Jeanne DuPrau's 2003 young teen novel "The City of Ember" takes place in an underground city that is losing its ability to produce electricity and sustain life. The novel fits into the broad category of fantasy fiction. Further defined, it is a genre of fantasy called post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction, which involves oppressive societies that develop following catastrophes.
An apocalypse in fiction is a human-made or natural disaster that radically changes the world. In fantasy novels, it often occurs before the action of a story and at a distant, imprecise point in the past. As readers are introduced to Ember, it becomes clear that no one remembers the world above ground or the disaster that led to Ember's construction. As new apocalypse threatens the city, two teens -- Lina and Doon -- seek a way out of Ember to avert its annihilation.
Dystopias are the opposite of utopias -- perfect, fictional societies where the laws, government and living conditions are ideal for all. Although Ember isn't a completely unhappy place, its living conditions are worsening daily. Political corruption has led to its loss of history and technical knowledge. The city's huge electrical engine is failing and no one knows how to fix it. Like coals in a dying fire, the lights of Ember are flickering out. To bring light and warmth to the citizens of Ember, Lina and Doon face the dilemma of heading into darkness and the unknown.
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