Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner






Well, there's so much to say about this book that I hardly know where to begin. The story follows the life of Thomas, a teenage boy who gets thrown in to a maze in the first chapter and must figure out how to survive. He does not know how long he will be in there for, he does not know why he is there and he does not know any of the other boys that are living in the maze with him. The story starts in a hazy, confused state that triggers millions and millions of questions and what seems most important about this, is that you find yourself asking these exact same questions alongside Thomas. Sometimes in books, I have found that a character will ask pretty stupid and obvious questions that, in reality, seem very unlikely to be asked in the given situation. However in The Maze Runner, Thomas asks all the right questions. He wants to know everything that we, as readers, want to know too and that was one of the things I really liked about this book.

Dashner has a great way of throwing you head first in to the action of the novel. It's not just that he starts with Thomas arriving in the maze, because any writer could do this, it's about the movement of the novel as a whole. The chapters are short and sweet, moderately paced and keeping us up to date almost hour by hour on the action that's going on. There are very few leaps in terms of how Dashner moves the story along. For example, I rarely read the words "In the next few weeks" or "A month later". Of course, there's nothing wrong with writing a novel this way; many of the novels I've read have done this and some of them tell great stories. But the fact that we experience almost every day with Thomas makes for what I think, is a much more interesting and thrilling read. Something exciting happens in almost every chapter and I think that that is one thing that is very difficult to achieve as a writer.

The plot itself cannot be faulted because it's a very original idea. I've never read a book about teenagers being trapped in a massive and unsolvable maze before. Ever. There are original creatures, specifically the Grievers and very original characters. Names like Minho, Frypan and Gally aren't names that you hear in novels all the time and that quality of originality is great. Speaking of Grievers though, they were fantastic inventions that were truly scary. I mean, the way they move for one thing - rolling and making clicking noises as well as their overall look and feel: slimy, fat, spiky. It's very imaginative and it was really interesting to discover.

Another thing that I thought was refreshing about this book, was the fact that romance was kept to a minimal level, if at all. There is one female Glader in the whole book and although there is the subtle suggestion that Tommy might like her, or that they liked each other in a previous time, nothing ever develops. Dashner introduces romance as a background feature of the novel, keeping the focus on the fact that these teenagers need to find their way out of the maze. Because of this, I feel that we have a much more substantial story. I am one of those readers who is yet to find a book that has romance in the forefront and manages to keep things interesting at the same time. I just don't think it works. But if you guys know any books where it does work, then please let me know!

The story ends (or not ends) almost with a new beginning; which is something you will understand if you have read the book yourself. However, I'm not entirely sure that I actually liked the final few chapters of the book. In some ways, I feel like Dashner made it all too easy. Thomas regained his memories, they told him what he needed to do and then he solved the maze. But I just don't think that it should have been so simple. Once he figured out the answers, I just feel like something else should have happened to make his attempt to get out more difficult.

The problem is, that for the duration of the book up until this point, everything was pretty stagnant. The Gladers (nice original name there) were trying to solve this maze and they had been failing miserably at it for years. In this sense, there was no movement; no progression of intellect inside the Glade. And that was completely fine, because of course, that was the point. The maze was supposed to be difficult to solve. But if in the end, it was as easy as Thomas purposely getting himself stung by a Griever to get his memories back, then that kind of defeats the whole idea of the maze being un-solvable. Obviously, it wasn't actually unsolvable; it was a test and therefore it was just supposed to be incredibly difficult to solve. But my point is, that for something so incredibly difficult, the solution that Dashner gives us is pretty flimsy and straightforward. I mean, Thomas was thinking about getting stung by a Griever purposely to get his memories back in some of the early chapters anyway; which just makes me think that the whole story could have been resolved much earlier.

But that is my only nag about the book because overall, I really enjoyed reading it. It was one of those books that I couldn't put down; so much so, that I had to schedule time to read it so that I could make sure I was investing enough time in every other important daily task!

I would definitely recommend The Maze Runner to everyone. Boys, girls, teenagers, young adults, it's just a great book.




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In terms of the writing, I'm giving this book a four tick rating. Dashner used all these amazing similes that coloured his writing and really helped to feed my imagination whilst reading. It's very difficult when writing about an imaginary world to get your readers to fully understand everything you've created, but Dashner did an amazing job. 
I also liked that a lot of the speech wasn't over-described. For example, there was no abundance of adverbs to describe how something was said. Rather, you would deduce this from the actions that Dashner described to us. I appreciated this because it showed that Dashner is giving us a fair amount of intellectual credit as his readers. He didn't state the obvious by telling us that someone responded angrily, he let us figure this out for ourselves by telling us something like, that the veins in a character's neck were protruding with the strain of shouting or that their teeth were bared with fresh spittle.
My final point on his writing and this is one of the main reasons that I've given it such a high rating, is the language. Dashner invented his own language. Things like "shuck", "klunk", "shank", "Greenie" and "Slinthead" were absolutely great. I mean, at first I was like... what the hell is this? But it actually didn't even take that long to get used to and no doubt after reading the rest of the books in the series, I will have started using these words myself. It's all very inventive, so original and it was just such a refreshing and different read. I've never read anything like it in my life and those are the kind of books that you have to watch out for. I love my vampires and my angels and my magic, but something unique like this book, will always find it's way on to my shelf.