'The Maze Runner' brings gripping plot
Book incorporates mystical elements, realistic feel
The Maze Runneris a science fiction thriller by James Dashner. It is about 375 pages, and is available on Amazon.com or at bookstores locally.
Imagine your first day at a new school. Now, instead of a school, think of a strange courtyard in the center of a giant maze. You arrive on some sort of elevator contraption, surrounded by other teens. They have established a primitive sort of authority structure, but no one knows why or how this place, "Glade," exists or how to escape. To make things worse, all you can remember is your first name. Nothing else.
I know that I would probably go insane on the spot if faced with circumstances that unnerving. Oddly enough, Thomas, the protagonist of James Dashner's The Maze Runner, adjusts with remarkable ease. The other Gladers attempt to fill him in on the place that is now his home, inundating him with a flood of information.
He soon learns that every month for the past several years, a new guy has arrived on the lift that he just exited. Yes, a guy. There are zero girls in the Glade. The Gladers' existence is focused on two things: finding a way out, and staying alive. The majority of the group is focused on providing food, keeping order and other maintenance work. An elite few of the Gladers are chosen to be Runners, assigned to explore and map the Maze.
Thomas immediately decides that he wants to be a Runner, since they are the only Gladers allowed in the Maze. Unfortunately, due to his position as the newest arrival, this seems unlikely. He is filled with questions about his new home, which quickly annoys the more experience Gladers, casting him in an unfavorable light.
Also, the position is dangerous. Terrifying spiked creatures called Grievers occupy the Maze, and the layout changes every day. These Grievers poison any Runner unlucky enough to be caught. The poison is fatal in a few days, and the antidote causes intense pain and temporary insanity. Even worse, the doors to the Maze close at night; no one left outside at night has ever survived.
The situation only worsens as strange events cast suspicion on Thomas. First, a new arrival appears, four weeks early. To everyone's shock, the new kid is a girl. She also happens to be in a coma, and holding a handwritten note: "She's the last one. Ever." Later that same day, a Griever-stung madman attempts to kill Thomas and has to be executed. To top it off, a veteran Runner returns with an unheard-of report...a dead Griever. For some reason, a few of the Gladers blame Thomas for triggering these changes in their established order.
When Thomas sees two Runners in serious danger after inspecting the Griever's body, he immediately runs to help. In doing this, he breaks the Glade's fundamental rule: Only Runners leave the Maze. Despite Thomas's heroics, he is trapped in the Maze at night with the two Runners, one of whom is badly injured.
"I was impressed by James Dashner's ability to add a feeling of realism to an admittedly farfetched plot. The harshness of life inherent in the Glade contributes to this, particularly when Thomas's attacker is executed. The rest of Thomas's experience with the Gladers is reminiscent of the negative side of high school social dynamics, and this made him much more relatable as a character." --Daniel Moore, '14
After berating Thomas for breaking the rule, the fit Runner abandons him. Thomas manages to secure the injured guy with some ivy on the walls of the maze. Then, he has an idea. The one place not enclosed in the Maze is an apparently bottomless pit. By waiting and dodging at the last second, he and the other Runner manage to send the remaining Grievers into the pit.
Upon his return, Thomas is met with mixed reactions. Some of the Gladers see him as almost superhuman, but others label him a threat to order in the Glade. The remainder of the story deals with the Gladers' increasingly desperate attempts to find a way out of the Maze, no matter what the cost.
I found The Maze Runner gripping. Its plot incorporates elements from science fiction and action to add a feeling of a conspiracy and mystery. If I had to categorize The Maze Runner, I would place it right in between Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, and The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau, with just a hint of the harsher parts of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Unfortunately, most of those allusions make no sense until the end, which I am trying not to spoil.
I was impressed by James Dashner's ability to add a feeling of realism to an admittedly farfetched plot. The harshness of life inherent in the Glade contributes to this, particularly when Thomas's attacker is executed. The rest of Thomas's experience with the Gladers is reminiscent of the negative side of high school social dynamics, and this made him much more relatable as a character.
I also appreciated that Thomas is not the stereotypical protagonist. His decisiveness in a crisis is countered by his curious but contemplative nature during his spare time. His conflicts with other Gladers add to his character, giving Thomas a more human edge than many main characters.
If The Maze Runner has one weakness, it is the pure strangeness inherent in the plot. The whole concept, while original, seems ridiculous out of context. I have to credit Dashner for making his exceptionally original story seem relatively plausible.
Despite this, some of the mysteries in the novel began to bother me. Questions about the purpose or creators of the Maze go relatively unanswered. As the book is the first in a series, I suppose this is excusable. That does not provide much comfort for me now, though, as I wait for the third book to arrive at the library.
The Maze Runner is the first in a trilogy by James Dashner. It runs about 375 pages long, and can be found on Amazon or in bookstores locally. A prequel, The Kill Order is also available.
For more reviews, read the Jan. 18 article, 'Faster Than Light' instills intense emotions.