This review does not contain spoilers.
As per usual I am reading a hyped series years after everyone else and even years after the movie adaptation was released. ‘The Maze Runner’ was first released almost SEVEN years ago a year after Collins’ infamous YA trilogy ‘The Hunger Games.’ I don’t know why I often read hyped books after the fandoms die down a little, maybe I get overwhelmed, maybe I want the series to last longer for me or perhaps I am just swamped with my pre-existing TBR. Nevertheless I read ‘The Maze Runner’ yesterday after finishing Suzanne Collins’ ‘Mockingjay’ on Saturday. What better time to read The Maze Runner than after completing The Hunger Games?
Similarly to ‘The Hunger Games’ Dashner’s series fits into the YA dystopian genre. ‘The Maze Runner’ was recommended to me by my sister Amy who has read the four released novels and is eagerly anticipating the ‘second prequel’ which is out later this year. I had already seen the first movie which is also titled The Maze Runner and I really enjoyed it. All in all I would say that I much prefer the movie adaptation, however, this is mainly a result of the visual effects.
Before reading this novel I read its prequel ‘The Kill Order’ last summer and in all honesty I would recommend reading the prequel after the original trilogy. Although that may sound a little backwards there is a reason this was published after the others. I read the prequel having watched the movie the following year and I unfortunately did not enjoy it. Although I believe if I was to re-read it which I may, if you would recommend I do then please comment, then I think I would definitely enjoy it more.
The novel begins with Thomas who is unsure of everything except his name. I enjoyed the novel from the beginning, I thought it was a great to have something in common as the main character from the second page. He, like the readers, does not know anything except his first name. Throughout the novel we learn things at the same pace as Thomas which helps with the world building. World building is an aspect of Dashner’s novel which is very publicly criticised especially in comparison to ‘The Hunger Games.’ To me the world was perfect for ‘an army of boys’ stranded in a world where they have no memories. In my opinion their world is more terrifying than Panem as they also fight to survive but do so without knowing who they are or where they came from.
As I have only read the first book in the series I will try not to pass too much judgement on the characters. I believe the relationships between the Gladers form at an accelerated pace which would be somewhat unconvincing if you overlook the fact each character is desperately trying to find their identity through others. They have no relationships when they arrive and the one thing they feel more than fear is longing. Thomas makes friends quickly because in doing so he hopes to gain knowledge. Knowledge seems to be the driving force behind the whole system, knowledge and memory. The army of boys seem to be extremely capable, they assign people to different jobs and are able to build themselves a community. This they manage with a little help although it is clear they make their own survival tactics. This army of boys are clearly intelligent despite their immaturity. Their immaturity is shown through the characters’ language as well as their actions as they use colloquial language such as ‘klunk’ ‘shank’ and ‘shuck.’ The Glader slang has an interesting effect on the novel as you simultaneously feel within and without. Slang seems appropriate for a gang of youths and their ability to make new words gives them a sense of power, this is something they can control about their lives and so they get a little excessive with it. It also makes the dystopia and its inhabitants foreign to us as its language is as unknown to us as readers as the maze.
The novel is at times repetitive, specifically Thomas’ thoughts and actions, however I believe this appropriately mirrors the maze. Like the maze there is a pattern in the way the community chooses to live. Assigned roles, schedules. Also the confusion they feel towards the maze is of equal intensity to the confusion they feel towards their past. By trying to escape the maze they are essentially trying to escape into their past. The characters vary as does their level of curiosity, they have learned to live cautiously without giving up any hope of completing the maze. None of the characters are lazy which Thomas picks up on early in the novel, they all fit together to make their foreign society work, they are reliable. There is a hierarchy with the strongest and brightest at the top, members of the council. Personally my favourite, and most reasonable characters, are Newt and Minho.
I would have enjoyed the novel more if Thomas had a better filter as I thought he was very frustrating at times as the lead character when he would speak about issues or promise things he really had no idea about. That being said he is, in comparison to other characters who have been their longer, daringly optimistic as well as hopelessly naive which happens to be just what the characters need to find a way out. My main criticism however is Dashner’s descriptions. I could overlook certain aspects as I said earlier because of the movie however I thought some of the descriptions of the life and happenings in the maze took away the seriousness of Dashner’s dystopia. This ultimately made me feel that the potential for horror this novel could have accomplished was not reached. This novel focuses on themes of innocence, identity, friendship, survival and intellect. Overall I really enjoyed ‘The Maze Runner’ and found it very intriguing. I will definitely continue with the series. 3/5