Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Maze Runnner by James Dashner

Posted by Simcha 6:53 PM, under | 4 comments

One of the aspects I like best about dystopic books is how they present a futuristic world so different from our own, but with enough similarities to make the story seem believable. The characters in such books are often faced with interesting dilemmas, and I often pick up these books just to find out how the character ends up dealing with the situation described in the book blurb.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is black. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as they could remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the maze after dark.

The Gladers were expecting Thomas’s arrival. But the next day, a girl springs up—the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might be able to find their way home . . . wherever that may be. But it’s looking more and more as if the maze is unsolvable.
And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers—if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.

When I had first read a description of The Maze Runner I was immediately intrigued by the story and felt a strong need to find out what Thomas was doing in the box and what happened to his memory. And while The Maze Runner had sounded like the type of book I would really like, unfortunately it ended up falling short of my expectations.

My biggest problem with this book is the characters themselves, who I thought were flat and uninteresting. I was never really engaged by them or their struggles and I thought the side characters seemed interchangeable and I had a hard time remembering who was who. I was particularly disappointed in how the single female characters fails to live up to the high expectations that were set for her following her dramatic arrival in the Glade.

I also felt that there were too many inconsistencies in the story to make it believable, particularly in regard to the boys' behavior. For example, when Thomas arrives in the Glade the boys roughly refuse to explain anything to him about his new life, getting irritated and aggressive whenever he asks questions. I had assumed that eventually a reason for this irrational behavior would be revealed, particularly since everything else in the Glade was so well organized, but none is ever provided. I finally determined that it was a way for the author to add some drama to the story, but it left me feeling skeptical. I also got the impression, at one point, that the author wanted to suggest that this current lifestyle has bred a new wildness in the boys, in a Lord of the Flies kind of way, but he doesn’t carry this theme through so it ends up being just a single unexplained moment.

    Thomas squinted, confused by what Chuck had said. “What are you talking about?”
    “He’s being banished. Tonight, for trying to kill you.”
    “Banished? What does that mean?” Thomas had to ask, though he knew it couldn’t be good if Chuck though it was worse than being dead.
    And then Thomas saw perhaps the most disturbing thing he’d seen since he’s arrived at the Glade. Chuck didn’t answer; he only smiled. Smiled, despite it all, despite the sinister sound of what he’s just announced. Then he turned and ran, maybe to tell someone else the exciting news.

And while this would have been an interesting development in the story, this idea doesn’t appear again and the character mentioned above behaves perfectly normal the rest of the time.

I also had a hard time believing that in his few days in the Glade Thomas was able to make discoveries and accomplish things that no one else had over the span of two years. Perhaps if these actions were due to Thomas’s unique background, which is hinted at, it would have been more believable, but as it was he just seems to figure things out that no one else was able to, for no explainable reason.

The end itself was also a disappointment to me as it doesn’t provide the answers that I felt I had earned. While not everything had to be revealed, I thought more explanations should have been offered than there were. When I start a book in which there is a mystery, I feel confident that my reading will reward me with a solution to that mystery. So when the mystery is still largely unexplained in the end, I feel somewhat cheated.

The Maze Runner ends with a cliffhanger, which would normally really aggravate me, but in this situation I didn’t feel particularly anxious to find out what happens next. Nothing close to how I felt after reading The Hunger Games, when I would have given almost anything to get a hold of the sequel right there and then.

The Maze Runner had the potential to be a really great book but there were just too many inconsistencies, however small, to make it believable and not enough unique or thought provoking ideas to make it memorable. While The Maze Runner fell short of my expectations I think that younger readers, who are less critical in their reading, would probably enjoy it more than I did.


i was seriously thinking of purchasing this book because i'm hoping it's another hunger games (i need another dystopian series to read while i await the last installment of hunger games) but holes and inconsistency? yikes! thanks for the review simcha

chelleyreads: I was also hoping for something similar in feel to The Hunger Games, but The Maze Runner wasn't it. It's possible that my high expectations also led to a higher level of disappointment, than if I had gone in without any expectations. But it just wasn't what I had been hoping for.

Thanks for this review Simcha. This is a different view of the story that I have not heard, and really liked reading it. I have this one on my wish list to get some day... But so many books to get to first. Thanks!

Melissa: One of the reasons I don't often read and review YA books is because I'm usually disappointed with them but at the same time realize that I am not their target audience so it wouldn't be fair for me to judge them. But I had gotten the impression that this was one of those YA geared to all ages, like The Hunger Games, so I had been expecting more. If I had gone into it expecting it to be more YA I probably would have been less disappointed.

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