Project F

 
3.7 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
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Project F
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
October 10, 2023
ISBN
978-0593643808
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WELCOME TO THE FUTURE.

There are no cars, planes, television, or smart phones. Climate change wreaked havoc on Earth hundreds of years ago, and now people live a simpler life.

Then thirteen-year-old Keith uncovers a secret. It’s a mysterious mission known only as Project F. It’s advanced, it’s scientific, and it’s going to change the world. It’s exactly the kind of adventure Keith has always longed to be a part of.

And what is adventure without a little danger, right? But how much danger is Keith willing to risk? For himself? For his family? For his community? For the entire world…?

Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember was an instant hit when it arrived on bookshelves. It has become a modern classic beloved by readers selling hundreds of thousands of copies a year! In her latest novel, she explores timely questions about the Earth and our use of its resources. A bold novel, Project F asks how much you are willing to risk to save the future.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Environmental problems solved... or are they?
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
3.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Keith Arlo lives in Cliff River City, in a future where there are onlky seven fairly small cities, since there are no fossil fuels being used at all. There are trains, horse carts, and a society where sustainable environmental practices are encouraged so that the world doesn't devolve into the chaos that existed before the Sudden Fall. When Keith's aunt and uncle are swept out to see in their new home of Sandwater City, they leave behind his young cousin, Lulu. She's being held in a children't home, and Keither father is too busy with his battery shop to go and get her. His mother, who designs doorways for municipal buildings, has just broken her ankle. It only makes sense that Keith, who is 14, will get on the train with a note and bring her home. Unfortunately, he managed to switch his blue knapsack for the one belonging to Malcolm, a stranger who mentioned he is working on a secret project at Graves Mountain. Keith reads some of the papers, hoping to find some contact information, and decides to stop by Malcolm's facility after retrieving Lulu, because he wants to bask in the gratitude of returning the important papers. Malcom is grateful, but he's also not happy that the security was compromised. Despite this, because Keith is lighter than the men working on the project, he is asked to test pilot it. The deep secret is that Project F is bringing back a coal powered jet pack that will give people more freedom than they currently have. It's awesome to fly, but Keith soon has to get Lulu home. He also has concerns about the legalities of the creation, but doesn't think too hard about what the "black powder" fuel is. He also hasn't paid very close attention to the history of the Sudden Fall, but forgets to return a book Malcolm had that details the history of this time. Lulu settles in, with understandable sadness about returning to her former home city without her parents. When Malcolm contacts Keith and says that his group is going to come to Cliff River City and debut the new technology, Keith is somewhat conflicted. Is it illegal? What might be the consequences of this new techology if it does invovle reintroducing fossil fuels?
Good Points
There have been so many dystopian books written, including this author's The City of Ember, and I often wonder why there aren't more eutopias. The answer is, of course, is that a lack of conflict makes for a boring story. Since Project F details a working endaxitopia (resorting to modern Greek to form this-- it means "so-so"!), it makes sense that while things are pretty good, the conflict comes from a threat to the society. The beginning gets off to a good start, with Keith being entrusted to retrieve his cousin, and getting the opportunity to fly. Perhaps it was the fact that there was some technology (trains, apartment buildings) but no planes of cars, that gave this an early 1900s feel to it. Cliff River City seemed like something set almost during the Great Depression, and was fairly rich with outdoor spaces that are gorgeously described. Keith is a fairly typical 14 year old, who is a bit self absorbed but willing to learn about the world around him, and his feelings about the possibility of flight are realistic.

This became extremely didactic about fossil fuels, and I would have been okay with that if I had felt for a moment that Malcolm and his Project F were any sort of real threat. Instead, he seemed like a slightly off kilter inventor with little support whose project didn't seem to be a threat at all. The launch was not a success; Malcolm crashes and ends up being banished, but just to another city, which shows that even the government didn't find him threatening. His operation is easily closed down, and no one seemed that interested in it at all. Keith sort of gets to save the day, which I would have enjoyed more.

This felt like a 1950s science fiction book, like Heinlein's Have Space Suit, Will Travel, or sort of like a middle grade Asteroid City. (Which I haven't seen, but whose movie trailers look rather fun.) It's a cautionary tale to be sure, but also involve jet packs. Duprau's writing is gorgeous, and I certainly still think of the centuries old canned goods in City of Ember from time to time. This is a great choice for readers who liked Haddix's The Forever War, Hall's The Line, or Walter's The Rule of Three.
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Those who fail to learn from the past...
(Updated: September 13, 2023)
Overall rating
 
3.3
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
3.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The author creates a novel vision of a future world that follows an environmental crisis on Earth. Coal apparently has the worst reputation of all energy sources as no one would dare use it today. Electricity is one common thread between past and present as it was deemed too important for the survival of humanity. The plot has the feel of a society wiped out and starting over with bits of saved technology thrown in. It’s interesting to see what inventions are kept from life centuries before. The characters travel by steam engine because it’s the fastest form of transportation but they use horse-drawn carriages around town. However, they have electric lights and use telephones to make calls across the country. Characters have vague impressions of the previous world without any specific examples.
Keith is the main character and he has an insatiable taste for adventure. Before a train ride across the country, he tells his father he won’t get involved in anything that’s not his business but that’s not Keith’s personality. It won’t surprise anyone when he doesn’t turn a lost bag into lost and found and decides to track down the owner on his own. He ends up in the middle of an exciting opportunity even though he has doubts about whether it’s legal. Even worse, he drags his six-year-old cousin Lulu into it and makes her promise to keep a secret. Lulu’s already dealing with the sudden death of her parents so withholding the truth from others and telling small lies creates an emotional dilemma.
The message underscoring the story concerns environmental issues and how they may ultimately make Earth uninhabitable. Characters in the story don’t typically experience the negative effects of pollution and the callous treatment people have toward flora and fauna. However, they’ve been taught horror stories of how animals, plants, and resources were eliminated to critical levels. The sensitivity to nature is exemplified when a group of girls are appalled that another girl kills a butterfly for no reason. It’s just a bug, right? The new laws don’t allow humans to do anything that might harm wildlife. The book’s conflict emerges when readers discover some characters have a radically different and dangerous outlook on their future.
What didn’t work as well:
The revelation of Project F is a bit anticlimactic but the energy source is what’s significant. The plot and characters could be more developed and some parts of the story feel disjointed. A subplot involving a group of girls is related to the narrative but it feels like something totally separate. It doesn’t add much to the book.
The Final Verdict:
The book presents a dystopian view of a world that survived the environmental emergency we currently face. Keith and Lulu’s participation in Project F allows young readers to connect with the characters and generates important questions for consideration. Overall, this book is a quick read that will be enjoyed by lovers of nature and adventure.
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