By James Dashner
After being transported by the Box to the foreign and confusing Glade, Thomas figures the best thing he can do is go along with whatever comes up. His memory has been wiped, leaving him with no notion of who he is (including how tall and old he is) and no past, yet he finds the Glade to be strangely familiar. Though he is bursting with questions about why life happens the way it does in the Glade, answers are slow to come. Thomas is informed of the mind-bogglingly huge Maze, introduced (through the safety of a window) to the Grievers, the monsters that come out into the Maze at night (and are at the root of the strict rules and order the Gladers have established), and begins to learn a little about day-to-day life in the Glade. Then everything changes. The first (and only) female comes to the Glade via the Box, regular deliveries of supplies shut down, and the walls to the Maze are left open at night, which means the Gladers are constantly vulnerable to Griever attacks. Faced with dwindling resources and no sense of security, the Gladers set out to find the Creators of the Maze and find their way out of this trap.
“The Maze Runner” by James Dashner is the first of a four-part young adult dystopian series. Dashner expertly recreates for the reader the same situation that Thomas, the protagonist, experiences at the Glade. Dashner hints at information (what happened in the past, how and why the Glade exists, what the purpose of the Maze is), only to leave burning questions unanswered. For Thomas, this happens because new and unusual events occur in the Gladers’ lives, preventing him from finding ground to stand on. For the reader, this happens because we are following Thomas’ experience in the Glade. These cliff-hangers are even more compelling because Dashner writes in short chapters that easily lead from one to the next. “The Maze Runner” seems to be some combination of “Lord of the Flies” and “Allegiant,” resulting in a highly dystopian, unfathomably bleak future. The kids in this novel are strong, resourceful, resilient, uncertain who to trust, and desperate. This book continues the trend of disrupting the accepted way of doing things, finding alternative solutions, and uncovering truth from the people in charge.
I hate to say it, but I wasn’t entirely thrilled with “The Maze Runner.” What really annoyed me was Dashner’s way of proposing questions without also providing answers. If he doesn’t want me to know information, then fine, I don’t need to read the rest of the series. I also had some difficulty with the Grievers because they were first introduced as “bovine” sized monsters, which led me to imagine a robotic cow wandering around the Maze that occasionally popped out metallic instruments (not nearly as scary for me as Grievers were for the Gladers). However, this book is entertaining and fast paced, so there is definitely the possibility for enjoying it.