Frustrating but ultimately pretty decent sequel to the fascinating "City of Ember", this picks up right after the finish of the first volume, as the eFrustrating but ultimately pretty decent sequel to the fascinating "City of Ember", this picks up right after the finish of the first volume, as the entire populace of the dying underground city make their way out of harm's way, into the upper world. "Sparks" covers the travails of the next few months, as the Emberites encounter a small town struggling to get by, with a population even smaller than the 400 survivors of the underground world. There are two major problems with the book I think, first that it is far less original in feel and setting -- the postapocalyptic worlds of films like the "Mad Max" series, and countless SF novels from the past century aren't ever very far off; and second, the whole premise of the arguments between the two communities rests on the notion that the leaders of Sparks are arrogant and unwilling to speak with the Emberites as equals, or even really as other intelligent people. While it is true that the Emberites are ignorant of many things (such as seasons, which become a big plot point that is not dealt with particularly realistically), it's also clear that they have their own special knowledge, and yet they act demoralized and the people of Sparks act superior from the get-go. The apocalypse is only two centuries past; surely someone besides the two young heroes of the first book, Lina and Doon, would have some notion of cooperation?
Still the book has some narrative drive, Ms. Duprau's pacing is fairly solid and she manages to keep up interest in the plot despite the basic storyline/originality issues I have with it, and she also succeeds I think in creating some fairly interesting characters (Maddy, Mrs Hester) without seeming to try very hard. There is still some promise in this series, and I'll be keeping up with it....more
I've been a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his "planetary romances" since childhood, and have wanted to check out the works of his most popular imitaI've been a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his "planetary romances" since childhood, and have wanted to check out the works of his most popular imitator for some time. A couple of years ago I picked up most of the Kline books from eBay, in the old Ace short paperbacks with the neat Krenkel covers -- anyway, this is weaker than I expected on the whole. The action never flags -- more triumphs and reverses in this 160 pages than in the typical ERB volume -- but missing is anything much in the way of characterization, descriptive power, or narrative intelligence. Characters appear to save other charactes at the most opportune moments -- typical in the genre -- but there's little in the way of time-sense or geographic sense here and it just didn't cohere. The characters are uniformly wooden and poorly or not at all described, and very little here seemed even remotely original; slavish is only going a little too far. I hope the rest are better......more
One of the great visionary works of Edwardian ("Wellsian") era science fiction, "The Machine Stops" is a propulsive novella describing the end resultOne of the great visionary works of Edwardian ("Wellsian") era science fiction, "The Machine Stops" is a propulsive novella describing the end result of mechanized, dehumanized mankind, and its potential rebirth. I've lately read quite a few short stories by Forster's and Wells' contemporaries, and rarely do they come remotely close to the power and conciseness of the vision offered here. A mother in a far-remote future cannot abide her distant son's attempts to find his way into the world of the outside, the world that her civilization had long ago given up in favor of total artificiality....but she would do well to heed his heretical words! Hugely influential on SF writers, this really deserves to be better known among general audiences....more