James Dashner’s: The Maze Runner

A Must Read 300With the film adaptation coming next September, I have heard many mentions of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner lately. In a similar style to The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner (the first book in a series of the same name) is a sci-fi/dystopian teen-oriented novel that is immensely popular, especially in the last few months. The story follows Thomas, a teenager of approximately sixteen years, as he wakes up with no knowledge of where he is, what has happened to him up until this point, or even his identity beyond his first name. Thomas awakens in the Glade, a large forested area surrounded by artificial sliding walls. The Glade is home to a band of teenage boys who have a similar experience as Thomas, and who have formed a tight-knit society where everyone has their own job and value to the group. For the last two years, the Glade has received a new member every month, and it isn’t until Thomas’ first month is up that a change occurs: a girl has been added to the mix. What’s more, she comes bearing an ominous message from the Creators of the Glade, a message that is seemingly incomprehensible, yet wholly discomforting. The Glade is not without its dangers. On the other side of the sliding walls lies an immense, intricate maze, which is sealed off at night both to keep the children out of the maze as well as keep other creatures in.

I have to praise The Maze Runner on a few issues at least. The Lord of the Flies-type storyline and strange, experimental feel of the world Dashner creates does serve to let off some very creepy vibes, as well as drive the reader to ask question after question. Unfortunately, two glaring flaws cement this title as yet another entry in the “just for teens” genre of sci-fi. First, the characterization is flat. The characters, while deep in their own personalities, do not seem to grow beyond the “hey, I don’t hate you now,” stage of development. No characters seem to come to any real conflicts of character, and (for the most part) antagonists are antagonists, while protagonist and friends remain largely the same. The second, bigger issue lies in one of the novel’s biggest successes. Dashner has managed to create a novel full of mystery and intrigue. Unfortunately, many of the twists and turn come out of left field, using plot mechanics that were never even mentioned in passing prior to the twist in question. While this certainly leads to some abrupt changes in the plot, it is more likely to leave readers asking what happened, as opposed to flipping through the pages in awe. That isn’t to say that The Maze Runner isn’t good: it is (in fact, it is better than most of the teen-dystopian books), in no small part due to the interesting little society the Gladers have created. Still, The Maze Runner remains a fast, fun read that is doomed to be nothing more. For teens looking to get into some real adult reading, pick up Fahrenheit 451 or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (review coming soon). If you are looking to buy your young teen or preteen a book that will get them interested in reading, The Maze Runner should do a fine job.

Source: Jake Depew, Jefferson County Post Assistant Editor