The Maze Runner
by James Dashner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Maze Runner / 978-0-385-73794-4
Currently, Amazon seems to be recommending this novel if you've recently purchased and enjoyed "Lockdown", so if that's why you've been directed to this page, please note that the two books are - in my opinion - only superficially similar, so just because you liked the one doesn't mean you'll like the other. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
When Thomas awakes in a strange new land, walled in on all sides, and missing most of his memory aside from his name, both he and the reader are deeply confused. Are Thomas and his other companions - all boys - prisoners of society for forgotten crimes? Are they being experimented upon? All their needs are provided for - food and supplies are sent weekly as needed, and livestock and farms are kept to provide fresh meat and produce. Yet the boys who prowl the external maze every day face constant threat of death, and the small graveyard tended by the boys grows larger every day.
"Maze Runner" is, I think, the sort of book I would have enjoyed more when I was younger. There is a lot of good material here, particularly the independence of the youths within their trapped society. Despite the unlikelihood that young boys would naturally make good farmers and livestock keepers without remembered knowledge, the point works well enough to underscore that these young people are intent on making a living for themselves, apart from the adult society that has seemingly cast them aside.
There is a great deal here, though, that I would like to see improved upon. The first half of the novel is devoted too much to Thomas asking questions and the others refusing to answer them, as though the answers would be too much for his fragile sanity to handle, and as an artificial method to heighten tension and drag the story on, it is irritating. And then we have the stereotypical Lawful Idiocy sequence where Thomas is, basically, put on trial for being incredibly awesome, and none of it rings true. Thomas himself comes off as a bit of a Mary Sue at times, with his preternatural ability to scale walls and perform useful combat leaps.
For the second half of the novel, though, the story picks up nicely and leaves behind the more annoying tics of the first half. There is a lot of suspense here, and the build up and eventual climax is exceedingly satisfying. The actual final ending, however, was quite annoying to me and without spoiling anything, I will just point out that I truly hate "right all along" justification twists to side-step actual, real moral dilemmas. Since this is meant to be a trilogy, the ending does come down on a cliff hanger, which normally I would dislike, but I found myself so detached at that point from Thomas, his companions, and the world around them that I found that I didn't care as much as I thought I would about their eventual fate. I'd like to check out the sequel, when it gets written, but I hope that this promising author can polish a few of his edges between then and now.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
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