mean its unappealing to adults; it merely means its also appealing to and suited to younger readers. If an adult can't enjoy it, it's a waste of time for a child as well.
This book is also proof that a work of fiction can get too didactic even for me, even where I largely agree with the talking points. Again, that this is juvenile fiction is no excuse. Good writing is good writing regardless of who it is pitched to.
But that said, I would have overlooked all of that and even the trite shallow characterization if the author had more merit as a writer. There are just some really basic amateurish mistakes here that really ruin the work. First, the writer uses the first page of the text not to provide a hook, but to provide spoilers. Secondly, the writer doesn't start the fiction at the point where the action actually begins, but rambles on for a while waiting for the story to actually happen. I can't help but feel that this was written to a template provided by 'The Giver' without understanding why that book, which was nearly as infuriating but for different reasons, had the structure it did. At least 'The Giver' actually managed to begin where the conflict begins and tell the story of how the protagonist met the challenge of the conflict. This begins with an arbitrary life experience and largely has the protagonist team idle through most of the story, unable or unwilling to make meaningful decisions. Much of the reason we read a story is to root for a protagonists success, and that requires that the reader sympathize for the situation that the protagonist is in. It doesn't require that the protagonist actually go from victory to victory, but it does require that at least we see the protagonist honestly struggling and trying in the face of the conflict. Through almost all of the story, the protagonists of City of Ember are idle, childish, and lackadaisical in the face of disaster. While that might well be true to life, it raises the question of why the author of this story would choose to tell the story only from their perspective alone when for much of the story, the prospective of the chosen protagonists is simply quite dull.
This is one of the longest short stories I've ever plowed through. The pacing was just so incredibly slow and there was nothing - no depth of character, no beautiful prose, no intriguing setting - to make up for it and excuse our loitering through the story.