By Rachel Wilmans
One of the big stories at the box office this weekend was the premiere of the new young adult dystopian movie The Maze Runner. But before Dylan O’Brien brought Thomas to life on the silver screen, The Maze Runner was a thrilling novel by James Dashner.
The book opens with a bang, taking the reader straight to the moment when Thomas, the main character, wakes up and finds himself in a metal box with no memory of where he comes from or who he is beyond his name. When the doors to the box open, he is welcomed by a group of teenage boys who tell him that he is the newest member of The Glade, a self-sufficient community seemingly in the middle of nowhere, notable for the high imposing walls surrounding it. Frightened and confused, Thomas starts asking questions, but the in the Glade, everything is shrouded in mystery and the more Thomas tries to find out, the less the other boys say.
Barely twenty-four hours into his new life, Thomas feels drawn to the world outside the walls. He is able to glean from his new friend Chuck that the only thing outside the walls is the Maze, an impossible puzzle of constantly shifting corridors. The only people allowed to explore the area are the Runners, a daring group of Gladers who risk their lives to try to find a way out. Why is it so dangerous out there? Hideous half-metal, half-animal creatures called Grievers prowl the Maze at night, injecting their victims with painful venom that causes their personalities to change. The doors in the walls that close every night are the only things keeping the Gladers safe from the Grievers. Yet, despite all of the horror stories he hears, Thomas knows that he has to be a Runner.
However, as Thomas settles in to life in the Glade, things start changing. People start behaving strangely. The next member to join the Glade is entirely unlike the others. Even the Maze itself seems to be different. Is Thomas responsible? Is it finally time for someone to solve the Maze?
One unique feature of The Maze Runner that sets it apart from similar novels is the environment that the story takes place in. The Glade almost becomes another character, interacting with the boys that live there and causing certain events to take place. The way that the Maze moves and changes every night adds to this impression and makes it seem like a living thing that needs to be outwitted. This memorable setting is one of the best features of the novel.
The book also stands out from all of today’s other popular dystopian series because of the fast-paced plot that pulls you in from page one and doesn’t let up until you finish. In contrast with say The Hunger Games, Dashner doesn’t begin his novel by introducing the world the characters live in before getting to the action. He takes you straight to the Glade and lets the reader get a sense of the setting along with Thomas. The plot has exciting fight scenes, mysteries to be uncovered, and many twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat, and the absence of dry world-building chapters allows a breakneck pace that naturally leads to many surprises for the reader.
However, the lack of background early on in the novel does have consequences. One of the most common complaints about the book centers on the language that Dashner’s dystopian community uses. The boys in the Glade use their own form of slang with words like “Greenie”, “shank”, and “klunk”, just to name a few. The meanings to all of these words are eventually explained or can be deduced by the reader, but at the beginning the reader knows only as much as Thomas knows, so these words do not make any sense. Therefore, the early chapters can be confusing and difficult to read until the reader gets acclimated to the language.
The Maze Runner is a fast-paced, action-packed novel that is perfect for any teenagers who like dystopian novels. The unique setting paired with a fascinating plot creates a captivating read that will have you reaching for the sequel the moment you reach the final page.