The Maze Runner (Book #1 in The Maze Runner Series) by James Dashner
Published: 6th October 2009
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Amazon UK, The Book Depository, Waterstones, Wordery
When the lift cranks open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone – an army of boys welcomes him to the Glade, an encampment at the center of a terrible maze.
The Gladers have no idea why they’re there, or what’s happened to the world outside. And following the arrival of a girl with a message, they must find a way out – or die.
The Maze Runner is a dystopian science fiction novel. It’s about a group of boys, and a girl, that have absolutely no idea what is going on, but deal with it anyway.
Imagine waking up one day with no memories, in an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by unfamiliar faces staring down at you. Knowing the names of things, but no recollection of how you came to know the names of these things, this is what happened to Thomas and the Gladers.
The Maze Runner is a great read, a real page turner. James Dashner keeps you guessing from start to finish, you really live the story with the characters, you can feel their frustration at times…the memory is right there! Then it isn’t, you think you might know where it’s going next, but you don’t.
Thomas wakes up to find himself in the dark. Literally and figuratively, who is he? Why is he here? What is here? He finds himself in a place called the Glade, with a bunch of guys that call themselves Gladers, and they’re all in the same boat. All the know are their names, the Glade, that there’s a huge layrinth like maze surrounding the Glade, and that you just have to ‘shuck it’ and get stuck in.
The Glade itself, sounds almost picturesque at times, beautiful in its simplicity, only to be tainted with ominous touches of futuristic technology. There are no adults in the Glade, but there is everything they need to survive, and they’ve successfully made the Glade their home. Until Thomas, he doesn’t grasp the rules, or the dangers, as well as they’d like, running on instinct most of time, causing trouble for the other Gladers but making some friends and maybe some enemies along the way. Not that you can blame the guy, he does literally only know his name after all.
Then a girl arrives, unconscious, with a note for the Gladers, and everything changes. Some of the boys blame Thomas. Is it his fault? Obviously some people think it is, others don’t see how it could be, and Thomas himself is not so sure. And what is going on in his head?
Thomas and the Gladers have a decision to make and time is ticking, the story follows their decisions through to the consequences. The Gladers are torn, the maze has never been solved, is it even supposed to be?
Can they escape the maze? Should they?
I’ll have to leave the plot there any more information and I’ll be giving away the story. The Maze Runner takes you through as many twists and turns as a maze would! It’s fairly fast paced, and ever changing, there’s so much to learn, and you learn along with Thomas and the Gladers as you read. I enjoy a good puzzle and The Maze Runner did not disappoint, filling you with questions: why all boys? what is the maze there for? how and why were they put there? Then drip feeding you clues from beginning to end.
Then finally you get to the end! Dashner successfully leaves you feeling satisfied that this chapter of the story has concluded, while still leaving you with enough of a puzzle that you’ll eagerly be racing to your local book shop for the next installment the very next morning. Of course the next morning, you couldn’t go immediately, being unable to put the book down, you’ll read through your bedtime to it’s conclusion (which ends up being about 2am – or at least it was for me).
Personally I enjoyed the character development throughout the book. Thomas goes from an unsure, timid at times, follower, to a quick think, logical yet impulsive, leader, who is not afraid to follow his gut instincts. You feel for Thomas throughout his journey, the story focuses on him so you’re more aware of his plight, and the extra weight on his mind.
What strikes me most about the Gladers is their maturity. Their ability to cope with what must be a relatively traumatic experience, yet still build a well functioning community for themselves within the confines of the Glade. They’ve built themselves living quarters, there’s a slaughter house and kitchen, gardens for farming, assigned roles for each and every Glader, they’ve developed rules and penalties for breaking them, up to and including short term custodial sentences, there’s even a graveyard. A whole little community all within the Glade.
The side characters were just as interesting, each having been assigned their own role. Alby, the leader, a role he didn’t appear to have much choice in assuming. Minho and Newt, who’s natures balanced each other out well, headstrong and progressive with logical and forward thinking. Gally, who kept the Gladers on their toes with his questions, accusations and counter-arguments. Theresa, the bearer of bad news and no end of confusion. And then there’s little Chuck. I really enjoyed Thomas’ relationship with Chuck, he kept him grounded, gave him a real sense of humanity and responsibility in a situation where you could quite easily lose all that. Seeing their relationship grow and adapt, as they learned from each other and the situation altered, was one of my favourite parts of the story.
As far as world building goes, there isn’t too much. One of the key plot points is all they know if the Glade and the maze. It’s not until the very end that they learn much about the world outside, and even then. That is where the intrigue comes in, you really want to know what happens next, their knowledge has expanded, what are they going to do?
Within the confines of what little we know of Thomas and the Gladers ‘world’, Dashner really does bring it to life, he gives you just enough. I could picture the Glade in my head, see Frypan cooking in his kitchen, Alby in his bed in the Homestead, see the Gladers in their groups having dinner, working in the gardens, sprinting around the maze.
Writing and Atmosphere
The writing style for The Maze Runner really draws you in. Dashner is descriptive without being excessive with the details, he really manages to set the mood for each of the chapters. The way in which he brings to life the maze and the secrets within gets your adrenaline going, and the pages turning quicker and quicker (like that’ll help them escape).
The characters even have their own slang terms, which makes sense, slang does vary from region to region, throughout countries nevermind continents. So why wouldn’t these boys that have been isolated from society come up with their own language? It’s the details like that that really make the Glade it’s own little world for me.
I loved The Maze Runner, there was a lot more to it than I originally thought there would be. It wasn’t perfect, there were a few times in the book when something would happen just a bit too conveniently to move the plot along, and some of the minor character lacked depth or reasoning for their actions at times, but this didn’t hinder the pleasure of reading it.
If you enjoy dystopian fiction, trying to work out what’s going to happen, and plots with more twists and turns than a helter skelter, then I really recommend giving this a read. Full of mystery and intrigue, and an ending that leaves you wanting more, I for one am looking forward to reading the sequel.
So go read and answer me this: Would you survive the maze?
4 out of 5