Author: James Dashner
Series/Standalone?: 1/4 in the Maze Runner series
Genre: Dystopian, SciFi, YA, Post-Apocalyptic
The Maze Runner is a novel that has been receiving a lot of buzz lately. Despite initially being released almost five years ago, it has gained a revival in popularity, probably due to the impending release of the movie based off the novel starring Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien and Skins veteran, Kaya Scodelario. It boldly claims on the cover “for fans of the Hunger Games”. Those two combined, I obviously had to jump on the bandwagon and read this.
The story’s “hero”, Thomas, awakens, disorientated and recollecting nothing but his name. He finds himself surrounded by other boys, inhabitants of a courtyard known as the glade. He also discovers that he now lives on the outskirts of a huge maze alongside other “gladers” who have been attempting to solve and escape from the maze for years whilst also fighting off “grievers”, robotic insects that pose a danger to the Gladers. Thomas finds himself a calling to be one of the “runners”, a team of boys who attempt to break their way out of the massive maze. With a sense of familiarity, maybe Thomas can solve the Maze and perhaps he may discover answers to the questions of the glader’s pasts
To start off with, the novel is pretty difficult to get to grips with. Initially, I was bored reading the novel and found myself reading the same page over and over again. Dashner’s writing feels plain and non-descript, failing to draw me in. This seems to be a recurring problem as later on I felt the pacing between the action and suspense was erratic, which could have definitely been better constructed. It’s frustrating to enjoy a read when it’s too slow for too long and there is little action to keep a reader engaged.
I’ve not read anything in a while that was written by a male and contains a primarily male cast which is interesting. Yet this is not really used to Dashner’s advantage as I found that I wasn’t truly invested in the characters. The story follows the “hero” Thomas, yet I felt little to no connection with him emotionally. The characters are truly one dimensional. Other supporting characters could have been fleshed out even further such as Newt and Minaho. Dashner touched upon a little of their complexity but this was passed over to continually TELL us rather than let us feel Thomas’ emotions.
The writing was mediocre at best, like the pacing; it was a little all over the place. The balance between suspense and humour etc could have been better dealt with. Perhaps if Dashner had used a 1st person narrator rather than a 3rd person, both the disconnect from the protagonist and the pacing issues might have been resolved.
However, the concept is brilliant. I feel that the metaphor of the maze perfectly reflects Thomas ‘ own loss of self and a self-discovery, whilst also demonstrating how humanity can get lost, in a similar fashion to the maze. At first I was confused by the slang the gladers had created, but like Thomas, I soon became familiar with it and this perfectly demonstrated how the boys created a society for themselves. It’s refreshing to read a post-apocalyptical novel where characters have created a mini safe haven in a post-apocalyptic setting as opposed to other dystopia where societies are continuously fighting against one another rather than work together. What really sold me on the book was the tantalising cliff-hanger at the end of the novel which sets up for what could potentially be an incredibly exciting sequel.
Yes, at times this could be a thrilling read. Unfortunately, a promising premise is let down by the dry writing of Dashner. If you’re looking for something that is more plot-driven than character-driven, I would recommend this, but don’t expect you’ll get anything more or even end up liking it. An interesting concept is let-down by Dashner’s writing. In the right hands of the right writer, this could have been absolutely amazing.