The Maze Runner (2010) by James Dashner sounded kind of interesting at first. Mysterious mazes and unexplained girls showing up–both curious and exciting. But then I read a couple of reviews and decided it wasn’t worth reading. That decision held until my book club picked The Maze Runner for our next book. I could have easily skipped the reading. We usually spend more time catching up than talking about the book anyway, but my conscience wouldn’t let me slack off.
I should preface this review with the fact that I came into it with a bad attitude. I’d already heard it wasn’t a good book and was only reading it because I was being forced into it. For what it’s worth, most members of my book club liked it. I think the mystery and excitement distracted them from the writing, although one of my friends said it was much worse when she went back to read it a second time.
Spoilers ahead–just in case. So, Thomas wakes up in an elevator that takes him up to a mysterious glade with about fifty teenage boys. He remembers almost nothing about his life before the maze. The boys are surrounded by huge walls that open during the day, leading out into a giant maze. Thomas quickly becomes acquainted with the run of the place. The boys are sent supplies once a week, a new boy is sent every month, the weather is always perfect, and the boys have split up into different work groups, including: farming, slaughtering, building, etc. to keep up their survival. One of these groups is called Runners. The runners go out into the maze every day to record changes in it and try to find a way out.
The boys’ lives in this maze world has been pretty predictable for the last two years, but after Thomas arrives, things begin to change. The next day a girl arrives! And then she promptly faints and falls into a coma. But then the supplies stop coming and the sun turns off. When the walls don’t close and the monsters in the maze start coming in the night to take and kill one boy per night, the urgency to find a way out increases.
I had a number of problems with this book, but my main issues boil down to the lack of characters’ development or motivation, and the lack of–or confusing–world building. We don’t know anything about Thomas except that he is very smart, the loss of his memory is weird, and almost all of his actions are either motivated by nothing or weird thoughts pushing him in that direction. He feels like he should be a runner because it feels familiar. He thinks he should tell the others what he knows, but he doesn’t.
It might have been interesting to see how 25 boys thrown into such an odd situation manage to turn their world into such an orderly and productive place (which I thought was kind of unrealistic). But we never see how this maze society was built, It felt lazy to not give the readers some background or explanation.
In addition, Theresa’s character and her relationship to Thomas have no substance. She shows up, mumbles some words and faints. Thomas likes her because she’s beautiful, she seems familiar, and they can talk to each other psychically. They don’t get to know each other, they are simply immediately attached.
Finally, this book makes no sense. I have not, and will not be reading the rest of the books in this series. It is possible some of my questions are resolved in later books, but we did touch on the later books in book club, and it didn’t shed any light on what the hell was going on. Where exactly is this miles-long maze? Thomas rode up in an elevator for a half hour before coming out. Someone has control of the climate and the entire sky. Was a maze at least 25 miles in diameter built in the sky? Is the rest of the world living underground? The monsters in the maze made no sense to me, part rolling slug, and part metal arms with needles and saws. They can climb walls but apparently can’t climb the walls that would get them into the glade at night. What is the point of the grievers and the “antidote” besides the vague “it was part of the test?” Apparently this incredible “experiment” was done to test the boys and see how their brains were different. Isn’t there an easier way to test brains than to build this whole, ridiculous thing?
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