Monday, 25 July 2011

Review: The Maze Runner - James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Format: Paperback
Pages: 371
Genre: Young adult, dystopian
Published: 2nd August 2010 (Chicken House)

Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines.

Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade in this Truman-meets-Lord of the Flies tale. A motley crew of half a dozen kids is all he has to guide him in this strange world. As soon as he arrives, unusual things begin to happen, and the others grow suspicious of him. Though the Maze seems somehow familiar to Thomas, he's unable to make sense of the place, despite his extraordinary abilities as a Runner. What is this place, and does Thomas hold the key to finding a way out?

Thomas wakes up in a box with no memories of his past. He has no idea of where he is or how he got there. He emerges from the box to find himself in the Glade, an enclosed area in which he is to live with a community of other boys. There's no adults in the Glade and other than some essential supplies and a regular newbie being provided, they have to survive on their own. Outside the Glade is the Maze, which a small group of the Gladers, known as Runners, explore every day in hope of finding a way out. The Maze changes every night, when the doors to it are closed and the Grievers, hybrid mechanical animal creatures, come out to play.

Soon after Thomas' arrival, another newbie turns up in the box. Teresa is the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade and as she tells the Gladers before slipping into unconsciousness, she is also the last newbie to come. The Gladers know from then that something unusual is about to happen but none of them could ever imagine what's in store for them.

The Maze Runner is very much plot based rather than character based and well, it's a hell of a plot! At times I had literally no idea what was going on which may sound like a bad thing but it wasn't. The characters were spent a lot of the time not knowing what was happening and so it was good to feel their confusion. Usually I'm good at guessing what happens next or how the story would end up so I really liked that in this book there was a whole bunch of surprises and twists in the plot.

The characters weren't all that developed but personally I don't think this was really needed anyway. The story has that much going on that any more character detail would have just been too much. Plus, the Gladers had had their memories wiped before arriving at the Glade so they don't know their pasts and we're not meant to. A part of me did feel that Thomas did become attached to certain other characters very quickly but then I considered the situation they were in and figured that it made sense.

The Maze Runner is a a mix-up of The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies, with a bit of Big Brother thrown in for good measure. It's an exciting, fast-paced adventure set in a future world and it's bound to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.

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