Excellent hardcover collection of the Halo: Fall of Reach series. Not a perfect translation of the book, but obviously, like a movie, they can't inclu...moreExcellent hardcover collection of the Halo: Fall of Reach series. Not a perfect translation of the book, but obviously, like a movie, they can't include everything. Still worth it.(less)
**spoiler alert** I have not written a comprehensive book review in a good while, but I feel that my 1-star book review for The Maze Runner deserves a...more**spoiler alert** I have not written a comprehensive book review in a good while, but I feel that my 1-star book review for The Maze Runner deserves an explanation.
I started this book thinking it would be a decent enough read. I have read the comparisons to The Hunger Games, perhaps it's the three-word title because the similarities stop there.
I didn't like this book. I originally gave this book 2 stars, and then, while writing this review, I down graded it to 1. I really didn't like this book.
I pride myself on always finishing a book that I start no matter how bad it is. For good or evil, if a book starts to go downhill I try to finish it so I can make an objective judgement afterward about why I didn't like it. And also to give it a chance to turn around later, however I almost regret that policy after reading this book.
I will explain why in three sections and then be done with this unfortunate black mark on my otherwise fair-and-balanced judgments of fiction.
The story seems to be what drove Dashner to have written this book. It seems that he had an idea about a group of kids in an unsolvable maze that were being watched to gauge their mental and physical fortitude for some mysterious task which is hinted at only once throughout the entire novel until the very end (and "hinted" is a loose term!). The story was interesting, however the pacing and execution were terrible. For the first ten or so chapters there is nearly no information given out except for the layout of the Glade (the main chamber surrounded by the maze) and the introduction of a few characters.
The main character, Thomas, has lost his memory upon waking up inside the Glade. He immediately started asking questions every few seconds of every character he comes across and gets nothing but lines like "Stow it, shuckface, you'll see."
It happened so much that I actually felt like Dashner was saying "Stow it, shuckface," to me every time I was begging for some kind of plot point, explanation, or anything that would tell me just what the heck was going on.
However, by the time the story started picking up and answers started forming, the characters were annoying me so much I almost didn't care anymore (more on that later).
Finally, about one-third of the way through, things got interesting and a new character (Gasp! A girl!) was introduced into the Glade to change things up. Through her, I got my first morsel of information... right before she went into a coma for the next third of the book.
Then, there were creatures called "Grievers" that stalked the maze and try to kill or prick anyone in sight with stingers that partially return the stung person's memories of the outside world. Yet, every person so stung either went crazy or wouldn't talk about what they saw, and if they tried to something made them try to kill themselves.
This was interesting, but infuriating. Dashner's goal seemed to be to force us to identify with Thomas through his frustration by frustrating the reader. So, little to no information is gleaned until Thomas finally decides to go out and get himself stung (something I saw coming from chapter 15 or so) to get his own memories back.
At last, he realizes more of what's going on, and what they need to do. He and the girl, Theresa, were sent into the maze to force the endgame because the Gladers hadn't even come close to solving the maze on their own in two years. It is also revealed that they actually helped create the maze.
You may ask: So the only people who could solve it, were the ones who created it? Yup.
Not quite a Deus Ex Machina, but it left a bad taste in my mouth it might as well have been. I can't help feeling like I'd rather have had a story about some of the other secondary characters (who were far more interesting, and, unfortunately, underused) solving the maze on their own without help from the outside.
Not only that, but Thomas and Theresa had a completely unexplained telepathic connection that allowed them to talk back and forth between themselves in their heads. Plot device, and a cheap one at that.
After they escape the maze, they encountered the creators, and just as they are about to discover what's going on, Dashner did the unforgivable. He invoked Chandler's Law.
"When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand." — Raymond Chandler
Dashner, having finally moved his story along to the point where we are finally getting answers, truncated the moment of revelation with gunfire. A group of gunmen broke into the supposedly secure, top secret facility at the exact moment of escape, killed all the Creators, and kidnapped the kids away for book two.
It's like he wasn't sure how he wanted to end his novel, and so MEN WITH GUNS!
You may now facepalm. I know I did.
Let me make this quick: there are no characters. There are words on paper trying to be characters.
Thomas, until he decided to get himself Griever-stung (for no other purpose than to move the plot forward), was a submissive weeny who just went along with everything. He became a Maze Runner for no other reason than because he "knew" he should. He didn't make a conscious decision, he didn't come to a revelation, he didn't even really want to. He "just knew". I call a flag on the play for that one. Thomas had no drive other than what he "knew" he should do. But why? WHY WHY WHY WHY? Just "because"? Not good enough.
Even after he found out (partially) who he is, it just wasn't good enough for me. His personality didn't change when he got his memories back, so we can assume that the memory wipe didn't alter personalities much. His only drive seems to be escape, and even though he says he cares for his fellow Gladers, I just didn't see that except for one instance when he saved an unconscious Glader from Grievers and another when he broke down after another character is killed saving his life.
But then, he explained his actions (and reactions) based on a "feeling" of what he knew he should do. I suppose a memory wipe could take away everything but feelings, but the character never came into his own. He never truly desired to be more than what his feelings were telling him he should be, there were no conscious thoughts or decisions to his actions, he always went with his feelings, which didn't make sense to me because I didn't know anything about who he is or what he really wanted - because HE didn't know.
Thomas' weakness was his inability to make choices for himself until he was forced to or the plot demanded it.
The girl who shows up partway in, Theresa, could have been a very interesting character, but Dashner decided to keep her in a coma up to the last third of the book. You can't give a new character time to grow in the last third of a book. I couldn't care about her because I didn't have time to get to know her. She was merely a catalyst for Thomas to move his character along, she didn't have her own. Rather than have her be timid and "innocent" I would have written her a bit stronger, so at least she is set up to be a strong personality in the next story, but that didn't happen either. I honestly didn't care about what happens to her.
Even Thomas' "feelings" about Theresa, the connection they have, seemed flaccid. It's based on information and experience neither of them could remember and we didn't have so how can we believe it? We have to just trust their feelings? I can't invest in that. They didn't grow closer through hardship or develop a realistic relationship. Again, they "just know".
The other, secondary characters were much more interesting and would have made fine primary characters because they had (gasp!) personalities. Newt, Minho, even Chuck showed flaws, vulnerabilities, and strengths at different times when those flaws and strengths made differences in the outcomes of situations, for good and bad. That, I liked. It's a shame that none of them got the attention they really deserved.
3. Dialogue & Prose
Dashner tries too hard to give his characters unique phrases and lingo and it comes across as juvenile. "But wait!" you say, "it's juvenile fiction!"
I know. Dear God, do I know.
The problem is that it's nearly inaccessible to older audiences because every character is so juvenile in their language. Every character uses the word, "shuck", "shuckface", "shuck it", "shucking", or "shank" at least once every other sentence. I am not exaggerating.
Note: It's not hard to see that he's using "shuck" as a substitute for another word that's generally frowned upon in youth fiction, but hey, maybe it's just me.
Dialogue seemed okay otherwise, not overly eloquent, but with just enough articulation to remind us who our characters are: kids and teenagers. Their lingo shows it (see above), and can be downright unbearable at times, but the flow isn't bad, just not great.
Now, the prose, on the other hand, is bad. It's rushed, and it shows. The worst part, as another reviewer has pointed out, is that Dashner describes almost every emotion every character feels. You NEVER tell the reader how someone is feeling, you SHOW it in their dialogue and actions.
Example: I don't need the author to write:
'Thomas walked away angrily'
better would be:
'Thomas stormed off'
This cheat is used way too much in this book. The book feels like a treatment for a story, not a story itself, unfortunately.
All in all, very disappointed. The fact that this series is green-lighted for a film series saddens me, because there are other books out there much more deserving. Avoid the comparisons to The Hunger Games as well, read that instead.
If you are looking for a good book about kids placed in a harsh environment, facing challenges, and overcoming mental and physical adversity I don't think there is a better benchmark than Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, which I highly recommend. (less)