Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Genre: Dystopian/Apocalyptic, Horror, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Publication Date: October 2009
Hardcover: 384 pages
Stand alone or series: First book in a planned series.
How did I get this book: Review Copy from a fellow blogger (thanks Amy!)
Why did I read this book: I have been crushing on this book for a while now – ever since I saw the cover and read the synopsis, I’ve been dying to get my hands on it. A while back I was tweeting about how much I was drooling over this title, and the lovely Amy of My Friend Amy was an absolute doll and offered me her copy! Naturally, I accepted. And, here we are.
Summary: (from amazon.com)
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.
Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.
Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.
A dark room ascends. A young boy awakens with no idea where he is. With no idea who he is. All that he can grasp in the lonely darkness is a name – “My name is Thomas.” When the ascent stops, Thomas is hauled out of the dark room and into a strange new world where he’s greeted by teenage boys of different ages and sizes. Thomas is the latest addition to the Glade – a large open green square, surrounded by an immense labyrinth. By day, the Glade is a place of hard work as boys dedicate themselves to their specific, important jobs: farming, cleaning, tending, killing. No job, however, is more important than that of the Runners – the smartest, quickest boys who go out into the Maze every day to document its paths and attempt to find an exit. The Runners must be quick because every day come nightfall, the immense doors connecting the Glade to the Maze shut, and unspeakable monsters called Grievers roam the labyrinth. As the new boy (the “shank greenie”), Thomas grows increasingly frustrated when no one answers his questions about the Glade, the surrounding maze, and the Grievers that roam its exterior in the dark – but soon Thomas learns that the rest of the boys are just like him. None of them can remember anything prior to the box, nor do they recall why they are in the Glade or who put them there. All they know is their dedicated safe routine, and their precipitous existence – work your job, keep your head down, and hope that the runners will one day find the exit to the elaborate, ever-changing maze.
Until the day after Thomas’s arrival, that is. Everything changes. There should not be another delivery from The Box for another month – but the following morning, someone else arrives in the Glade. A beautiful teenage girl, bears a disturbing message. Everything is about to change. Somehow, both the new girl and Thomas are connected to the mystery of the Glade and its Maze, and they must do everything they can to find a way out, and to lead the other Gladers to safety.
The Maze Runner is every bit as delectable as advertised – it’s everything I love in a novel. Isolated characters in an impossible setting, fighting for their lives – check. Futuristic sci-fi/post-apocalyptic/dystopian setting – check. Mass amounts of tension and violence – check. The only thing that could have made The Maze Runner even more of a “Thea book” would be to set it in outer space, with zombies and time travel in the mix somehow (then again, that may have been a tad much). My point is, I loved the setting and the premise for this novel. There are quite a few young adult survival of the fittest types of stories pervading the marketplace now, which may have some readers skeptical of another new similar title. Rest assured, dear readers – reminiscent of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the Gone books by Michael Grant, The Maze Runner is a shining new entry in this particular subgenre, completely worth your time.
The most striking thing about The Maze Runner is the strength of its world-building and the adrenaline-fueled plot. This is akin to a novelization of Lost (one of my favorite television shows ever) – no one knows what’s going on, and mystery and danger abound at every turn. Somehow, all these teenage boys have been transplanted to an isolated world surrounded by an ever-changing maze with only one objective – find a way out. The idea of the Glade and its surrounding, shifting maze, filled with heinous monsters is incredibly compelling and raises a number of questions – why are the boys there and who put them there? Is there anything outside the Glade? Is it some sick experiment or type of imprisonment for crimes they have committed in the past? These questions and countless others are raised – and even more importantly, are addressed – in this provocative novel. Also impressive is the writing style of The Maze Runner. Similar to Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking books, The Maze Runner employs a particular new slang – the Gladers have evolved their own way of dealing with problems and speaking, using words like “shank,” “greenie,” “griever,” among others. It’s a little strange initially, just as it is strange to protagonist Thomas’s ears, but makes sense in the context of the story.
I don’t want to say anything much about actual plot points as these are things best discovered upon reading without spoilers, but suffice to say that the writing and plotting are irresistibly tight and crisp, and Mr. Dahsner knows how to write a thrilling mystery. Just when we receive an answer and one part of the puzzle is uncovered, that leads to an even larger question. And he manages to keep you interested in the story, dying to find out what’s next, with only a minor level of annoyed “WTF is going on!?”-ness (And trust me, as a long-time Lost devotee, I can honestly say in terms of pace of revelations, The Maze Runner is not even close to the level of impotent frustration that it could have reached).
These strengths in terms of pacing and plot reveals are also in part due to the strength of the main character, Thomas. Thomas is a clever young man and he asks all the right questions (whether or not he receives answers to them, well, that’s a different story). Because Thomas is completely new to the Glade and the way of life of the boys there, his own burning questions and frustrations are ones that we share as readers, which makes for a very effective device. As far as protagonists go, Thomas is a fine one with a natural curiosity and ability to voice his opinions, even when they may not be the popular or safe choice. He’s tenacious and brave, but not so flawless to render him one-note. Considering that Thomas and the other characters in the Glade cannot remember anything about their pasts, they are all distinctive, well-rounded characters and very believable. In particular, I loved Minho, Newt, Chuck, and Gally – each has their own charms and distinct personalities.
The only character I wish we got to see more of and understand more was the lone female member of the cast, Teresa. We get tantalizing glimpses into her past and her abilities as linked with Thomas, but as she’s in a coma and ostracized for most of this first book, we don’t get to truly know her. However, this is something I think that will be remedied in the next two books.
In many ways The Maze Runner is a reflection of the Maze that surrounds the Glade itself – little pieces of the puzzle gradually are shuffled and revealed throughout the book, keeping readers on their toes. We keep guessing what could be next, and what each individual piece means until finally the whole picture comes into dramatic crystal sharp clarity. And when you talk about a cliffhanger ending that leaves you salivating for more, I don’t think you can get any more compelling or infuriating than the end of The Maze Runner (I’d put it on the level of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness). I need the next shankin’ book. NOW.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.
Metal ground against metal; a lurching shudder shook the floor beneath him. He fell down at the sudden movement and shuffled backward on his hands and feet, drops of sweat beading on his forehead despite the cool air. His back struck a hard metal wall; he slid along it until he hit the corner of the room. Sinking to the floor, he pulled his legs up tight against his body, hoping his eyes would soon adjust to the darkness.
With another jolt, the room jerked upward like an old lift in a mine shaft.
Harsh sounds of chains and pulleys, like the workings of an ancient steel factory, echoed through the room, bouncing off the walls with a hollow, tinny whine. The lightless elevator swayed back and forth as it ascended, turning the boy’s stomach sour with nausea; a smell like burnt oil invaded his senses, making him feel worse. He wanted to cry, but no tears came; he could only sit there, alone, waiting.
My name is Thomas, he thought.
That… that was the only thing he could remember about his life.
He didn’t understand how this could be possible. His mind functioned without flaw, trying to calculate his surroundings and predicament. Knowledge flooded his thoughts, facts and images, memories and details of the world and how it works. He pictured snow on trees, running down a leaf-strewn road, eating a hamburger, the moon casting a pale glow on a grassy meadow, swimming in a lake, a busy city square with hundreds of people bustling about their business.
And yet he didn’t know where he came from, or how he’d gotten inside the dark lift, or who his parents were. He didn’t even know his last name. Images of people flashed across his mind, but there was no recognition, their faces replaced with haunted smears of color. He couldn’t think of one person he knew, or recall a single conversation.
You can read the full excerpt and the first nine chapters online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: If you liked The Maze Runner and want more of the same dystopian style goodness, where children are put in drastic situations, you might want to try some of the novels below. These include – The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Battle Royale by Koshun Takami, The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Long Walk by Stephen King, Gone and Hunger by Michael Grant, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, and The Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines.
Also, for more information on The Maze Runner (including audio excerpts, a game, author interview, and discussion forum), check out the book’s awesome website HERE.
Verdict: If you couldn’t tell, I loved The Maze Runner. Anyone looking for a thrilling, white-knuckle read should look no further. This title from James Dashner totally rocks. Absolutely recommended…and is it October yet?
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Reading Next: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
StephanieNovember 12, 2009 at 3:13 am
I haven’t read this one yet, but it is totally on my radar. I read The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Gone. Loved each of them.
Have you read The Knife of Never Letting Go? Dystopian YA book on crack!! An Adrenaline rush from page 2!
JaimeNovember 12, 2009 at 7:42 am
I read this last month, and also loved it! I thought the ending was just incredible.
TheaNovember 12, 2009 at 9:16 am
Stephanie – Yes, I *love* Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Books! In many ways, The Maze Runner is very similar to those books. Same adrenaline rush, a similar dystopian feel, even the same sort of new slang that each character talks in. If you loved The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, I think you’ll definitely be pleased with The Maze Runner
Jaime – Talk about a gut-punch! I loved it, and I do like it when authors aren’t afraid to go certain places with their endings. The only frustration is knowing we have to wait a whole freaking year for the next book! 👿 I’m so glad you loved The Maze Runner too!
katiebabsNovember 12, 2009 at 11:16 am
What a great concept for a book! You have done your evol pimping ways yet again.
Rhiannon HartNovember 12, 2009 at 11:52 pm
That’s it keep plugging the dystopian titles! The Long Walk by Stephen King? I’ll add it to my Stephen King shortlist as I have NEVER read one of his books. *cringes away from Thea’s outrage and disbelief*
You’ve made me really want to read this one now. I think I’ll buy it next week!
TheaNovember 13, 2009 at 12:39 am
Rhiannon – OH MY GOD OUTRAGE AND DISBELIEF! OUTRAGE AND DISBELIEF! You haven’t read ANY SK??? Oh man. Let me make a list for you. My favorite series of ALL TIME is his Dark Tower series. Read The Gunslinger AND The Drawing of the Three ASAP (I say the first two books because I think you have to read both before making a decision whether or not to continue with the series). Also (in order of recommendation): ‘Salem’s Lot, It, The Stand (<--Apocalyptic wonderfulness), The Long Walk (<--Dystopian Goodness), The Shining, and for anthologies, try Four Past Midnight (favorite is The Langoliers) and Different Seasons. Seriously, I could go on FOREVER. But you, I think would LOVE The Long Walk especially, given your tastes in the apocalyptic/dystopian genre
KB – You knows how much of a pimp I am 😈 This is a great one, really enjoyed it! I hope you get a chance to read it and lemme know what you think!
DanaNovember 28, 2009 at 1:35 pm
I teach junior high gifted and just read Maze Runner over the Thanksgiving weekend–WOW. loved it! I also loved Hunger Games and both of the choas walking books by Patrick Ness–if you haven’t read them yet, run don’t walk to go get them–sooooo well done.
Can’t wait for the second part of the Maze story–Scorch something???
no oneOctober 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm
😆 loved this book but other reviews where dead wrong 👿
The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Book Review: The Scorch Trials by James DashnerOctober 22, 2010 at 12:03 am
[…] did I read this book: I truly enjoyed The Maze Runner, Dashner’s first book in this post-apocalyptic/dystopian/SF adrenaline rush of a series, and […]
Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)November 10, 2010 at 10:02 pm
I really enjoyed your review and included a link to this post in my own Maze Runner review.
I especially liked your comment about “Lost” – I too felt that I was trying really hard to figure things out but got enough little answers that I don’t thinkg Dashner will leave me hangin’ . 🙂
The Maze Runner | One More PageNovember 29, 2010 at 5:29 am
[…] Reviews: The Book Smugglers Steph Su […]
annaFebruary 23, 2011 at 11:59 pm
I absolutely hated this book with a passion. I literally was upset I spend my time reading it. It’s some of the worst writing I have ever read, the only reason I kept reading it is because the author drags out the simplest parts and give no details until the very end. And even then they don’t make sense.
The Maze Runner « TanzMarch 10, 2011 at 11:52 am
[…] The Book Smugglers […]
EllaMay 17, 2011 at 9:46 am
Well, I didn’t hate it as much as anna, but it certainly doesn’t deserve a rave review. The premise is good but Dashner just doesn’t come through. The writing is flat and derivative (the opening scene is a complete rip-off from Murakami’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World) and the characters are one-dimensional. There is a lot of weak and lazy writing. The long tease is never really satisfied and the actual resolution is bogus. If the key clue was going to be given to the boys in the maze, why wouldn’t they get it from the outset, 2 years before the events in the book? I have lots of other problems, but they would involve spoilers, so I’ll leave it there.
sallyNovember 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm
loved your review im after going out and buying the second one thinking it was the first one so would it be ok just to carry on from the second one or should i start from the first one??? 😀 😉
exavierDecember 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm
the ending of the book was just smashing and i loved how chuck sacrifised himself for the sake of the gladers ❓
The Maze Runner | UTSIKT FRÅ LIA ~ VIEW FROM THE HILLSIDEFebruary 9, 2012 at 12:46 am
[…] The Book Smugglers […]
aaaaaFebruary 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm
aa13fkx 😈 🙁 ➡
AnonymousApril 20, 2012 at 5:50 pm
🙁 8) 😆 😡 😛 😥 👿 😈 😈 😈 😉 ❗ ❗ ❓ ➡ 😐 😀 🙂 🙁 😮 😯 😕 8) 😆 😡 😛 😳 😥 👿 😈 🙄 😉 ❗ ❓ 💡 ➡ 😐
ANNAMARIAMay 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm
I found the review so helpful! I loved the Maze Runner, but the Scorch Trials (the second book to the sequel)but it wasn’t as good as the first book! Most reviews aren’t helpful=P…but yours was, so thanks! 😉
NobodyJune 20, 2012 at 8:44 am
😀 🙂 🙁 😮 😯 😕 8) 😆 😡 😛 😳 😥 👿 😈 🙄 😉 ❗ ❓ 💡 ➡ 😐
AnonymousAugust 11, 2012 at 8:33 pm
👿 😛 8) 😳 ➡ ❓
CoreyOctober 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm
Great book! I had to read it for English. I surely would’ve enjoyed it for pleasure too. Plot-twisting and a great page-turner. 🙄 😛 😆 8) 😀
CoreyOctober 7, 2012 at 5:37 pm
Lol, jk. I hated this bullshit.
Five Years of Book Smuggling… | The Book SmugglersJanuary 7, 2013 at 12:01 am
[…] Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner (11/12/2009) 2. The Half-Year Mark: Best Books of 2012 (so far) (7/2/2012) 3. From the Page to the […]
AnonymousFebruary 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm
jacob otteniApril 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm
The book is awesoe but totaly not horror :opps: :cry
HannahMay 12, 2013 at 10:42 pm
I love this book SO MUCH! However I was a little disappointed with the two sequels and prequel… I think The Maze Runner was the best one. The series went a bit downhill from there.
MagicianWinnipegMay 19, 2013 at 9:41 pm
Famous Magicians from Winnipeg An Evaluation Of Winnipeg’s Magicians
For those who taught me something, I thank you. Here are my views, although I have mixed feelings about many magicians in Winnipeg. Remember, these are only my views regarding some renowned Winnipeg magicians. You may not agree!
A short film about the Magicians in Winnipeg was released last summer. Entitled “Pick a card, any card”, this video shows us some of Winnipeg’s working magicians.
Although a cameraman came out to film me on Canada day, my contribution to the film didn’t make it past the cutting room floor. I can not help but believe that this is due to the fact that I was performing manipulation that day. “Flourishes”, as they’re recognized in magic are “not magic” according to many magicians. Even though my manipulations were published in genie magazine in 2011, absolute manipulation isn’t consistently respected by magicians; who consider it to more similar to juggling.
When I whip out a cobra cut, a flipback fan or a cross cut some magicians put their underwear in a knot. Others think I am awesome because they understand the ability and discipline required. You also see me one day and in case you are a Magician, come speak to me! I always love sharing magic with others. Even if you are a complete noob, come and speak to me. I am open to sharing my magic alongside you!
bennyMay 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm
AnonymousDecember 5, 2013 at 8:17 pm
AnonymousDecember 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm
AnonymousMay 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm
youMay 16, 2014 at 7:42 pm
i love The Maze Runner book. I could’t put the book down.:)
Francesca MooreJune 24, 2014 at 5:34 am
I hadn’t heard of this book until I stumbled across the movie trailer on the Goodreads website. I’m really looking forwards to seeing the film but need to read the book first. Bought myself a copy and am planning to read it on a beach in Greece in the next couple of weeks.
ItsMeJuly 13, 2014 at 10:17 am
I LOVED The Maze Runner!! It was one of the best books I have read, I am not joking. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in 3 days! It made me smile, laugh and cry. It mad you feel like you were included and actually in it! I cried at the end because 1. i can’t ell you this ‘coz it will spoil the end 2.The book was AMAZING and 3.I didn’t want it to end! I would definitely recommend this book! 10/10
AnonymousFebruary 9, 2015 at 8:52 am
Amazing piece of work by Dashner. It is a horrifying-thrilling Sci-Fi book that keeps you at the edge of the seat even after the end!
AnonymousJanuary 13, 2016 at 8:49 am
priyaAugust 3, 2016 at 11:12 am
Itssss..realllyy tooo good to read..the book keeps u glued to it until u reach the end n unfold the DAM GOOD MYSTERY!! L**E it
AnonymousDecember 16, 2016 at 1:33 pm