November 16, 2010

The Maze Runner: In A Nutshell

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
From Goodreads:

Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines.

Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade in this Truman-meets-Lord of the Flies tale. A motley crew of half a dozen kids is all he has to guide him in this strange world. As soon as he arrives, unusual things begin to happen, and the others grow suspicious of him. Though the Maze seems somehow familiar to Thomas, he's unable to make sense of the place, despite his extraordinary abilities as a Runner. What is this place, and does Thomas hold the key to finding a way out?

In The Maze Runner, Dashner has crafted a creative and engaging novel that's both mysterious and thought provoking.

One sentence sum-up: The most bizarre book I've read in a while — and yes, if Lord of the Flies turned futuristic dystopian, it would look something like The Maze Runner.

My reaction: I've seen mixed reviews of The Maze Runner for quite some time now - some people raved about it, others were less than impressed. Personally, I found it very strange and creepy...I think that was the intent, so it succeeded in that regard, but I never really connected with the characters, so emotionally I didn't find myself very engaged.

The first half or so is quite slow-moving, especially for a dystopian novel; Dashner is setting up the world, which is pretty complex and takes some getting used to. There were some exciting sections but then it would return to a slower pace, instead of continually mounting action. I was really confused about what was happening for the first few chapters (and all the unfamiliar slang) but slowly I began to grasp the situation. Things pick up later in the second half action-wise, but when comparing it to The Hunger Games (as I have seen done a lot, although really, they aren't very much alike)...I just wasn't on the edge of my seat with The Maze Runner in the same way. I would put it down, go do something else, pick it up later and read a couple more chapters...but it just didn't have me hooked.

Best aspect: The world that Dashner's a microcosm of a society, basically. There's a pecking order amongst the boys, they've developed their own jargon and set of rules, they all have their own "jobs" to ensure everything functions well...and yet they have no idea where they are, what they're doing there, or how they will escape. It's a fascinating look at how societies can be created in dire circumstances and manage to work fairly smoothly (although there are certainly a few hiccups in this one, especially when tempers get fired up and arguments break out between the boys).

Also, I  also enjoyed the relationship between Teresa and Thomas. They both seemed to need each other and work well together, and Thomas didn't really have a good friend up until that point, so I was feeling a little sorry for him. Also, spoilery aspect (highlight to read): the telepathic speaking-to-the-other's-mind Teresa and Thomas do actually really worked in this novel. I appreciated that they weren't *reading* each other's mind...more like sending messages without speech. And their "instantaneous" connection is explained by their past acquaintance, so it really isn't so instantaneous at all. 

If I could change something... I wanted more from the characters, really. I never felt very connected to Thomas, I think partly because his emotional side is told to the reader more than it is shown.  The other boys were all introduced quite quickly and I kept getting them confused (except Chuck, I liked him) because their personalities didn't seem all that distinct. A lot of them just seemed angry or moody all the time (yeah, I know they're trapped in a creepy world, but the gloom factor was pretty high.) Teresa seemed like the most fun out of all the characters — she had some spunk, at least — but we don't see all that much of her.

I just didn't get into Thomas' mindset or experience the Gladers' predicament in a close or personal way, so I wasn't that emotionally invested in the end result. Of course, I wanted them to succeed in their escape, and I definitely wanted to know more about the Creators, but that stemmed more from general interest in the plot than rooting for a character because you care about them.

Also, although I do understand the reader needs an introduction to Thomas' new world, a first half with more momentum would have been appreciated.

In five words or less: complex world, less complex characters.


Thomas tried to swallow but his mouth was too dry. Newt ran forward and pulled her fingers apart, grabbing the paper. With shaking hands he unfolded it, then dropped to his knees, spreading out the note on the ground. Thomas moved up behind him to get a look.

Scrawled across the paper in thick black letters were five words: She's the last one. Ever.

Rating: 3.5 shooting stars

Bottom line: The world-building is good, but if you want to be blown away by characters and action as well, read The Hunger Games instead. This is the first in a series so perhaps there will be more plot and character development in the next book, The Scorch Trials?

Author's website:


  1. Great honest review, Danya! I really loved this one, actually, but I understand what you's not riveting for everyone :)

  2. Great review, Danya. I belonged to the camp of "less impressed". This is one of those rare books that give me, literally, a headache. I was so frustrated more so of not getting any answers throughout the book. Just when I thought I solved something, I'd hit a wall. Needless to say, I skipped this series. I just couldn't handle it.

  3. Thanks for your honest review. I keep going back and forth on this series, whether I should start it or not because as you say, the reviews I've read have been mixed. I'll probably get it from the library eventually.

  4. Like the review, very unique. =D

  5. This sounds like a really interesting study, but I'm sad to hear that it wasn't very engaging. I've been really excited for this one, but it sounds like it might be a bit disappointing. I was not a fan of Lord of the Flies O_O I'm quite intrigued by that quote though! Thank you so much for the honest review!


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