Nic's Reviews > The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
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U_50x66
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Dec 04, 10

Read in October, 2010, read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** Interesting premise. There were also a few characters I liked very much, by which I mean Newt.

It took me a long time to get into the book, though, largely because I didn't think the writing was very good. On the level of sentence structure, word choice, and overuse of the word "almost" - plus a lot of telling, not showing - oh, and occasional strange use of italics - made it seem a bit juvenile.

I also had some empathy issues with Thomas - nothing major, and I'll cut him some slack for the stressful situations (and all the messing with his brain), but he acted like kind of a jerk much of the time. As in my review of Blood and Chocolate, I have to admit this might be realistic - memory loss plus life-or-death stress plus probably PTSD could easily equal the rude and disjointed behavior we get from Thomas. Plus, for the first little bit, most everyone is being rude to him and refusing to answer his questions, and they have much less excuse for this behavior than he does, so I understand his frustration.

I can't not address the made-up swear words. It seemed a little transparent to me that the boys had made up words specifically to replace common swears. They use little other made-up language, especially for things for which words already exist. (They use the word Griever, for instance, but obviously they had to come up with a word for that - if it wasn't actually somehow conveyed to them by the Creators.) I sympathize with the author's desire to portray a world populated entirely by teenaged boys, but not include a dozen expletives per page, but this still seemed odd. It may be one of the reasons I like Newt more than the other characters - since he's British, he uses lots of Britishisms and obvious derivations that come across as "real" expletives ("bloody," "bugging," "arse") without jarring or tiring me the way page after page of contemporary American swear words would.

That said, I found some of the made-up words more effective than others. I will say that the author did a good job coming up with harsh sounds that made the words sound like things these guys might yell at each other. "Shank" sort of worked for me. It seems to be mildly, sometimes affectionately, derogatory, not a real swear. "Klunk" worked pretty well, especially given Chuck's explanation of it. "Slint" was interesting, but I couldn't really figure out what it was supposed to mean. "Shuck," one of the most commonly-used words, bothered me a bit. I can respect that:

A. Strictly in terms of sound, it seems like it could be a swear word, and

B. It seems to literally mean, "Kill," for which I think it works as a euphemism

The main problem I have with it is a strong association in my mind with "shucks," as in, "aw, shucks," which puts it among the world's dorkiest and least profane expressions. Note to writers: if you make up a set of swears for your world, and the worst one sounds rather like it might be used by Bashful the Dwarf while he twists his beard and blushes, you may want to rethink.

I thought the setting - the actual Maze - was pretty well-drawn and cool. I wanted to find the Grievers scarier than I did. I'm sure I'd be terrified of them in real life, but the main thing I felt came across in the book was disgust. I recognized that they were a threat, but I didn't feel much suspense or tension from them most of the time.

Also: Thomas kills a Griever with a makeshift spear. The weapons room is full of crazy gear. How is it that no one's ever managed to kill one before?

So. Characters.

I'm afraid character development didn't strike me as one of the author's strengths. I liked Newt a lot, but if I'm honest, a fair amount of that is probably Squee He's British. He's also one of the only nice characters. I liked Chuck okay for this latter reason, but didn't like most of Thomas' interactions with him, because it seemed like Thomas was mean to him a lot for no reason. Newt, on the other hand, I liked quite a lot. Not only is he capable and nice, he's just begging to be shipped with Alby, enough so to make me actually care about Alby, who kind of laughs in the face of character development.

That's not actually fair to Alby. As with Chuck, I was frustrated by the way Thomas' interactions with him insisted on telling, not showing, about characteristics that I sometimes didn't even agree the characters displayed. I kept having to read about how ANNOYING Chuck is and what a JERK Alby is, and I'm like, look, Thomas, Chuck's actually being nice to you/Alby's under a lot of stress and you're not helping. Cut the guys some slack. Geez.

And then, of course, there's Gally. This is what happened when I read that part of the book:



BOOK: So there's this guy, and he hates our protagonist for no reason. And he's UGLY, with, like, messy dark hair and bad teeth. And he's so mean. Nobody likes him except for, like, his cronies.

ME: So what you are telling me is that this is Severus Snape?

BOOK: No! No, he's -

ME: I BELIEVE IN YOU, SNAPE! I ALWAYS KNEW YOU WERE GOOD!

BOOK: STOP SYMPATHIZING WITH MY STRAWMAN ANTAGONIST.



And it turns out Gally actually had a very real reason to hate Thomas. And what does he get for it? He gets mind-controlled into attacking Thomas, accidentally kills Chuck, and is then beaten into at the very least serious face-breakage by Thomas. (Which, by the way, seemed to me like Thomas maybe failed some kind of test there. He knew that Gally was being mind-controlled, AND that Gally wasn't aiming for Chuck, and Thomas still pummeled Gally until he was dragged away.)

And Teresa's entire character development consists of "pretty . . . and telepathic!" (I was surprised by the telepathy business, actually. Not especially bothered, but thrown for a bit of a loop.)

Interesting how we get a number of fake-out deaths before the Bloodbath of Mostly Unnamed Characters toward the end. It makes me wonder whether any of those people are still actually alive. Mostly because I want Newt and Alby to have "yay you're not dead!" happy reunion smoochies, which can't happen if Alby actually is dead.

Don't think I'll be reading the sequels anytime soon, as my to-read list is huge. If I do read them, it won't be for the writing or the characters, but pretty much to find out the deal with WICKED. (Which acronym I recognized looong before the characters did, by the way. Also, have to wonder: what really happens if you get stung by a Griever and don't take the serum? I found characters' lack of explanation/curiosity about that rather disappointing.)

Seriously, though, WICKED - if the world is depopulated and needs geniuses to help cure a plague, I can think of very few things that would be a WORSE idea than putting all the available healthy young geniuses into a situation where many will be killed, and the others will spend years raising pigs and trying to solve an EXTREMELY OVERCOMPLICATED puzzle. Why don't you, I don't know, just let all the geniuses work on trying to cure the plague, rather than trying to determine which ones are best suited to do so? Which you could probably figure out within a few weeks of seeing them working in a lab, anyway.

Indeed, the presumed plan of WICKED throws me into such disbelief that I'm almost sure it's not their true plan. The report at the end of the book seems to support my conclusion. It's for this that I would read the sequel(s).

And, you know, for Newt. Because, hello, British and slashy.
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