The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)The Maze Runner by James Dashner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let’s start with the most important: this is book 1 in a series. This book has no ending. Do not start unless you’re prepared to keep on in the series. The copy I pulled off the library shelf gives no warning of this. Nothing on the CD box cover or back says anything about it being book 1 or part of a series. I was very upset when I got to the end with nothing resolved. Until then I was wondering whether to give it four stars or five in my review. Now I can barely squeeze out three. There’s nothing wrong with a series, but in my opinion, every book in a series should be a complete story in itself. No reader should be left hanging at the end of a book.

That said, the book is well-written and suspenseful. The main character, Thomas, is a teenage boy who finds himself thrust into a strange place called The Glade populated with other teenage boys. He, like the others, has no memory of his prior life. The Gladers have a strange jargon and seemingly only one mission: to solve the Maze. Every day runners go out into an enormous maze whose walls change daily, looking for a way out. Others stay in the Glade growing crops, cleaning, cooking, and so forth. Weekly supplies arrive via a mysterious elevator. A new boy arrives once a month the same way. The maze fills with fearsome and deadly creatures called grievers at night, and sometimes during the day. Soon after Thomas arrives things begin to change. He survives a night in the maze. A teenage girl, the only girl ever, arrives via the elevator only a day or two after Thomas. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination, although the story arc is pretty predictable (other than the fact it doesn’t resolve).

Our library has a Young Adult (YA) section, and even a separate sci-fi subsection within it. I never take anything marked YA and would not have taken this one had it been there. Yet this book obviously was written for that demographic. Reviews indicate that. All the characters are teens. There is sexual tension between Thomas and the girl, but no actual sex. All the cursing has been bowdlerized into Glade jargon. Now that I know it’s a series, I have no doubt it was conceived as a formulaic copy of The Hunger Games trilogy, only for boys. Teenagers fighting for survival against mysterious forces of evil. So it’s mislabeled both in failing to alert you that it’s a series and also that it’s aimed at the teen reader. Hmmph.

The jargon is well-conceived and works well. Shucking, shanks, “good that.” It seems natural without sounding obscene or crude. However, the level of death, gore, violence, and torture seems extreme for the teen market. Even for an adult audience it seems gratuitously excessive to me. I’m not interested in reading more of it and won’t be finishing the series, nor, as I gather from some editions, watch the movie which I have learned is available on DVD.

I listened to the CD version. The reader is excellent. He has a nice voice, can act, and does several accents credibly. The story is quite engaging and will keep you reading or listening, but just be prepared for the story to suddenly stop (or be prepared to find the next in the series.)

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