I knew very little of Dashner’s The Maze Runner when I picked it up. What limited information I had, I’m ashamed to say, I gathered almost entirely from the film previews. I knew the book was a best-seller and that the main character (Thomas) would be portrayed by the up-and-coming Dylan O’Brien. I thought the premise of a colony of boy trapped in a moving maze they had to solve in order to escape was intriguing and showed some promise. So it was with positive anticipation that I began to read.
The book opens with a very confused young boy trapped in a moving elevator that seems to have no final destination. He is in there long enough to understand that he has no memory of his past with the single exception of his name. An interesting start but the scene is a little drawn out and Thomas’s thoughts are already becoming redundant when the lift finally stops and opens its doors to reveal a hoard of unfamiliar, adolescent male faces surrounding Thomas and refusing to answer any of his very natural (and some inexplicably unnatural) questions about his situation. They assign a young boy called Chuck to give Thomas the grand tour of what we learn is called the Glade. This is the only safe place in the maze, shut off each night from the horrors living in the maze by the maze walls themselves. The Glade is almost entirely self-sufficient, the temperature and weather controlled by the mysterious ‘creators’ who send new supplies that the boys cannot produce themselves each week and a new boy each month. We learn alongside Thomas that all of the other boys have had their memories removed as well. We learn that there are certain jobs to be done in the Glade and everyone participates one of which is the runners, who go to explore the maze every day and must return before the walls close or face certain death. We are introduced to an–interesting–dialect that the boys of the Glade created themselves. We discover the horror of the grievers, creatures that are never particularly well described but which seem to be slimy, fleshed machines that have a multitude of weapons including a deadly poison administered by way of thousands of retractable needles, saw and ax arms, as well as immense brute strength. Their poison can only be counteracted by a serum that puts the boys through a torturous experience in which they are plagued with memories of their past but unable (through some interesting mind/body control the creators apparently hold over them) to share them. Dashner’s calls this, creatively, the change. There is some animosity between Thomas and another boy who has been through the change. Shortly after Thomas’s arrival, everything changes. Supplies stop and they are sent *gasp* a girl! who gives the ominous message that ‘everything will change’ and she ‘is the last one’ then goes into an inexplicable coma. She and Thomas share a telepathic bond that is never explained but is not stopped entirely by the coma. Thomas feels a pressing need to solve the hitherto unsolvable maze and becomes a runner on unprecedented terms (quickly and because he disobeyed the number one rule of never going into the maze at night). There are some nasty encounters with grievers, Chuck becomes like a little brother to Thomas through no apparent endearment other than being generally irritating, the weather changes, the maze stops moving and the boys (most of them) manage to escape the maze with the help of Thomas and Teresa (the girl) and find themselves face-to-face with the creators who kill Chuck and are then killed by crusaders who evacuate the boys under a shit storm of bullets explain to the boys that they showed superior abilities and were picked to figure out the maze so that they could solve the problem of the mysterious illness called the flare. The epilogue leaves you with a painfully predictable cliffhanger that is evidently supposed to be a shocking revelation that the rescue mission was actually staged by the creators and the boys and Teresa are now onto their next set of trials.
This book was a disappointment from beginning to end. The plot is poorly conceived and even more poorly delivered. The characters are two dimensional and un-relateable. There are glaring plot holes and plot points that are never explained, such as why we’re the Gladers all boys and why would the creators provide the boys with the only antidote to a poison the creators manufactured that would force the boys to recall memories the creators had wiped and then not allow the boys to relay those memories? It is possible that these questions are answered and the holes filled in the following books but Dashner’s relies on reader curiosity far more than quality writing to carry the reader through to the next installment. Overall I was extremely disappointed in the childish (almost to the point of patronizing) writing style, the underdeveloped characters, and the painfully lacking plot. 3/10 would not recommend. Try M.T. Anderson’s The Norumbagen Quartet instead. Happy reading.