The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James DashnerBy James Dashner [LibraryThingGoodReads]

Thomas wakes up in the maze, the newest kid there. Before he has a chance to figure out why he can’t remember anything, or acclimate to life in the Glade and the Maze and its horrible Grievers beyond, bad things start happening. First, another newbie shows up — the first and only girl. Then supplies stop coming. And then the Ending: if the Gladers don’t solve the Maze soon, they’re definitely going to die there.

There are spoilers uncovered under the cut.

My main thought after reading this book was that it called on a lot of the same tropes as the Maximum Ride series — but its strengths and weaknesses are exactly opposite. Consider: both books involve kids who are part of some enormous experiment (not one they entered by choice), who don’t really know what its endgame in. They both are told that everything happens for a reason, but never really get more than a hint of what that reason is, and yet have reason to suspect the evil scientists are perhaps not so evil after all. And both feature a lot of running and being chased by strange creatures.

But in terms of strengths and weaknesses, where the problem with Maximum Ride was the pacing and total lack of plot, but its strength was the characters, Maze Runner is in the extreme other corner. The book is face-paced and exciting; the plot is fine, though nothing extraordinary, and carries the book from setpiece to setpiece with no problem. But the characters had zero personality (and there was only one girl, who spent much of the book unconscious, which… yeah). We’re told that Thomas is very smart, and in great shape, super duper special and extraordinary… and being told that substitutes for development. Similarly, the ease with which Thomas defeats the Grievers and saves people makes it look like everyone else was just incredibly incompetent for two years,and makes it all feel a bit too easy for him.

Aside from that, the slang made me really irritated. I think adding in some slang can make for really great world building, when done well; it can make the strange setting feel real. It basically failed to do so in Maze Runner. It didn’t feel like there was a need for a lot of the words that were used, and whether there was a need or not, they were all vastly over used, to the point where it felt more like a nervous tick than an insult when a character was called a shuck-face or a pile of klonk or whatever.

Ultimately, because I’m such a nut for worldbuilding and structure, I liked the book fine. I might even pick up the second one, to see if there really is a plan behind everything, something I’m generally pretty skeptical of (especially after the Maximum Ride series…). But the book itself didn’t do much for me; the good parts were fine, but not outstanding, and the bad parts were pretty annoying. So it edges by with a respectable but not outstanding three cupcakes.

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    One Response to “The Maze Runner”

    1. […] The Maze Runner by James Dashner: it’s YA scifi, so my review is over at AV. But even that’s pretty short, because I just didn’t have much to say about this one. […]

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