Ellen’s Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Ellen’s Review: The Maze Runner by James DashnerThe Maze Runner by James Dashner
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2009-10-06
Genres: Boys & Men, Friendship, Social Issues, Visionary & Metaphysical, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Read the first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. The Maze Runner is now a major motion picture featuring the star of MTV's Teen Wolf, Dylan O’Brien; Kaya Scodelario; Aml Ameen; Will Poulter; and Thomas Brodie-Sangster and the second book, The Scorch Trials, is soon to be a movie, hitting theaters September 18, 2015! Also look for James Dashner’s newest novels, The Eye of Minds and The Rule of Thoughts, the first two books in the Mortality Doctrine series.   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.   Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.   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.   Everything is going to change.   Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.   Remember. Survive. Run. Praise for the Maze Runner series:

In simplest terms, a maze is a puzzle.  There might be obstacles along the way, but every maze has an entry point and an exit.  Imagine being sixteen and waking up in the center of monstrous man-made maze.  Not only do you have no idea where you are, but you also have no idea who you are.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner follows the life of Thomas, a teenager who finds himself trapped with other teenage boys in a maze.  Thomas learns that several of the oldest boys have lived within the maze for two years.  They made a home in the Glade, the center of the puzzle, and have built a society run by the laws of order.  Gladers, as they call themselves, work a variety of jobs to maintain this order.  The Runners run each day through the maze to search for an exit and map their findings; the Med-jacks provide medical care; the Cooks prepare food; the Slicers slaughter livestock; and others work in typical farming occupations.

The boys do not live in a normal maze.  Every day the structure changes; the walls move.  Thomas learns quickly after arriving about the Creators, the people who built the maze and observe the boys’ actions.  Gladers hate the Creators.  They provide supplies each week, but also unleash the deadly Grievers, a mechanical, weaponized creature that hunts and attacks Gladers.

After Thomas’s arrival, life as the Gladers know it begins to change.  No one remembers anything before the Glade, but several boys who survived hallucinogenic Griever attacks recognize Thomas.  The Glade also provides a strange sense of comfort and familiarity to Thomas, which was not a sensation the other boys felt upon arrival.  The day after Thomas arrives, the Glade receives its first female inhabitant who carries an unnerving message.  The Gladers soon find themselves forced to solve the puzzle or risk being killed by Grievers.

The Maze Runner reminded me of a cross between Ender’s Game and Lord of the Flies, both books that I also recommend.  I found it interesting how such an innocent game was turned into a fearful habitat.  This is not a new concept – the Triwizard Maze in Harry Potter is another example – but the main difference is that the characters have built a society within their nightmare.

The maze becomes a symbol for all the Gladers.  It represents life and death, identity, bravery, freedom, and manipulation.

  • Life and Death: Runners risk their lives each day to map a way out of the maze.  Gladers fear the maze, and their number one rule is never to enter the maze if you are not a Runner.  The worst punishment a Glader can receive is banishment.  When banished, you are forced to survive outside of the protective Glade walls against Grievers.  Banishment is a death sentence.  No one survives being trapped in the maze after dark.
  • Courage: Entering the maze is a choice.  The Glade, with its moving walls, protects the Gladers each night from Grievers.  When their daily routine changes, the Gladers must find it in themselves to face their fears and fight back.  The maze is fear, but it is also courage.  When Gladers enter the maze, they become a symbol of bravery and hope for each other.
  • Identity:  Solving the maze represents the simplest of questions: why.  Why were they sent there?  Why are they being watched?  Why can’t they remember their lives, parents, and childhood?  The maze has become their identity, and solving it is the only way they believe they can regain all of their memories.
  • Freedom and Manipulation: The maze is manipulated by the Creators, who can control and set new variables.  The Gladers know that they are not in control of their environment, and the maze is a constant reminder of this.  To battle manipulation, the maze becomes a sign of freedom.  If it can be solved, everyone can return to their families and live the lives of their own choosing.  Freedom of choice does not fully exist within the maze, but it represents the freedom beyond its walls.

The Maze Runner is a quick read and recommended for anyone interested in science fiction, dystopias, and puzzles.  I enjoyed the book and plan on reading the rest of the series.  My only complaint is that I believe the ending happened too quickly.  Dashner builds up to an exciting finish, but the events become so confusing and are left unexplained.  I hope that the second installment, The Scorch Trials, will answer my remaining questions.

Christina also reviewed “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner. See her review here.


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