Review | The Maze Runner by James Dashner (The Maze Runner, #1)

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Reviewer: Alyssa
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Age Group: Young Adult
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Pages: 374 (hardcover)
Format/Source: N/A
Find the Book: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating: 3.5/5

“If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.”

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Note: Highlight to see hidden spoilers.

The Maze Runner has a reputation online for being a must for Hunger Games fans, so obediently I picked a copy up at my local bookstore. And I have to say, this description is slightly misleading. I did enjoy both books, but I loved HG for Katniss and the Capitol politics, whereas The Maze Runner captured my interest with its action and mystery.

First off, I really liked the premise. The fact that every Glader had laser-guided amnesia was slightly meh, but overall played out way better than one would expect. The Maze itself was amazing (sorry, pun not intended), and I could really feel how challenging and terrifying it was to find a way out. The world that the Gladers built for themselves within the Maze was also realistic and cool.

In terms of plot, I’m rather divided. Dashner does a great job with the action scenes and they were filled with tension and suspense. But intellectually, it wasn’t that satisfying. Most of Thomas’ agency comes from “Hang on, I remember this random thing!” and/or intuition and/or sheer dumb luck and/or doing things that the other Gladers inexplicably couldn’t think of for two years.

Which brings me to the next point. While it is somewhat justified in the next books, Thomas plays the Chosen One trope almost completely straight, and is so Speshul that he left me thinking, “Not you again.” Take that with the fact that most Gladers support him blindly, and I start to headdesk. Despite this, I did not hate him — I merely wanted him to be less, well, special. He was overall alright for a third-person POV.

Another issue is the only female character in the whole book, Teresa. It is again justified in the next books why she is the sole female character, and quite reasonably, but even so her character is rather distilled. I can describe her roughly as an Action Girl plus (non-spoiler) Designated Love Interest plus Memory Bank. Her character is strong; her personality isn’t. But again, she had her redeeming moments and I warmed up to her by the end of the book.

The secondary characters were actually generally more interesting than the leads. True, Chuck can be summed up as Ron the Useless and Talkative, while Galby is Snape the Irrational and Unpitied, doubling as the Mole, but Minho, Alby and Newt were all perfectly likeable characters with their own distinct personalities and agency that did not depend on random memories resurfacing or gut feelings. These guys actually think things through and are good leaders, which is why they run things in the Glade.

Stylewise, as I already said, Dashner is excellent at writing action scenes. This actually outweighs most of the factors I’m going to talk about in a moment, and is mainly why I kept reading even though it had its flaws. Namely, while the writing style tends towards a blunter, more succint style, there were still noticeable instances of tell-not-show that slowed down the pace, especially in the beginning, even though the infodump about the Glade was somewhat necessary. There was also lots of foreshadowing so blatant I’m not even sure I should call it foreshadowing. And similes really, really aren’t Dashner’s forte.

However. Even though this book has its flaws, it is still an enjoyable read and deserves a try. Read it once, judge for yourself. But I am still not certain about the HG comparison.

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One thought on “Review | The Maze Runner by James Dashner (The Maze Runner, #1)

  1. samchaffin says:

    Ahh I 100% agree with this. I recently swiped this book off my little brother’s bookshelf on his recommendation, and although I have absolutely no problem with reading books he loves, as I read MAZE RUNNER I found myself thinking something that I never think: this is such a DUDE book. Haha, I think it was mainly the (what felt like) pointless introduction of a single female character – only to throw her in jail and not let us get to know her except to mention how pretty and leggy she is… it really felt to me that Dashner was too afraid to get the writing of a female character “wrong” to actually do anything with her once she was introduced. But if the next book justifies that/her then…maybe I’ll give it a shot. Other than that I just found Thomas too annoying for precisely the reasons you mentioned to continue the series (which makes me sad, because I really wanted to be able to tell my brother I loved this). Oh well. Can’t win every “for-fans-of-The-Hunger-Games” recc, I guess!

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