The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Published: 15 July 2012 (Chicken House)
Buy the paperback: Amazon|BookDepository
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Kobo
Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he's not alone. He's surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade - a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don't know why or how they came to be there - or what's happened to the world outside.
I have been dying to read this book for so long, so when I entered a book shop with money recently and it was sitting there, staring at me from the shelves, I could resist no longer. The Maze Runner tells the story of Thomas, who wakes up in a lift with his name being the only thing he can remember about himself. From there he enters the Glade, an area at the centre of a maze where he and dozens of other boys are trapped with no clue why they are there or how to escape.
One of the best things about The Maze Runner was the opening. You are literally thrown head first into the story. There's no steady build up. You are right there with Thomas as he finds himself in this completely unknown situation, and from there on it is all action and suspense. I was hooked from the very first page!
The concept was fantastic. Thomas and the others are thrown together in the middle of a giant maze, completely isolated from the outside world. They have to fight to survive as well as trying to figure out the puzzle of why they're there. That isolated nature of the story really gave it this creepy feel. You know there are people out there somewhere controlling what is happening, but neither the reader or the characters have any idea who that is or why they're doing it. I was pretty freaked out for a lot of this book! I could really feel the fear of the characters. The plot was full of action and suspense and I was completely addicted.
I loved the use of language in The Maze Runner. When Thomas arrives, he has to fit himself into this group of people who already have their own way of life, including their own little dialect. They use words like "Greenie" (meaning "newbie") and "klunk" (meaning something unsavoury I won't go in to!) and have created their own names for their surroundings, for example the Glade, the Cliff and the Grievers - the freaky half animal, half robot creatures that roam the maze. It really helped show the community that has come to exist in the Glade and how Thomas is on the edge of that when he arrives. You can see his gradual integration into the group as he starts to adapt to their language. Reading this book definitely took me back to reading The Lord of the Flies. These kids are having to run things amongst themselves and it doesn't always go smoothly.
The characters were fantastic too. I thought Thomas was a fascinating main character. He has this drive and determination to get to the bottom of things and sees past the boundaries the other Gladers have put up for themselves. I liked that he could see outside of the box so to speak, and that doesn't always stick to the rules and will go out on a limb to protect people. There's this constant hint at there being more to his character as well which I found interesting. His friendship with Chuck was one of my highlights. Chuck is a bit of an underdog and Thomas really sees the potential in him which showed of both of their characters really well. I liked Minho as well. What was great as well was that despite the big ensemble of characters in the Glade, the story really just focuses on the few people who play a key role in the plot, so I never got confused or distracted.
The great thing about a character with memory loss is that it can really help the world building, because you're introduced to things at the same time that they are. For the most part I thought this worked in The Maze Runner because I was just as curious as Thomas about what was happening. The book was heading for five stars, but there was a twist towards the end that just felt a little bit convenient for me. I'd been waiting and waiting for a big reveal and when it finally came, the way it was delivered just left me feeling a bit flat. The first three-hundred pages were phenomenal, and it really picked up towards the very end as well, but there were just a few moments that frustrated me because I felt like it was too easy.
Overall that one little niggle didn't taint my enjoyment of the story too much. I was completely hooked and would highly recommend this book. I loved the writing and the exciting premise, and the fact the book was non-stop action and suspense. I really regret waiting so long to read it! What drew me in was the comparison to The Hunger Games, and I can definitely seeing it appealing to fans of that book. If you liked dystopia, action, survival and thriller in your books then this is for you. The ending has me on tenterhooks for the next book (I've already requested it from the library!) and I'm excited to see where the trilogy goes. I'd definitely read more books from this author.
What to read next: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Books like this: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins