This book was a refreshing little read. Fortunately, I read it before I saw the movie. Otherwise I might not have wanted to read the book. The movie added giant mutated bugs and moles, made the action and technology completely unconvincing, and the characters flat and exaggerated in their eccentricities. The book is much, much better.
The reading level is simple, similar to the Chronicles of Narnia, but despite that it has some intriguing themes to it. These people live underground, totally isolated and ignorant of the history of the world or of science, only knowing what they've discovered themselves. There are 'believers' who believe they will be saved by the all-wise 'builders' who built Ember, and other such situations that would make for some pretty interesting discussions in a book club situation. I wonder how much allegory the author was going for because you can find plenty in the book.
Otherwise the idea of the book is intriguing to me - an apocalyptic event for which the only hope of the survival of the human race was to make this city underground designed to last for 200 years, but the instructions how to leave the city were lost...
I liked it. The characters were fun, the storyline interesting, and it left me quite interested in the sequels. It's a pleasant, quick read that is worth the time you put into it. The audioibook is by Listening Library, the same company that did the Harry Potter audiobooks and the Inheritance Cycle audiobooks. The reader does well, though her voices are a little cartoon-ish compared to Jim Dale, and she does read with a little condescension, as might be appropriate when reading to an elementary school audience, but when compared to Jim Dale, not many can hold a candle.