09 February 2008

The people of Sparks

Just over three weeks ago I wrote , with enthusiasm and wonder, of Jeanne DuPrau's novel for new adults: The city of Ember. Today I've read the sequel, The people of Sparks, as well. There's also a "prequel", The prophet of Yonwood, but I want to sort out, absorb and write down my impressions of Sparks before I go on to read that.

Don't expect more of the same. This book is just as good as Ember, but different: it deals with new issues and territory. In many ways, it reminds me in spirit (but it is very distinctly itself) of Ursula K le Guin's The eye of the heron. DuPrau isn't afraid to challenge her readers with moral dilemmas; where Ember presented the balance of individual versus state, security versus responsibility, Sparks tackles the hard problems of "us versus them". Selfishness and generosity. Refugees. Human dignity and the coldness of charity. War and peace. Self image and self delusion. Honesty, deception, opportunism and the justification of means by ends. Abdication from thought. The need to love (love of all kinds - strong links to my new year exchange with Jim Putnam here, here and here). How easily violence breeds, and the courage needed to turn the other cheek. The necessity for empathy and compromise. It's full of real people, some of them very wise and a couple of them very foolish. It's big hearted, open, and generous.

All [Doon] could think was, He's right. Of course he's right. But we're right too. (p.115)

But, once again, it is first of all a good story.

Lina said, 'It would take me hours to tell you everything I've seen. But listen, this is the main thing: people had a beautiful city, and they wrecked it.'
'On purpose?' said Doon.
'With wars. With fighting...'

Buy copies, and give them to every 9-14 year old you know. Then give a few more to adults, as well, for good measure. Oh yes, and send one to your favourite MP, senator, president, or other politician (regardless of your, or their, political affiliation) while you are at it. Make the world a better place.

  1. Jeanne DuPrau,, The people of Sparks. 2006, London: Corgi Books. 9780552552394 (pbk)
  2. Ursula K Le Guin, The eye of the heron. 1982, London: Gollancz, 0575032111

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