A Young Adult science-fiction suspense thriller isn’t usually something I would read, but after the first book in the series, The Maze Runner, was selected for my book club, I was hooked. I started the second book in the series, The Scorch Trials, the same day I finished the first book. I couldn’t leave it at the first book. I had to keep reading to find out what continued to happen. I actually read book two and the third book, The Death Cure, in about three days. They are not short books so to say I read three books in less than a week means this trilogy if thoroughly engrossing.
Dashner’s books are short on character development, but long on action and adventure. This is why they were such quick reads for me. The main character, Thomas, is not really fleshed out throughout all three books other than he is always the hero. And I didn’t mind because I really did end up caring about Thomas and his friends, which is hard to do when there is more action than dialogue. What I loved about this series is that I was left guessing the entire time. And every time I thought I had something figured out, the books went in an entirely new direction. Even after I finished the last book I sat there and contemplated everything just to make sure I had everything figured out. Mind blown. I don’t know how an author can construct a world so believable and real that is so unreal and so unbelievable at the same time. I don’t even know if that make sense.
The Maze Runner is a thrill ride of a book that keeps the reader guessing at every turn. From the first chapter you are thoroughly engaged wanting to know more. The book begins with Thomas waking up in a metal container having been stripped of his memory. He knows his name and knows that the metal box he is in is moving. Suddenly the box stops and opens and Thomas is surrounded by 50 teenage boys. The boys reside in what they call “The Glade” and Thomas is their newest member. None of the boys have a memory of their lives before coming to the Glade. The boys who have been there the longest believe they have been there for about two years. They call themselves “The Gladers” and each boy has a different job. In the Glade is a working farm where the Gladers raise their own animals and crops for food. They’ve established their own hierarchy known as The Keepers. Soon Thomas learns about the Maze, which every day a group of Gladers, known as Runners, explores trying to find a way out. Terrifying creatures live in the Maze making escape an almost insurmountable task for the Gladers. Thomas has a strong feeling he was sent by “The Creators” of the Glade and the Maze to be a runner and to help the boys find a way out of the Glade and back to their old lives.
What I loved about this book, and what also frustrated me, was how much information was kept from Thomas because that information was also kept from the reader. As a reader you really experience the journey through Thomas’s eyes and experience and learn things at the same time he does. I felt like the beginning was a little slow as it had to establish where Thomas was and how things in the Glade worked, but once the action started it never ended. And just when you think things are finally going to be alright for Thomas the other Gladers, Dashner throws you a curve ball at the very end. It was that curve ball that made me want to finish the series.
The only thing I grew tired of was the overuse of the Gladers slang. They call each other “shanks.” Their swear word of choice is “shuck.” I felt like the slang was overdone in the first novel, and while it was present in the following novels, it wasn’t pervasive. Also the violence and the death of children bothered me, but it also made real the dangers the Gladers faced and why they wanted to escape so badly.
Overall, The Maze Runner was an adventure I enjoyed and would definitely recommend.
***SPOILERS AHEAD*** It’s hard to review the next two books without spoiling the first one. Proceed at your own risk.
The Scorch Trials picks up exactly where The Maze Runner leaves off. Thomas and friends believe they had been rescued from WICKED and are now safe only to wake up the next day locked in a dormitory with their rescuers dead. Worse yet, Teresa is gone and everyone has a strange tattoo on them claiming to be the property of WICKED with a weird role assigned to each. While being rescued the Gladers learn that before their memories were wiped clean, the Earth was hit by sun flares decimating the population and sending the Earth’s climate into upheaval. With that a disease was released, called The Flare, which is a terrible brain malady that makes those who catch it turn slowly crazy while their body is eaten alive. Those who have the disease are known as “Cranks.” In my mind Cranks are very similar to living zombies, although that word was never used. Soon Thomas and his friends learn that The Maze was just the first phase of WICKED’s trials and they have another test to put the Gladers through. WICKED’s representative tells Thomas and friends they all have the Flare and WICKED has the cure. If they want to be cured they are to run 100 miles North through The Scorch (the place hardest hit by the sun flares)and survive. In the Scorch the Gladers encounter more death, scary crazy Cranks, scorching temperatures (hence the names), and for Thomas, the betrayal of his best friend.
First what I didn’t like about this book. More than twenty chapters end/begin with Thomas passing out or falling asleep. It felt like Dashner couldn’t move the plot along without his main character being unconscious. Also, the betrayal was never explained as to why WICKED would have Thomas’s best friend conspire against him. What was the whole point of the gas chamber? I’m still left wondering even after completing the series.
What I liked about the book was it was fast paced and the action never stopped. There were so many twists and turns, even at the end, I could never guess what would happen next. I liked how with The Maze Runner I thought I was reading a book about a bunch of scientists doing experiments on teenage boys. With The Scorch Trials I realized I was reading a post-apocalyptic “zombie” novel.
I read this book the fastest out of all the series and thought it did well in establishing itself not only as a sequel but a stand alone from the first book. Dashner does not rehash The Maze Runner and instead puts his characters in entirely new situations continuing the saga and action on a whole other front.
The Death Cure begins much the same way The Scorch Trials does…Thomas and friends believe that all is well only to learn WICKED has more planned for them. Thomas wakes up after completing his 100 mile run through the Scorch at WICKED’s headquarters separated from the rest of his friends and in solitary confinement in an all white room. Soon Thomas and the Gladers learn that WICKED has lied to them — they don’t have the cure to the Flare. They also learn that some of them are immune and some are not and WICKED wants the Gladers and the girls from Group B to help them discover the cure. WICKED wants to accomplish this by restoring their “subjects” memories. Thomas and a few friends refuse not wanting WICKED to have more access and control over their brains. They escape WICKED headquarters and head to Denver to look for a former WICKED employee who can help Thomas and his friends remove the device in their brains that allows WICKED to manipulate and control them. There they meet up with a WICKED resistance movement known as The Right Arm. Thomas and friends decide to join forces with them to take down the cooperation they believe has taken their lives from them.
Part of me wished that Thomas had regained his memories so that I would have all of my questions answered right away. However, I understood why Thomas rebelled and refused to be a pawn of WICKED. He does this wanting to atone for his sins after learning he helped WICKED design and orchestrate the Maze trials. I liked the resolution at the end of the book, which I felt made more sense in WICKED trying to preserve the human race. The hard part in reading this was how in trying to stop WICKED Thomas has to kill to save his life, and the lives of his friends, something that goes against everything Thomas believes in. The most excruciating scene in the book for me was when Thomas killed one of his friends in mercy. Coming to know Thomas in three books, a reader knows that Thomas will never be the same after that.
I felt this book was a nice conclusion to The Maze Runner series. It left me wanting more while providing resolution. The good news is Dashner has written a prequel that I am considering reading when it comes out next month. I would recommend this series to anyone who likes science fiction, action/adventure, and Young Adult Literature.