One of the books that’s been on my TBR pile for years was James Dashner’s dystopian trilogy, The Maze Runner. With so many books out there to read, it’s too easy to let a new series slip from your mind. Especially when you read so many series already. It wasn’t until I saw the trailer for the new The Maze Runner film that I remembered my plans to read this series. (Spoilers Below!!)
This series is one part mystery and one part adventure in which teens must fight against an unseen enemy. Like many books in this genre, the teens are forced into dangerous situations and must make adult decision long before they’re mentally prepared to do so. The task a hand in the first book is that a bunch of amnesic kids must race through a maze in order to gain their freedom and their lives. A group known as WICKED is monitoring their progress, providing supplies, and manufacturing creatures put in their path to stop the kids from ever solving the maze. In the synopsis according to Goodreads:
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.
I liked this book. I really liked it. It took a familiar genre of a person/group of people fighting against an all-powerful society that promises to cure all of society’s ails, but instead creates a dystopia where the powerful thrive and the powerless struggle to survive. One of the complaints I’ve seen against this book is how little character development there is. These people aren’t wrong, but one of the mistakes others make is comparing it to The Hunger Games. This is not The Hunger Games. It’s its own book in its own right. If you compare it to THG, it won’t live up to that series, but is a good series on its own. The reason these characters aren’t as well-developed as those in the other series has to do with the fact these kids’ memories were taken from them. We learn more about them as the series progresses as they learn more about themselves. It’s through their actions and emerging personalities that their characters begin to develop.
Another aspect of this book I really enjoyed was the evil corporation, WICKED. One of the driving forces in this book is how Dashner keeps the reader guessing about who these people are and what it is they want. Each chapter ends with a mini cliffhanger that makes you want to turn the page and read on to the next chapter, and the mystery of why these kids were placed in the maze is a compelling one. The Maze Runner is an exciting story, and one that was hard to put down.
The second book in the series pick up right were the first one ended. Thomas and the other Gladers may have solved the Maze, but they discover that was only the beginning. The ‘Real’ World isn’t what they thought it would be, and the race for their freedom hasn’t ended. The synopsis states:
Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim… and meal.
The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.
Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?
The secondary characters were better developed in this book than in the first, thanks to the new trial the Gladers found themselves having to endure. While I began to like the other characters more, Thomas became more annoying. Not only does he continue to keep secrets from his supposed friends, secrets that may help them stay alive, but he spends half the book unconscious. This partnered with his arrogance tended to be grating. One of the aspects I liked about this book was how different the new trial was from the first one, and the new characters Thomas meets along the way. While I began to figure out how the series was going to end early on, it was still fun reading the book. Even though this book has similarities to other books in this genre, it’s different enough that it didn’t feel like I was reading the same old story. If you can make it through the first book with your curiosity intact, then you definitely will enjoy what happens in The Scorch Trials.
Thomas knows that Wicked can’t be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they’ve collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It’s up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test.What Wicked doesn’t know is that something’s happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can’t believe a word of what Wicked says. The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine. Will anyone survive the Death Cure?
The final book had a more militant feel than the previous two novels. Now that Thomas and the others have gone into the world in search of a way to bring WICKED down, the story moved from an Us vs. It feel towards an Us vs. Them. Instead of fighting whatever situation they’ve been put in, the Gladers are now fighting against the establishment. This made the novel feel new, and made me thankful. Though I love The Hunger Games Trilogy, one of the aspects of it I didn’t particularly care for was how Katniss was put into the games twice. Even though this series is often compared to THG, the fact Dashner constructs a new situation in each book is a bonus. It also makes it seem that he had a blueprint for how the entire series was going to play out, and it was great to know everything that happened had a purpose. Sadly, I have to admit that Thomas became even more unlikable in this book, and disliking the narrator tends to make reading a novel difficult. However, that being said, the other characters became even more complex, and gave me someone else to root for.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this series to someone looking for a quick, easy read with loads of action. The world created was interesting, and Dashner did a bang-up job at describing this society. While Thomas won’t go down as one of my favorite literary characters any time soon, or ever, the other characters more than made up for everything he lacked. If you can keep from comparing this series to others in its genre, I think you will definitely enjoy it.
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