The Maze Runner is one of those books that has become overwhelmingly popular. As such, it morphs into a new genre of sorts. I sometimes find myself already disliking books that achieve celebrity status–especially in young adult literature. Often, before I even read them, I don’t like them. But I finally gave The Maze Runner a chance a few months ago.
The book starts with a bang and never really slows down. Thomas wakes up in a shaft without any memory of his former life except his name. He enters “The Glade” and learns the ways of the gladers including their slang language, roles and jobs at camp, and ultimate purpose–to find a way out of the maze. To everyone’s surprise, Thomas is only a greenie (newest glader) for one day before Theresa, a girl (the first in the history of the glade), comes up the shaft with a message–time is running out.
From there, the gladers–Thomas especially–go on a whirlwind journey to defeat the maze. Thomas becomes a runner–one of the boys that learns about the maze by literally running through a particular section and then mapping it out daily. After Theresa comes, the world begins to collapse. The sun disappears; the supplies are not sent; the glade doors do not close at night. The boys must defend themselves from an army of Grievers–half rodent, half machines that roam the maze unrestricted and now can roam the glade. As the world of the glade slowly crumbles around them, the boys must decide how to survive and who is strong enough to lead them.
While the story line is pretty clever, I had several problems with this book.
One of the main plot twists that I usually dislike is the worldwide conspiracy twist. It seems almost too easy to write off all the problems or the complications in a story as belonging to a corrupt worldwide government or organization. The Maze Runner starts with a worldwide conspiracy twist. The whole premise of the book is that these boys are taken out of a war and disease torn world to beat the maze which will somehow change the world outside of it.
The ending heightens that conspiracy by having the boys successfully escape the maze only to be met by leaders of the worldwide power WICKED (creators of the maze. it’s a bit ridiculous that their name is wicked). After one of Thomas’ dear friends is killed rather abruptly (which breaks your heart and made me a bit mad), the remaining gladers are rescued from WICKED and taken to a safe house. In the end, readers learn that even the rescue was part of the experiment. It’s too much. Too many twists. Too much action and not enough character development or even plot development. It is not entirely clear why WICKED is going through such an elaborate plan to ‘train’ these boys to save the world. A few more details about what exactly is wrong with the world (beyond the generic “worldwide plague” motif) would help. Instead, the book just ends.
In the midst of action scene after action scene, I wanted to learn more about they boys and their history in the maze. How did Alby and Newt become the glade leaders? What made Minho want to be a runner? How did the glade and the maze come about and why? How did the boys organize their system of survival? Everything seems more focused on high intensity arguments and forceful conflicts between the boys and between then and the maze.
There are a lot of unanswered questions for me in this book. And rather than another series of griever fights or painful changings, I would have liked to learn more about these boys and their histories that brought them to the maze.