Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

book cover

The Maze Runner
by James Dashner

ISBN-13: 978-0-385-73794-4
Hardback: 384 pages
Publisher: Random House (Delacorte Press)
Released: October 2009

Source: Borrowed from the library.

Book Description from Book Flap:
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. 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, open expanse surrounded 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 the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

My Review:
The Maze Runner is a young adult adventure story set sometime in the future. It also has an element of mystery. Since the characters were all boys (except for one girl who didn't play an active role until near the end), the target audience appears to be teen boys. The suspense mainly came from the physical danger to the characters, but it also came from the lack of memories and the mystery of the maze. This book is the first in a trilogy, and it's a fast read.

The characters were varied, and they had their strengths and weaknesses and their emotional ups and downs. Even the "bad" kids had good reasons for their actions. I mainly kept reading because I wanted to know what was going on, but I also liked how Thomas, Minho, and Newt played off each other. Thomas had a needed fresh perspective and heroic selflessness, but he wouldn't have succeeded without Newt's insistence on order and Minho's discipline.

However, the maze exit was so obvious that I was frustrated no one even considered it until essentially told that it was the exit. I also didn't like the ending. At all. The story started out as brave, determined kids working together to outwit the evil adults who put them in the maze. But near the end, we're told the very sick reason that they were put there (though the reasoning seemed illogical). The adults were deliberately trying to break the kids by taking away their hope. They wanted the kids to give up and die, and they were deliberately killing off all but a "top" few. The ending was very violent and bloody. Two main characters were killed, one of them likely to be a favorite of the reader (though I liked them both). Also, Thomas started off caring and noble and ended up broken and hate-filled. Things don't get better, they get worse. Not my kind of book.

I also didn't find the climatic maze battle exciting. Thomas was supposed to be focused on doing his part and doing it as quickly as possible since it would end the killing that was going on. Instead he took in every little bloody detail of the killing going on. There was no need to spend so much time on it. I felt frustrated and angry at Thomas and Teresa instead of worried about them. By the end, I felt like throwing the book at a wall.

There was a very minor amount of explicit bad language and a lot of totally made-up bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.

Metal ground against metal; a lurching shudder shook the floor beneath him. He fell down at the sudden movement and shuffled backward on his hands and feet, drops of sweat beading on his forehead despite the cool air. His back struck a hard metal wall; he slid along it until he hit the corner of the room. Sinking to the floor, he pulled his legs up tight against his body, hoping his eyes would soon adjust to the darkness.

With another jolt, the room jerked upward like an old lift in a mine shaft.

Harsh sounds of chains and pulleys, like the workings of an ancient steel factory, echoed through the room, bouncing off the walls with a hollow, tinny whine. The lightless elevator swayed back and forth as it ascended, turning the boy's stomach sour with nausea; a smell like burnt oil invaded his senses, making him feel worse. He wanted to cry, but no tears came; he could only sit there, alone, waiting.

My name is Thomas, he thought.

That... that was the only thing he could remember about his life.

He didn't understand how this could be possible. His mind functioned without flaw, trying to calculate his surroundings and predicament. Knowledge flooded his thoughts, facts and images, memories and details of the world and how it works. He pictured snow on trees, running down a leaf-strewn road, eating a hamburger, the moon casting a pale glow on a grassy meadow, swimming in a lake, a busy city square with hundreds of people bustling about their business.

And yet he didn't know where he came from, or how he'd gotten inside the dark lift, or who his parents were. He didn't even know his last name. Images of people flashed across his mind, but there was no recognition, their faces replaced with haunted smears of color. He couldn't think of one person he knew, or recall a single conversation.

The room continued its ascent, swaying; Thomas grew immune to the ceaseless rattling of the chains that pulled him upward. A long time passed. Minutes stretched into hours, although it was impossible to know for sure because every second seemed an eternity. No. He was smarter than that. Trusting his instincts, he knew he'd been moving for roughly half an hour.

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Laura Fabiani said...

I've been wanting to read this book but now I'm not so sure. I appreciate your honest review! Thanks so much.

Genre Reviewer said...

You're welcome. As you might remember, I didn't like Hunger Games, either. However, at least with that book it was obvious what sort of story it was from the start.

I think one of the reasons for my strong reaction to The Maze Runner ending is that the beginning seems to promise one sort of book but about 3/4ths of the way in, it turned into something else--almost a horror story. I think that intensified my reaction to events I wouldn't have liked in any case.

Hmm, I guess I'm just rambling. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

...Seriously...? I thought this book was amazing! Maybe because I'm in to that type of stuff...

I don't understand your frustration with Thomas & Teresa... o__O

Genre Reviewer said...


Thomas and Teresa were supposed to be exceptional, extremely smart kids. They knew that the only way to stop the killing was to complete their special task (in the "final battle") as quickly as possible. But they didn't stay focused on completing their special task as quickly as possible despite their distress at all the killing. Thus, I was frustrated with them.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was interesting the whole time. The end was even surprising and made me want to read the rest of the series. You gotta realize in a series you have to kill off good characters so you can bring in better ones in the next book.

Debbie said...


If the author has better characters, then I'd think he'd want them in all the books to get me so attached to them that I'll read the whole series just to see what happens to them. I won't keep reading a series just because an author might have even better characters in the next book. Rather, when an author kills off a 'good' character, then there's one less character I care about to keep me reading.

There are valid reasons for killing off a character, but making room for a better character isn't one of them, IMO.

Anonymous said...

The reason you didn't like The Maze Runner is because it is meant for a teenage audience, not some girl in her thirties.

Debbie said...

You're probably right that a teenage boy would have a different reaction to the book than "some girl in her thirties." However, a good number of YA fantasy novel are read by adult women.