Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Random House
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Upon finishing this book, two questions kept mulling around in my head: 1.) Why are so many YA titles, especially genre fiction, part of a series? 2.) Why does it seem like so few current authors truly know how to write a series of books?
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I start a book thinking I’m reading a stand alone and then realize part way in that it is part of a series. I’m not totally against series in general. I read the entire Dark Tower series by Stephen King and enjoyed it immensely. The Joe Ledger series by Jonathan Maberry is one of my favorite ongoing series and I also highly enjoyed The Rot & Ruin series by the same author. Growing up I also devoured every Babysitter Club & Fear Street book I could find. What do these books have that The Maze Runner doesn’t? Simple, a beginning, middle and most importantly an end. The structure of this novel annoyed the hell out of me.
I picked up this novel because I happened to see the preview for the upcoming movie while seeing Divergent with my sister for my birthday. If it hadn’t been so close to my yearly Birthday Book Buying Binge, I probably would have gotten this book from the library. The movie preview piqued my interest in reading the book. I really hope they structure of the movie is better than the novel, or audiences may walk out.
The plot of this story is simple. A boy named Thomas is mysteriously deposited among a group of young boys living in a meadow surrounded by an elaborate maze. They spend their days rebuilding their own society, complete with leadership and jobs, while looking for a way out of the maze. The boys, including Thomas, have no memories of their lives before The Glade and The Maze. Problem one: This book spends the first 100 or more (out of a 374 page book) exploring The Glade (the central meadow and home base) and its inhabitants. There is little to no action in the first third of the book. Every time Thomas tries to ask a question about his surroundings, the boys are either extremely rude to him or they just have no information to give him. The whole “memory wipe” thing is a convenient device as we learn this may not be Thomas’ first encounter with the maze, but is frequently dropped when he has to recognize common every day objects, plants or animals. It’s a selective memory wipe. Problem two: Thomas asks a lot of questions that either never really get answered or just have answers that are kind of inexplicable.
About two-thirds through the book, Thomas meets Minho, a Runner in the maze. Keep in mind that this is the first time the reader encounters anyone who has even spent any real time in the maze and this book is called The Maze Runner. For whatever reason, Thomas feels a strong urge to be a Runner and manages to be rewarded by becoming one for rescuing Alby, the group leader and Minho when they get stuck out in the maze after dark. After dark is when these things called Grievers, attack the maze. The Grievers are part biological and part robotic and a pretty weak villain for this story. The walls of The Glade close every night so the Gladers are not even really threatened by The Grievers until much later when everything starts to go to hell.
That is when the book picks up, when everything starts to go bad. The changes start when The Box, the device that delivers supplies the boys need, also supplies an ending to this maze experiment in the form of a young girl. Another selective memory wipe: The boys, some who have lived in The Glade for two years, have never had a girl live among them. So how do they know what she is? And how do they know that they’re supposed to assume she’s weaker than them because of her gender? The girl and Thomas obviously have some sort of connection but it’s not quite clear what that connect is beyond that it gives them the ability to speak telepathically to one another. In my mind, this should make the boys think they are are in the presence of some sort of deity but they seem to recognize she is human.The girl’s appearance is very important for the End Game in the last 50 pages of the book but her presence in the Glade for most of book is pretty useless and she spends a lot of her time in a coma.
The last 50 pages is when the boys decide to take matters into their own hands and fight back against whomever put them in the maze. I thought it was really strange to have all the action pick up and present more questions as the book came barreling toward an end. Turns out it isn’t so strange if you are aware that there are two more books that follow this one. This book doesn’t quite end with a cliff hanger but it doesn’t answer all questions in a satisfactory manner either. I leave this review with the questions I had at the end of this book: Was Chuck actually Thomas’ brother? Or were they just close friends? Are Teresa and Thomas headed toward a Luke & Leia type awkward relationship? Is WICKED really good? What is this experiment? I would really like to know the answers to these questions but I don’t feel I can trust that continuing with the series would answer them. I am too frustrated with the first book and the effort it took to complete it to really care to go on. If anyone has any answers for me, please leave them in the comments.