Overall impression: A thrilling, adrenaline packed adventure fill of twists and turns.
For a long time I resisted to pull The Maze Runner by James Dashner off my bookshelf. With so many dystopian/apocalyptic novels on my shelves, I figured I could afford to give this one a miss. But then the trailer came out with running and the dramatic music and the epic looking maze and I thought, “Holy cow! That looks awesome!”
I was explaining this exact thought process to my friend and debating over whether I should see the movie and skip the book, or wait until I could get the book and then painstakingly wait for the DVD when she sent me a a picture of her bookshelf commenting “Well”
I looked closely on her picture and saw The Maze Runner on her shelf. So of course, she asked me whether if I wanted to borrow it, I just told her that I’ll just buy the set. So here we are. And I’m glad gave in because this book was one hell of a ride.
Dashner is not the best writer in the world, but he’s certainly not the worst either. He managed to pull me in from the very first chapter and was incredibly clear with his descriptions. With some dystopian novels, I find it difficult to picture the bizarre and eroding worlds the characters live in, but in this case I felt like I was really there, stuck in the middle of The Glade with the claustrophobic walls of the maze towering around me. The author is great at playing on the senses using hearing, taste, touch, and smell to suck you in. As the characters raced around the maze pumping their arms with everything they had to get away from the terrifying Grievers (weird half-alive, half-mechanical monsters). I could feel my own heart beating fast and felt genuinely out of breath. Books don’t normally unnerve me so I was shocked to find myself looking around the darkness of my room feeling jumpy. I consoled myself with the fact that the boys could always hear the creatures from a great distance, it still didn’t totally work though.
However, Dashner does also tend to overwrite in places which can become frustrating. I imagine he is scared that readers won’t get his vision so he over-explains what his characters are thinking, feeling, and seeing. He also overused phrases like “hopelessness, rained, flooded, flashed, echoed down” on Thomas. It was like the guy was incapable of saying simply “Thomas felt (insert emotion here)”. It always had to be more intense and although I get what he was trying to do, for some reason I found it really jarring and repetitive. Maybe because it was kind of telling rather than showing.
I also wasn’t a fan of Dashner’s made up curse words because I didn’t believe The Gladers would have really developed them in their environment. However, I also understand it was probably a way for him to avoid the controversy of using real swear words.
The plot was by far the most compelling aspect of The Maze Runner. I love puzzles so I was constantly trying to work out the slow trickle of clues, desperate to discover how Thomas could find an exit in a maze with walls that were constantly moving and changing. What I loved even more was that I couldn’t work it out, so it kept me guessing until the very end. I was also searching for the ever elusive “why’s”. Why had Thomas been put in the maze? Why only boys go and no no girls? Why are the boys given the materials to survive each week but not the help to escape? Things in the Glade work like clockwork so it’s clear that someone from the outside world is pulling the strings but the question is why, and how snappy chapters progress at great speed keeping the reader engaged. However, I did feel the author deliberately withheld information at points just for the sake of keeping the reader guessing, and at times the answers the Gladers needed appeared a little too conveniently – often Thomas would suddenly remember something from his past for no reason at all that would solve their impending doom.
I think the characterisation is where The Maze Runner falls short. The problem with having characters that don’t remember anything from their past other that their first name is that it can become a little tricky to get behind them and figure out who they are. It means your impressions of them are entirely based on their present actions, and unless they something dramatic that reveals something significant about their personality you don’t have much to go on. For the first half of the book, most of the characters blended together and if not for the dialogue tags I wouldn’t have been able to tell who was who. It was only as the book progressed to the half way point that I began to single out some individuals and start rooting for them – Minho, the brave, hot-head always the first to jump into danger. Newt, the sensible and pragmatic leader. Gally, the doubter. Chuck, the youngest in the group, painfully innocent but also loyal. And Teresa, the only girl who sets off a dangerous chain of events in the Glade. Even so, they still felt a little… hollow.
Thomas the protagonist was the exception. We get to learn alot more about his thoughts processes, morals, and desires. As we follow his maze journey from the beginning, it’s alot easier to emphaties with him, Plus, the way he reacts to his new strange surroundings, gives great insight into the kind of person he is. He’s intelligent, resourceful, fiercely loyal when it comes to his brave, and brave in the face of adversity. In other words, he’s an easy character to get behind even though he isn’t the most original of protagonists.
Essentially, The Maze Runner is kind of like a sophisticated game of Pac-Man. Thomas and other Gladers run around the maze whilst trying to avoid weird monsters that will swallow them whole. The story is very easy to follow and you don’t need to think too much but it’s thrilling beyond belief and full of twists and turns that will you gripped from start to finish. The book certainly has its faults where writing and characterisation are concerned but its entertainment value makes them easy to overlook. Whilst my head is telling me to give The Maze Runner 3 stars, my heart want to award it a 4. I would recommend this novel to males or females, 14+, who enjoy action, suspense, and a good puzzle to unravel.