The Maze Runner by James Dashner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book won all kinds of awards and came highly recommended and yet… I was mostly bored.
The premise, that of a boy walking up in an elevator which is going to deposit him into Lord of the Flies type setting with no memories of his past life could be interesting. The “Glade,” where the boy, Thomas, is deposited, is the center area of a huge maze which some of the boys of this compound (and yes, it’s all boys) go through on a daily basis, trying to “solve” it. They’ve been doing this for two years and all they’ve discovered is that some of the walls move at night (which is also when “scary” monsters come out).
Of course, we’re “told” all this. In fact, we’re told a lot of things. Mostly because our view point character, Thomas is a newbie with no memories and so, since he doesn’t know anything, neither do we.
Things immediately change the next day when there’s a break in routine and things go haywire from there. But honestly, no one really cares. None of the characters have consistent personalities and none of them are very bright. There are little clues and bits of information which, as a reader, I picked up LONG before the characters did. Also, since Thomas is a bit of a dick, and we only see the world through his eyes, then we get his view of the other characters and all of them, except the flabby weakling who idol worships him, are treated as hostile witnesses. Thomas himself can’t get out of his own way long enough to actually learn anything useful. And all of this is passed off as “realistic writing of a teenage character.” I say “Bull.” I say Thomas is a Marty Stu, a classic example of teenage machismo acting as a slice of wish-fulfillment for James Dashner.
Then there’s the logical inconstancies. According to what we’re told, one new boy shows up every month. We’re also told Alby, the recently appointed leader of the gang, has been there the longest and he’s been there for two years. When you do the math, this means there should be no more than 24 boys. However, later on, Dashner realizes his mistake and rather than go back to try and fix it logically, just throws in there’s 41 boys present. That there were a whole bunch dropped off to begin with and THEN it was one a month. I’m not buying it.
We’re also told, at various times, that the maze cannot be solved or isn’t solvable at all — and yet, the solution is reached by… you guessed it, solving the maze. Is it a traditional solve? Nope. Is it one they should have come up with LONG ago since they have NOTHING else to do but try and figure this out, especially since these are the smartest kids around? Most definitely.
As I said, there’s some clever ideas here, which would make a fine starting off point. Unfortunately, Dashner not only used it as an end point, he didn’t even give us that much satisfaction since the book, quite literally, ends with the hope we’ll turn the page to start the next one in the series.