The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Maze RunnerThomas doesn’t remember anything before he found himself waking up in a huge, metal elevator box opening out to a desolate world populated entirely by other teenage boys. He quickly finds that there are leaders and occupations. The Glade, as it is called, includes a working farm, a forest with a graveyard, a homestead, and a mess hall. There is also an intriguing locked building in the middle of the square called the Maproom. Most shockingly, the entire settlement is surrounded by four huge stone walls, covered in ivy vines, with a large opening in the middle of each side. At sunset, runners come through the doors, completely exhausted, and then the walls slide shut for the night.

The other boys tell Thomas that they are surrounded by a gigantic maze, and while most of the boys work in the Glade to keep the group alive, a few boys run into the maze each day, trying to map out the twists and turns so that they can find a way out. They’ve been working steadily at this for two years, but the walls inside the maze change each night, so they are continually foiled. Thomas decides at once that he wants to be a runner, but then a leader shows him a window into the maze at night, and Thomas sees the hideous Grievers, half-animal/ half-machine creatures who roam around looking for boys to destroy.

One day, the box comes up into the Glade on an unscheduled day. Inside, there is a teenage girl, the first girl ever to arrive in their world. For some reason, Thomas feels that he knows her already. As the days go by, Thomas and Teresa are more and more certain that they were sent to the Glade to set off the “end of things,” and they struggle even harder to regain their memories and find a way out of the maze.

The Maze Runner has recently been released as a movie, and as I had neglected to read it when the book was first published, I decided to catch up. There is now a series of books, and the second one has just been optioned for another film. The books have always been popular, and now even more so, and I am happy to say that their acclaim is well-deserved. Teenage boys and girls would revel in the non-stop action and brain-challenging puzzles James Dashner serves up here. The story is not candy-coated, and some of the characters die, so the reader never feels complacent. The boys are rough and sometimes harsh, even though there is no profanity in the book, except for the word “bloody,” which Americans seem unable to comprehend as quite a serious curse in England. Otherwise, the guys make up their own lingo, which Thomas falls into almost immediately. Characters are well-developed, and there is even some emotional depth in their interactions. At the end of this first volume, several questions have been answered, but many puzzles are still unsolved, and the last few pages introduce a terrifying twist.

The Maze Runner is highly recommended for teens and adults who enjoy a fast-paced, science fiction brainteaser. Read the book before you see the movie!

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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