The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

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Author’s website
Publication date – October 6, 2009

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) 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.

Thoughts: Imagine you wake up with no memory of your past, who you are, or what you’re doing now. Imagine you wake up with no memory in a dangerous place filled with things that want to kill you in horrible ways, that this place is clearly designed as an experiment, and all you know about the world outside comes from the delusional ramblings of the injured.

Welcome to the Glade.

James Dashner takes an interesting idea and runs with it pretty well. Thomas’s missing memory adds to the mystery of the whole story, finding out why everyone’s in the Glade, finding out why memories are missing in the first place, the wholeshebang. Some pieces of the puzzle were less than mysterious, however, and in some cases really obvious (like just what WICKED stood for), but this book was written for a younger audience, so some things can be forgiven.

The flow of the book was good, the short chapters good for both keeping the attention of the target audience, and good for keeping the action coming smoothly, in quick bursts that make it so very easy to fall prey to “just one more chapter” syndrome. The twist ending wasn’t entirely a surprise, but it was interesting to see, and I’m anxious to see the continuation on the story in subsequent novels.

My only real beef with this novel is that there are too many questions left unanaswered at the end. Now, I know it’s only the first book in the series, but it didn’t even leave the questions unanswered in a way that hints at things to come. The Grievers have no explanation, nor does the Grief Serum or anything associated with it. They’re the biggest dangling thread, the major obstacle in the whole book, and they get no real origin, not even good hints at what they are or how they were designed. In some ways, it may be a good thing, because too much hinting can just smack of, “I want a multi-book deal here,” but there’s so much unknown about such a major thing that I can’t help but think of them not as something to be explained later, but as something that the author couldn’t explain, at least at the time the book was written.

Maybe the other books in the trilogy will prove me wrong. I hope so. Dashner’s got the makings of something very good here, and I’m interested to see how it all pans out.

The other details put into the book, though, such as the Glader’s society, was very good. Dashner left enough of what readers find familiar to let us relate to the characters while creating a societal structure that works very well for what it’s designed for (breaking people into work classes to ensure everyone has a place and stuff gets done), and even goes so far as to give them their own slang, mostly in the form of substituted swear words. Let’s face it, when you have a society that’s composed pretty much entirely of teenage boys, swearing will happen, life will get brutal, and it will be expressed. The pseudoswears was a good way to handle this without making the book unreachable for its target audience. And that’s the sort of thing that really interests that anthropologist in me!

It’s worth pointing out, too, that in comparison to such books as Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow, this book excels, and proves that it is indeed possibly to write a book intended for young males that has few female characters and yet still manages to not be insulting to females. James Rollins could do well to take some lessons from James Dashner here when it comes to writing such books.

All in all, this was a good beginning for the series, and I look forward to seeing what else happens to Thomas and that surviving Gladers as the days (and books) go by.

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