Fiction, Reviews, Thoughts/Opinions

The Maze Runner by James Dashner – A book review

Post Edited on Nov 9, 2020 during a blog maintenance check, no major changes were made

-My Review- Not so much “a-MAZE -ing”

Riding the high of finishing the entire Maze Runner Trilogy film adaptations, I picked up the first book in the series.

At the time, I was really trying to get back into the habit of reading, but I just hadn’t found the right book yet. I was hoping, since I enjoyed the movies so much, that this would be that book. While it was not a terrible first choice, it definitely did not have that “it” factor.

Photo from the official James Dashner website

  For me, The Maze Runner was one of those books where I enjoyed the overall story, but just didn’t enjoy the process it took to get there. And, when I say process I mean – it was such a process to get through. I had to, at some point, force myself to sit down and finish this book. I hit the four-month mark in how long it took me to get through it, which is long even for me. I definitely considered abandoning it altogether but a combination of determination to finish what would be my first book in years, as well as an overall appreciation of the characters gave me the push, I needed to finish reading it.  

  The story is narrated around Thomas, who at the beginning of the book is lifted up into The Glade, the whole elevator ride up he realizes he has absolutely no memories of who he is or anything for that matter – he barely even remembers his own name. Once in The Glade, he learns that his arrival is normal, all the other boys also arrived the same way, it is the timing of his arrival that is out of the ordinary.

  Thomas soon finds out that despite its cozy appearance The Glade is some sort of prison with a controlled environment, the sunlight and weather are all artificial and they are being watched 24/7. Not only that, but it is smack dab in the middle of a giant maze. Naturally, he has questions but the other Gladers either don’t care about him or don’t trust him. 

He spends a lot of time on the outs with everybody for no real reason and it’s a long time until he is finally told the ins and outs of The Glade. Honestly it’s frustrating how long he is left to sit around and wonder what’s going on and what on Earth he is there for.

  The Glade setting was one of the high points for me, the world building really shined through. The Glade was not just “this place” they were stuck in. No. The Glade had a whole social and political structure to it. There were jobs, social obligations, laws, and of course a form of government. Also, very reflective of how actual society works, the Gladers had their own slang.

“Klunk’s another word for poo. Poo makes a klunk sound when it falls in our pee pots.”

Chuck/The Maze Runner pg. 15

  It was simple enough – a few words here and there – but it was funny. I also found that Dashner utilized it to indicate how Thomas became more and more integrated into the society.

  My only problem with the world building is that it felt like, the more world building the slower the plot advanced. It was a very slow build up to the highlights of the book, which is why it took me so long to finish. The beginning was fast paced, there is so much chaos going on around Thomas’ arrival. Before Thomas can catch his breath, Teresa, the only girl ever sent to The Glade, arrives in the lift, and tells everyone that the end is near. Yes, very ominous. From there the plot really slows. We get a few action scenes, like Thomas’ first time in the maze, but that’s about it. When the story finally does pick up, everything just feels very rushed.

  Thomas is a likable main character, most of the characters are. They don’t get much development through out the book though. Normally it would bother me, but there are two more books in the series where the characters can still grow.

  What did bother me about the characters is that some of them fell into stereotypical tropes. Without giving too much away, the situation with Chuck was very predictable. Also, as much as I like Thomas – I don’t like that the rest of The Gladers could not advance on solving the maze after having studied it for so long only to have Thomas come in and save the day after only arriving a few weeks prior. Not only that, but the plot twist at the end about who Thomas was before they took his memories almost seem like The Creators cheated, like if Thomas hadn’t been sent into the maze, it would have been unsolvable.  It was all too main-character-savior trope for me.  

  After Thomas, Minho is definitely my favorite character. I like every scene that he’s in. My favorite has to be when Thomas first gets up, close and personal with Minho.

“I can barely talk, shuck-face!” Minho yelled, his voice w raw. “Get me some water!

  Alby looked over at Thomas, who was shocked to see the slightest hint of a smile flash across his face before vanishing in a scowl.   “Minho’s the only shank who can talk to me like that without getting his butt kicked off the cliff.”

Minho talking to Alby while Thomas watches/ The Maze Runner pg. 81

  There are way more scenes that he’s in where he plays a more significant role, but I like this one in particular because it shows us just what kind of character he is. Although he doesn’t seem to play a big role in the social standings of The Glade, like Newt and Alby, he manages to stand out and make a point that he’s still very much a key player in what happens in The Glade. He is not just a Runner; he is the Runner. I appreciate how Dashner also clearly established that Minho is very smart, he knows how to play the politics of The Glade to get what he wants.

  Mostly, I like Minho’s interactions with Thomas. I like how in the beginning Thomas even points out how he is unsure if he likes Minho or not. Though the story tries to establish a strong connection between Teresa and Thomas, I feel like he definitely had a more defined relationship with Newt and Minho.

  Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody but if you are a fan of Dystopian Future novels and Young Adult (YA) Fiction, I think it would be a good book to read. It is the first in these categories that I’ve read from a male perspective, not wildly different but interesting.

  If anything, it is a book that keeps you in suspense, and you look forward to all the mysteries being solved, which – spoiler – not all of them are at the end. I look forward to finishing this series. I hope I have a smoother reading experience with the other two books that follow.

  The Maze Runner is the first book I’ve read by James Dashner. I definitely want to check out more of his books now. (Book Trailer)

  Lastly, if you really don’t feel like reading the book, I greatly recommend watching the movie. It is that rare occasion where you might actually like the film more than the books its based on.

Note (2020): The author of this series, James Dashner, has been accused of multiple sextual assaults.’ If you are interested in reading about the situation, you can read the article by The New York Times here. If you are still curious about the books, I recommend buying the books from second-hand sellers. Much like the Harry Potter series and the J.K. Rowling situation, this is the last I’ll post about this series publicly, an if I do read the remaining two books I just won’t comment on them.

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