The Maze Runner
By James Dashner
Delacorte Press 2009
Secret Santa gift from Briana of The Book Pixie
Thomas wakes up in a lift with no memory of anything but his name. When the doors open, he walks into a Glade inhabited by a group of boys. They all came to this place the same way he did, one boy each month. None of them can remember what happened before this place. Each week, supplies are sent to them in the lift. Each boy has a task to do within the group. Some boys are runners – they explore the maze. No one has found a way out yet, since the walls shift each night and the corridors are inhabited by monsters called Grievers. The day after Thomas arrives, a girl comes up in the lift with a note that says “She’s the last one. Ever.” Things are about to change in the Glade.
I know a lot of people adore this novel, but I wasn’t one of them. Several things bothered me. The first was the pacing. The book is 374 pages. The reader gets about 200 pages of set-up. Mr. Dashner shows the system that the boys have established for their home and introduces the reader and Thomas to the inhabitants of the Glade. Although the boys suspect that something is strange about Thomas and about Teresa, the girl who arrives after him, nothing much happens within these pages. Right around page 200, things start happening so fast that it could make your head spin. The difference is difficult to adjust to – in fact, it’s as if you were reading two different books.
The characters fell somewhat flat for me as well. Thomas, as our protagonist, either can’t remember or doesn’t know much of anything. While he is your typical hero, standing up for the right and defending others, there isn’t really a spark that makes you claim him as your favorite literary character. The other characters do get some development, but they felt somewhat predictable. We meet characters like the leader, the bully, and the young boy looking for support/a father figure in Thomas.
My other issue was with the slang. The boys in the Glade have developed a few words of their own. We get words like shank and shuck to replace what would be negative or curse words in our culture. These words are used heavily but because they are the only ones that were changed from normal English, I felt like it was Dashner’s attempt to make his book more accessible because it contained no curse words.
Now that I have sounded off on my issues, I will say that the story is interesting. There is a lot of suspense built in this novel, particularly about what brought the boys to this place and what exists outside of it. Mr. Dashner does an excellent job of world building, although I wish he had done it for fewer pages. You can truly picture the Glade and the Maze in your head as you are reading. The Maze Runner is a intriguing story – I only wish that the characters and pacing had received more attention.
Since this is the first book in a trilogy, I want to know if you have read the sequel The Scorch Trials. What did you think of it?