The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Always on the lookout for some great books for boys, I snatched up the advanced reader copy of this book and then promptly forgot about it until last week. Detailed, well-developed, with hardly a dull moment I gobbled this book up. I could almost see, smell, and hear this world that James Dashner has made.
The story follows young Thomas who wakes up in an elevator and the only thing he can remember about his past is his first name. He is a complete blank. But he's not alone. When the elevator stops, Thomas finds himself surrounded by boys who welcome him to The Glade--a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls. Just like Thomas, none of the other boys know why or how they came to be in The Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them open. Every night they close again, protecting The Gladers from the deadly things in the maze. And every 30 days a new boy is delivered in the elevator. Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up--the first girl to ever arrive in The Glade. And she has a message. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.
As dystopian sci-fi's are getting more popular with books like Hunger Games, Uglies, and The Knife of Never Letting Go, I can safely say that this book is a nice addition to the genre. Dashner blazes a new and unexpected trail in a surprising direction and doesn't waste time making things happen in this story. The hooks and cliffhangers are carefully places and he's not afraid to beat up on these kids. The real hook happened for me about a hundred pages in when Thomas gets trapped outside the Maze a night--a major no-no because of the savage monsters that roam the Maze and won't hesitate to tear you apart should you encounter them. Like Dashner's 13th Reality, Maze Runner is a story about problem solving, but more directly it's about optimism in the face of adversity. It's about never giving up. Of fighting despite what the odds say.
Of course, as you may imagine, the ending does set up for a sequel and rumor has it that this will be a trilogy. Perhaps that is my biggest complaint about most books these days. Why does everything have to be a series?
The only complaints I have about Maze Runner is how the beginning moves just a little too slow and the ending was very abrupt. One of those endings where you are almost done and you realize that there is no way they can tie up all the loose ends in the next twenty pages. Also, the descriptions of the Grievers (the monsters within the Maze), were much more audible than visual. I could "hear" them in my head, but could never really imagine what they looked like. Imagine a hippo with no face and no legs, with robotic arms that can pierce through its blubbery skin, powered by a high-torque diesel motor. The sound effects mostly made up for the visual though.
I'm definitely hooked and will wait anxiously for the sequel. Perhaps most interesting is that I think this book would make a great video game. Perhaps you were expecting me to say movie? Perhaps it would make a good movie, but honestly, video game is where I would go with this. Puzzles, problem solving, codes, mazes that change from day to day, maze baddies. It has all the makings of a cool video game. Read the book and tell me what you think.