The Maze Runner by James Dashner is, at the beginning of the series, a deadly puzzle solving story where a large group of boys must figure their way out of the huge maze they live in. At the start of the book the newest arrival to the world known as the Glade is confused and terrified but he does remember that his name is Thomas.
As he climbs out of the black box that brought him to this place, he sees around 50 boys of varying ages. Some help him out, others make fun of him and still more refer to him as greenbean. Thomas is, it seems, the newest arrival to the strange world. Later he learns that new boys arrive once a month via the box that delivered him.
While Thomas struggles to fit into this harsh new reality, he learns that the boys have been in the Glade and the maze for about two years. The youngster’s leader’s are Alby and Newt and despite the lack of adults in the strange place, there is order.
He also learns that everyone has problems remembering anything about their lives before coming to the Glade. Thomas, however, seems to be different as he has vague memories about “before.” Some of these have to do with this new world that he now finds himself in.
Everyone has jobs, whether it is raising crops, butchering animals, or building places to live; everyone has a task. Even the least talented boys have jobs. The most important jobs in the community belong to the runners. They run outside the Glade and try to find a path out of the ever changing maze that surrounds them.
In The Maze Runner story, the evolving puzzle around the lads is not the only thing they face, there are deadly creatures called Grievers. The terrifying creations constantly patrol the maze and hunt down anything they find. The runners who encounter these nightmarish things run but sometimes they are attacked, killed or stung.
After learning that new arrivals come once a month, another newbie comes in the black box before time. This newest resident is a girl and Thomas realizes that she looks familiar. Her presence signals a change in the way things work in this place and the group must hurry to find a way out.
Writer James Dashner has created a fascinating world. One that, at first glance, could be thought of as an updating of the William Golding classic Lord of the Flies. Seconds into the tale, however, the reader will come to the conclusion that these boys are not here by mistake, but by design.
The lads in Lord of the Flies come to their island as part of an accident, fleeing something terrible. The whole point of the story is their struggle to cope without adults, where The Maze Runner is about boys who have been “kidnapped” and placed in a world without adult supervision.
This world is also not natural but man-made. It also turns out that the lads who populate this scary and dangerous place are not average “run of the mill” schoolboys.
Dashner has created a dystopian reality that is every bit as engrossing as Victoria Roth’s Divergent trilogy or as addictive as Michael Grant’s Gone series. The tale lacks the political overtones and messages of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins but involves characters that feel just as real as any created in these other stories.
Like other young adult books that have been recently adapted for the big screen, The Maze Runner comes out September this year aimed at a younger audience. Hopefully 20th Century Fox will pay close attention to the source material and realize that this deadly puzzle solving story is not solely a child’s or young adult film. Dashner’s first in his trilogy is a gripping read and if done properly, will be a cracking film.
By Michael Smith
The Maze Runner by James Dashner