Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

For Christmas I got not one but THREE books from my awesome friend Olivia. They were a trilogy by James Dashner, The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials and Death Cure and came with the tag line “A must for fans of The Hunger Games”. One of my favourite things about Christmas (after the chocolate and the wine) is making a start on the Christmas book haul, curling up next to the fire and getting lost in new stories. I’d seen The Maze Runner around, actually, but just didn’t get around to buying it. Too many books, never enough time to read them all! Anyway, I was delighted to get a chance to sink my teeth into some good ole fashioned dystopian sci fi madness.

The Maze Runner is about Thomas, a boy who wakes to find he has no memories and no idea who or where he mazeis. It turns out he’s in the Glade, a piece of land in the centre of a maze with around 50 other teenage boys. Some of the boys have been there for as long as two years, some turned up like Thomas only a few months ago. None of the boys have any memories of anything outside the Glade, their lives before or why they’re there. All they know is that doors to the maze open every day in the morning and close every evening and that regular supplies are sent them. They know not to get stuck in the maze at night, as terrible creatures which are half biological, half machine patrol the corridors, and the walls move, altering the maze corridors. The boys have spent two years trying to solve the puzzle of the maze and find a way out, a way home, by sending runners to plot the maze every day but have so far discovered no clues as to how they can escape.

This is all to change with the arrival of Thomas, and a day later, a girl (shock!) called Theresa. Now I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say that Thomas, Theresa and the boys all work together to try to crack the maze before it’s too late and they all get killed.

Sadly, I can’t really say much about the other two books either without ruining everything but I’ll try a quick no-spoilers summary. Thomas, Theresa and the boys are part of some tests set up by a company called WICKED to find a cure for a horrible disease which has ravaged the planet. The two books see them battling all kinds of things in order to survive and hopefully ensure the survival of mankind.

scorchI found this trilogy to be extremely gripping, almost impossible to put down once picked up. I started them shortly after Christmas and had finished the final instalment by 2nd January. The three books are exciting but also quite brutal in places. Let’s just say that not all the original boys make it to the end. Hell, let’s just say that not even half of them make it to the beginning of the third book! That’s not even giving anything away, Dashner kills off characters with surprising readiness. It’s good though, because you don’t know what to expect and it keeps the trilogy from becoming too predictable. The books are also full of nice little touches, like the language adaptations the boys make while they’re living in the Glade, and the fact the boys are all named after famous scientists.

However, I did have some minor problems with the trilogy. I found them to be slightly childish, even for me! If I’m honest, I don’t think these books are exactly aimed at my age group (or anyone over the age of 18) and think they would probably suit teenage boys best (I’d say boys around fourteen would love them). Despite these books being full of mature themes such as violence, death and sacrifice, I found something lacking with Thomas’s relationship with Theresa and feel it should have been explored in more depth.

I also felt the central premise of the books to be ridiculous. I love sci fi, and have absolutely no problem with curesomeone proposing unlikely future worlds. However, they have to be backed up with something, the author has to make their future seem not just plausible but possible, like it could actually happen. You might initially think The Hunger Games seemed silly with its districts and fights to the death in the style of gladiators. But the reality TV aspect and the corrupt Capitol made it all seem that tiny bit more possible. I mean, we’ll watch just about anything in a reality TV format, and the materialistic, fashion-obsessed caricatures that live in the Capitol did make you think a bit about the way society seems to be heading today. Sadly, I felt Dashner’s novels were lacking some of this. I just didn’t buy that in order to cure a virus you needed to put some teenage boys in a maze for two years, and then through some other hard trials in which they mostly all perish. And when you realise what happens in the end I wanted to yell at the book “WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST DO THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?” It’s frustrating at times.

But overall, I really enjoyed reading them. They are similar in feel to The Hunger Games trilogy so I say if you enjoyed those, give ’em a go! I think I’d mostly recommend these books for a slightly younger less cynical audience, however, and think teenage boys especially will love them. They’re exciting, fast-paced and brutal (in an acceptable way, like the literary equivalent of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, rather than Hostel or Saw or anything).

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Happy New Year!! End of 2012 round-up

Before I move on to this wonderful new year, I thought you might like to know what I’ve been up to since my last post (the one about NaNoWriMo not the one about being hacked!). Well here’s part one of what I’ve been doing:

NOVEMBER: Failed NaNoWriMo, Read the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare Instead

At the end of October, my wise sister told me that if I spent half the time I spend reading writing instead, I’d be able to bash out 10 novels before the end of the year (or words to that effect). She was right. I do spend a ridiculous amount of time reading and not doing anything else. Not just books either, I trawl the internet every day for hours reading articles and blogs. It’s getting out of hand. I am the master of procrastination, and reading allows me to tell myself I’m achieving something as I can pretend to myself that I’m doing some form of “research”. 2012 was the year I pushed the definition of research to its very limits.

Anyway, when Anna said this I did feel a little guilty and decided to attempt NaNoWriMo 2012. What better to get me to start writing? I even blogged about it to make sure I actually stuck to it (LOL). It was all going so well, in two days I’d written 2000 words and had a pretty fun love-at-the-end-of-the-world type plot planned.

After the first two days things began to unravel. I went to three different bonfire parties in four days which meant, naturally that I’d left my novel temporarily and promised to catch up in the week. I wrote a little more on my phone after a drunken night out (totally illegible drivel) but after that I had lost the drive to forge on. I told myself I was too busy, I’d catch up next week when I had more time.

The following week, I discovered the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I’d seen them before but The Mortal Instrumentsthought they looked a little too childish, even for me. However when I saw them recommended on another blog by a grown up man, I thought I’d give them a go. Plus they’ve made the first book into a film and I wanted to check out the books before the films release later this year. NaNoWriMo was a lost cause after that.

I’m not sure why I was worried about the Mortal Instruments series being too young, as they’re similar in feel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Divergent, The Hunger Games trilogy, and many other YA books I have read and enjoyed. I suppose I don’t want to be that person who only reads YA, so I try not to limit myself to it all the time. I enjoy reading all sorts and don’t want to be defined by one genre. Having said that, YA fantasy and Sci Fi is always what I feel like writing about when I sit down to blog. It is an exciting genre that’s getting better and better and I don’t feel as wary of writing critically about it as I do with classics and literary fiction.

Anyway, I read the first three books in the Mortal Instruments series in about a week and a half. The books are City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass, and all follow Clary, a girl who has her world turned upside down after finding out she is a shadowhunter, a demon killer. Clary meets other shadowhunters her own age: Isabelle, Alec and the rather lovely Jace. When her mother goes missing in mysterious circumstances, Clary needs the shadowhunters’ help. Her search for her mother and missing childhood memories takes her all over New York, with her geeky and sarcastic but loveable friend Simon dragged along for the ride. As the books progress, Clary learns more about her past, her parents and the world of shadowhunters, downworlders and demons.

I liked these books because they were plot-driven, super exciting stories with a cracking forbidden love story

Image from imdb.com

Image from imdb.com

(although I did start shouting in frustration by the middle of the third book). What’s more, Simon, who should just be the annoying friend, turns out to be an excellent character. In fact, I’d say that Clare found the perfect balance between keeping the plot moving and exploring and developing the characters. All in all, I bloody loved these books! Even if I am indulging my inner teenager.

The Mortal Instruments series will eventually be made up of 6 books but only 5 have so far been released. Because the third book ended in such a wonderful place I told myself I would leave it there and resist the temptation to pick up the other two until the series had been completed (in 2014!!). Clare has also written another trilogy of books set within the same world but set in Victorian times, these are called The Infernal Devices. Only two of the three have so far been released, so I told myself I would wait until the third book came out before picking up the third. We’ll see how far I got with all this temptation-resisting when I recap on December!

So, that was my disastrous November. Failed NaNoWriMo, went to a lot of parties and read a few books. Any time I wasn’t reading/partying I spent helping my sister photograph a school and generally panicking over my lack of a serious job. But hey! It’s a new year now, so moping is strictly forbidden. Bring on 2013!