The Maze Runner – James Dashner

Post 252

I finally got around to reading James Dashner‘s The Maze Runner, first book in the Maze Runner trilogy. I’ve had it sitting on my iPad for probably about a year, and I have even seen parts of the first movie. I recently found the first two DVDs at a discount store, so I figured I’d buy them and then read the books before I watched the movies. So that’s what I set out to do. When I started the first book, it didn’t really capture my attention in the first few chapters. I stopped reading a few times, but after two weeks and about 10 chapters, I finally got into the story. I finished the rest in two days and I’m interested to read the next book. It’s not like I can’t wait to read the second book, to find out what happens next, but it did intrigue me (mostly due to the final chapter).

We meet the main character, Thomas, in chapter 1 when he wakes up in an elevator going up. He doesn’t remember how he got there and he has undergone some kind of memory wipe. He remembers practical things about the world and his own name, but no memories of his past or of how he got in that elevator. When the doors open, he enters the Glade, a big space surrounded by an enormous Maze (filled with monsters called Grievers) and populated with a number of teenage boys, led by Alby and Newt. None of them remembers how they got there, they just know they have to find a way out through the maze. Each week, the elevator brings them supplies, and each month, a new boy joins them.

“Order,” Newt continued. “Order. You say that bloody word over and over in your shuck head. Reason we’re all sane around here is ’cause we work our butts off and maintain order. Order’s the reason we put Ben out–can’t have loonies runnin’ around tryin’ to kill people, now can we? Order. Last thing we need is you screwin’ that up.” 

Thomas gets a day to adjust to his new reality and on the second day, he gets a tour. He discovers how they’ve split up the Glade and how each boy gets a job: from farmers, kitchen staff and cleaners to the runners. The Runners are the boys that run out into the maze every day, mapping it trying to find a way out. Thomas has so many questions, but he doesn’t get many answers as the other boys don’t share much of what is going on (mostly because they don’t know themselves). A day after Thomas, the elevator comes up again – which is very unusual, since it’s supposed to come only once a week. On top of that, when they open it up, they find a girl with a note reading “She’s the last one. Ever.” This sends everybody into a tailspin since they’ve never had a girl before, and the implication that she is the last child to be sent there frightens them. Thomas, on his part, recognises Teresa but doesn’t know why. he freaks out when he hears her talking inside his head.

A loud boom exploded the air, making Thomas jump. It was followed by a horrible crunching, grinding sound. He stumbled backward, fell to the ground. He wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen it for himself. The enormous stone wall to the right of them seemed to defy every known law of physics as it slid along the ground, throwing sparks and dust as it moved, rock against rock. The crunching sound rattled his bones. He looked around at the other openings. On all four sides of the Glade, the right walls were moving toward the left, closing the gap of the Doors. 
Then one final boom rumbled across the Glade as all four Doors sealed shut for the night.

Over the next few days, life at the Glade goes on until Thomas makes a decision. He sees Minho and Alby coming back out of the Maze, only seconds before the doors close. So Thomas decides to go and help them, but the doors close right behind him and now all three of them are locked in the Maze during the night (nobody has ever survived a night in the Maze before). Alby is unconscious, so Thomas hoists him into the vines hanging on the Maze wall to keep him safe from the Grievers. He barely manages to escape the Grievers himself and starts running, leading them away from Alby. Minho ran away earlier, in a panic, but now they team up to trick the Grievers and survive. In the meantime, they find out where the Grievers go when they disappear come morning. All three of them live through the night and walk back into the Glade when the doors open in the morning. Thomas is punished and spends the day in jail, but the next day he becomes a runner.

Thomas swallowed, wondering how he could ever go out there. His desire to become a Runner had taken a major blow. But he had to do it. Somehow he KNEW he had to do it. It was such an odd thing to feel, especially after what he’d just seen… Thomas knew he was a smart kid- he somehow felt it in his bones. But nothing about this place made any sense. Except for one thing. He was supposed to be a Runner. Why did he feel that so strongly? And even now, after seeing what lived in the maze?

Following Teresa’s arrival, the sun disappears (making it clear they are living in some kind of artificial dome), there are no more weekly deliveries and the doors to the Maze stay open every night. Because of that, the Grievers are able to get into the Glade and they start taking away one child a night. So when Teresa wakes up from her coma and tells Thomas that not only do they know each other from before and can speak to each other telepathically, but the Maze is also a code. They have to start taking action and figure out how to escape the Glade and the Maze. So, Thomas and Teresa turn their attention to the Maze. Basically, this Maze is divided into 8 parts, and they change every night when the walls move. The Runners go in every day to map the Maze and try to find a way out. They keep very detailed maps of this and have been doing so for two years. After a while, they figured out that the Maze follows the same pattern every month. Thomas then has the ingenious idea that maybe they form words. He is right, and they end up with a number of code words that will be the key to their escape. Thomas and Minho go back to the Griever hole and figure out that escape probably lies beyond it.

With that in mind, the group decides to put it to a vote: all the kids who want to come with Thomas and the Runners, into the Maze, to go through the hidden portal the Grievers use and hopefully find a computer there to put in the codewords and escape are welcome to. Whoever wants to stay, stays. Eventually, most of them decide to go along with Thomas and the Runners and the venture out into the Maze. The Grievers are no longer playing around however, they are trying to stop the children from getting out. But they make it, dive into the hole, punch in the code and as soon as they do, the Grievers deactivate. About 20 of them survive the fight, and they all go through the hole together. In the meantime, Thomas has remembered something important: the reason he knows so much about the Glade and the Maze is because he and Teresa were the ones that designed it (I forgot at what point exactly he remembers this).

“Shouldn’t someone give a pep talk or something?” Minho asked…
“Go ahead,” Newt replied.
Minho nodded and faced the crowd. “Be careful,” he said dryly. “Don’t die.”
Thomas would have laughed if he could, but he was too scared for it to come out.
“Great. We’re all bloody inspired,” Newt answered.

They then end up in some kind of underground lab, with the Creators (people who run the Glade and Maze) staring at them as if they were animals at a zoo. But it isn’t over yet. One of the Creators comes in with Gally. He was someone who didn’t trust Thomas from the beginning, who disappeared for a while after threatening to kill Thomas, who then came back and got stung by a Griever and was then finally banished from the Glade and presumed killed by the Grievers. He had in fact been with the Creators and they were mind-controlling him. They set him on Thomas, but Chuck dove in front of the knife and saved Thomas’ life, losing his own in the process. This set off Thomas, who couldn’t handle everything he had gone through up to that point anymore and he went berserk, pounding into Gally until the other kids pulled him off. Immediately after, the compound was invaded by people with guns coming to save them and all of the kids got away.

His joy dribbled away, turned into a deep mourning for the twenty people who’d lost their lives. Despite the alternative, despite knowing that if they hadn’t tried to escape, all of them might’ve died, it still hurt, even though he hadn’t known them very well. Such a display of death—how could it be considered a victory?

As they get away, the 20 remaining Gladers get some explanations. The world they are living in is a post-apocalyptic one. Huge sun flares destroyed the world and it killed millions. Immediately after, a sickness called the ‘Flare’ happened, killing millions more. Humans are close to extinction, so they set up experiments to try to find a cure for the virus and save themselves. But their rescuers are here to put an end to the experimentation and they are taking the children to their camp to safety.

But of course that is not all (this is a trilogy after all). There is one more chapter where one of their rescuers is communicating with her superiors. Apparently, the Gladers were, in fact, part of an experiment to weed out the best and brightest of them to find a cure and save the world. They were not the only experiment, but they are one of the best so far. And, as it turns out, these are not rescuers – but the next step in the experiment. They will be granted one good night’s sleep and in the morning, the experiment will continue… DUM DUM DUUUUUM!

I’m not really used to reading YA from a male point of view, so that did take some getting used to in the beginning. I also wasn’t really a fan of the “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere. And I also don’t like being in the dark for most of the story, which didn’t help me liking it. When things started to clear up, that’s when I started liking the story. I’m guessing that once I finish the series, and then reread them a while later, that I will love it that much more since I will already know what’s going to happen. Yes, I’m like that. I don’t like the big mysteries that go on and on. I’m also a fan of happy endings, which we kind of saw at the end of book one, until that last chapter. But I am intrigued like I said before. And I want to know what happens next so I will be cracking open the next one this weekend. Wish me luck!

Happy reading,

Loes M.

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