Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Publication Date: October 2009
Paperback: 375 pages
Stand alone or series: First book in a series
How did I get this book: Bought
Do you ever have a book on your to-read list for a long time, but you just never seem to get to it? Well, for me, that was The Maze Runner. I have heard great things about the series and have wanted to read the books for years, and yet I always had other books to read. I think it was the impending approach of the release of the movie based on the first book in the series that pushed me into finally buying them.
I wish I’d done it sooner.
Let’s start with a brief synopsis:
The book begins when a boy awakens in a darkened elevator, ascending into the unknown. He is unable to remember anything about himself or where he is from except for his name – Thomas. When he reaches the top, he is brought into the Glade – a giant courtyard that includes a farm, a slaughterhouse, and a homestead where a large group of teenage boys lives, all of different ages and sizes. These boys are like Thomas: they were sent to the Glade with no memory of themselves but their names. The Glade is surrounded by a giant labyrinth, called the Maze, the walls of which move every night after the doors leading into it close. Most of the group of boys tends to the Glade each day, farming, cleaning, killing. But there is a small group of boys that head into the Maze every day to try to solve it, making maps of what they find. They believe that if they solve it, they will find the way out. Only the fastest and smartest boys are able to be Runners, because they must be quick and get back before the doors close lest they fall victim to the monsters that roam the Maze, the Grievers – large, blubbery, half-mechanical beasts that can sting you with their various metal arms.
This has been the way of the Maze and the Glade for two years. Until Thomas arrives. The day after he comes out of the elevator, what the Gladers call The Box, someone else comes up, something that shouldn’t happen for another month. But that is not the most shocking part to the Gladers; what is frightening is that it’s a girl. She brings with her a disturbing message – everything is going to change. Though they cannot explain it, Thomas and the girl are connected, and they believe that it is their responsibility to figure out the Maze and lead the Gladers to safety.
What I thought:
This book consumed me from the beginning. The world that Dashner has created is frightening, intense, and everything I look for in a dystopian novel. The characters are isolated and fighting for their lives, and there is basically non-stop action the entire book. There are a lot of questions to be asked in The Maze Runner, but each time one is answered, another, bigger question is left in its place. I have to say that I have read books that have done the same thing and it has irked me to no end. However, Thomas is in a similar situation as the reader; he cannot remember anything about his life, so he is asking all of the same questions that the reader wants to know the answer to. Thomas is a well-rounded, developed character. He is clever, curious, and brave, and he knows the questions to ask. As Dashner keeps us guessing, Thomas keeps asking, making this an effective, and not-at-all annoying device to keep readers just out of reach of the truth. I don’t want to say too much about the questions that Thomas is being forced to ask, but let’s just say that Dashner can write! His prose is crisp and irresistible, keeping you turning pages and unwilling to lay the book down.
As for the world, it’s terrifying. Somehow, from somewhere, this group of boys has been transported into the middle of a gigantic maze, which is miles across. Its walls are hundreds of feet high and look to have been there for hundreds of years. Weirdly, none of the boys can remember anything about their lives previous to their time coming up in The Box. The Maze’s walls change every night and there are huge, frightening creatures that roam inside it at night. The reader will be just as curious as the Gladers – have they been sent there for an experiment? Is there actually something outside the Maze, and if so, what is it? Is this a prison that these boys have been sent to for crimes they cannot remember? How was this place created? The Maze Runner keeps the reader guessing, keeps you turning the pages to find answers. But don’t worry; the questions are addressed. I think there is something to say about an author who confuses you constantly, but makes you want to keep reading anyway.
One of my favorite things about the novel is Dashner’s made up slang employed by the Gladers; they use words like “shank,” “greenie,” and “shuck.” It is somewhat strange at first, just as it is strange to Thomas, who has no idea what the other Gladers mean when they say these things. And these other Gladers are brilliant characters, each with their own distinct personality. There’s Newt, Minho, Chuck, Alby, and the hostile (though we’re not sure why at first), Gally. Some of these characters are leaders in the Glade, while others are relative newbies, giving Thomas and us a range of knowledge to be had in the ways of the world. Throughout the novel, these other characters are developed just as well as Thomas, and the reader connects with them and empathizes with their situation.
Then there’s Teresa, the girl who was sent up in The Box to deliver the ominous message that everything was about to change. We don’t get much of her in this book, as she’s in a coma for part of the book and then ostracized for much of the rest of the book. However, I can say that this is remedied in future books.
The novel takes us on a journey while Thomas, Teresa, and the Gladers work to solve the Maze and find their way to safety. I won’t give anything away, but I will say that you will continue to be surprised until the very end – watch out for that cliffhanger, guys!
The bottom line:
If you couldn’t tell, I LOVED The Maze Runner, and I flew through its pages on the edge of my seat. The fast-paced, thrilling plot, engaging characters, often confusing answers to questions, and Dashner’s brilliant writing makes for a very successful novel. Almost immediately after finishing Book One, I began reading Book Two, The Scorch Trials, as I couldn’t handle that cliffhanger and needed to know what happened next. I’ve currently read Books One – Three, and I’m reading the prequel to the series, The Kill Order. At the same time that I was wanting to read them even faster, I wanted to take the time to savor them. I would highly recommend this book, as well as the entire series, for anyone who likes post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, action packed, thrilling adventures, especially if you’re into series. They are unputdownably good.
Rating: 9 – Practically perfect
You can read an excerpt from the first chapter of the book HERE
See more from James Dashner on his website
Reading next: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman