Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Maze Runner - James Dashner (The Maze Runner #1)

“If you're going to decipher a hidden code from a complex set of different mazes, I'm pretty sure you need a girl's brain running the show.” – James Dashner, The Maze Runner.

The truth is that the signs were there all along but I was too foolish to notice them. Am I talking about the plot on which this book hinges or my experience with this book? I mean so much of it is a dystopian era cliché.

It is 1)set in a post – apocalypse universe 

with 2) the protagonist having way too much power in their hands to control the fate of the world 

despite 3) being hoodwinked, betrayed and ignorant. 

The Maze Runner starts off with Thomas (last name unknown) entering a place called the Glade from a box shaped hole in the Earth. Turns out for the previous two years, boys of different ages (but still in their teens) have been sent up to the world via the box. No need for the ‘birds and the bees’ talk in this universe fellas. And everyone turns up with amnesia. No memory of anything but their first names. 

The Glade is surrounded on all sides by a maze and only highly trained people called the maze runners are allowed to venture into the maze. Within the maze deadly creatures (mutations) roam at night. The Glade is separated from the maze by endless walls. Days within Thomas’ arrival at the Glade, the routine everyone had formed there begins to fall apart and things go horribly wrong. And naturally Thomas is in charge of fixing things (admittedly with a valid explanation and proof of his abilities).

The best part about The Maze Runner is the language. A lot of different words that don’t really exist have been incorporated into the slang of the gladers. It does appear as though they are variations to sneak profanities within the text but these words send out rougher vibe and a fresh appeal. 

The dystopian world built is simple, without a complex history or a lot of questioning. It is obvious from page 1 that the gladers want to leave the maze. There isn’t a sudden unnecessary revolution (Divergent, I am looking at you) or any other cliché plot twist. The plot twist that does occur is heavily hinted at and consistent. 

The characters are potentially all complex, realistic and individual in their own ways but haven’t been explored to their fullest potential. Instead their characters are fleshed only to the extent of their relationships with Thomas (the noble, brave, intelligent main character with brilliant gut instincts and blessing of the gods of fate). For example Chuck, who instantly becomes Thomas’ best friend is hardly thirteen and provides a simplistic perspective but is used primarily to be Thomas’ side kick. Teresa who is the only female in the entire book is the literal embodiment of deus ex machina. She enters the plot just as the author is about to write himself in a corner. Newt, Minho and Alby are the leaders, brave and tough, easy to respect and no nonsense sort of people, in varying degrees. Gally is that person who despises Thomas and isn’t very likeable but isn’t exactly the villain.

The book is brilliantly paced, slowing down to revel in its moments of genius but quickening up as thing get intense. It never becomes chaotic or confusing but still maintains suspense. However the major plot device used is “something told him” or “he somehow knew” and the something has a name – it’s called ‘James Dashner’ or ‘How convenient that your gut instincts are valid based on the traces of your past that you have been forced to forget’. The basis for most of the action is weak and even if you build sheer awesomeness on a shaky foundation, it is bound to wobble. But I did like it, it is extremely plot oriented and for that I would say 3 out of 5.

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