As Katniss knocked her first arrow, and before Tris was jumping off moving trains, there was the Maze. First published in 2009, James Dashner’s Dystopian YA trilogy has really starting to gain momentum in the last year, with a major film in cinemas RIGHT NOW.
Does it stand shoulder to shoulder with the two other major post-apocalyptic trilogies (Hunger Games & Divergent)? You bet it does. And then some.
Thomas wakes in a pitch black lift, rattling and humming as it heads upwards. He knows his first name, but the rest of his memory of who he is, is completely gone. As the lift shudders to a halt, the doors opening before him into a large, ramshackle village of other teenage boys, who speak in a strange slang, keep animals on a makeshift farm and know as much about their own past as Thomas does. They are the Gladers, the amnesiac residents of the centre of a gargantuan maze – A lethal, ever shifting labyrinth, patrolled by the unspeakable horrors known as Grievers. Some Gladers have been in the Maze for two years, unable to fathom an escape from a maze which changes layout overnight, every night. Thomas refuses to believe that the puzzle is unsolvable, but the other Gladers are distrustful of him – He seems to stir memories of betrayal and darkness within them, which he can’t account for, even though he feels a sense of familiarity with the Maze that he’s never been in before. Then something world shattering occurs, an unprecedented shift in the routine of the Maze – A new Glader arrives the day after Thomas, ignoring the normal Monthly newbie additions. What’s more, this new Glader is the first Girl to ever enter the Maze, and she has a message:
“She is the last one. Ever.”
What does this mean for the Gladers? Can they make it out of the Maze before the Grievers kill them one by one..?
Holy Tension Batman! The Maze Runner is a great balance of mystery and action, keeping just enough back to keep the reader guessing, but offering up enough pulse-pounding sequences to stop the reader from getting bored. Thomas’ lack of memory allows us as readers to discover the entire world first hand, instead of jumping through flashbacks, and it also helps create a sense of disorientating confusion that the characters live in a perpetual state of. He’s a headstrong character, and at times he can be a little bit bullish, but the secrecy of his fellow Gladers makes his behaviour make sense – he’s frustrated at his situation, and the mistrust he’s subjected to. His shady past is also a really enticing side to his character and to the narrative on the whole, creating layers to the back story of the book and adding depth to the world in which it’s set, without actually outright exploring it. The support characters are all pretty interesting too, be it the twisted Gally, the stoic Alby (and his slow, burning shift into madness), the troubled Newt, or the quick-witted Minho, they all create a really interesting cast of characters, and despite there being so many of them, they’re all fleshed out just enough to make the peril they face genuinely compelling. Teresa, the only Girl in the Maze, is probably my favourite character in the book, as she seems the most switched on and focused, despite also suffering memory loss like the rest. I’d like to see more of her, and how she relates to Thomas, but that is explored in books 2 and 3.
The writing style is punchy and fast, using short chapters and constant cliff-hangers to really drive the plot forward at a constant pace and a sense of unbalance. Like I said before, it manages just the right balance of mystery and action to create a compelling read, and by constantly shifting the plot’s direction, and introducing new, sudden variables to keep the reader guessing. The Glader’s slang language can get a bit irritating at points, but I suppose I can see the point for it, and to be honest, it doesn’t really bother you after a few chapters. You assimilate to it pretty fast. I can definitely see such a dynamic, mysterious and fast-paced book making an excellent film, so long as it incorporates the books hidden sense of scope and grandeur, without revealing too much straight off the bat. Less is more, and The Maze Runner totally understands that.
I read The Maze Runner along with my Teen Book Club at Waterstones Durham, and it was received really well, with plenty of our members saying they planned on finishing the trilogy! All in all, a success all round, I’d say!
Thanks for Reading!