“The Maze Runner” (Book One) By James Dashner

Concept: ★★★★★ – I can honestly say that everything about this books concept – the plot, the characters, the ending – was beyond original. The author not only created a world that was vastly different than ours, but he also created a storyline that continuously left me – the reader – guessing!

Writing: ★★★★★ – I think that any author who writes a dystopian novel must have the ability to write in a descriptive manner that can create an entire illusion for their audience. James Dashner not only managed to do this well, but he managed to lace every word of his novel with mystery. From the names of the characters – Newt, Chuck, Thomas – to the rise and set of the sun, Dashner created a spiral of endless unknown.

Character Development: ★★★★★ – Whereas some people could think Dashner lightened his work load by how he developed characters, I think the complete opposite. At the beginning of the novel, we meet Tommy – “named” after Thomas Edison – who happens to know about as much about himself as we do. However, the author was able to weave his entire life together, from the lingering snippets of his previous life to his friends during the now, Dashner developed his main character from the bottom up. I think he was able to develop all of his characters in this manner, saying as the reader knows them based on how they interact with Tommy.

Plot: ★★★★★ – What aMazes me is that I read this entire book, thought I had figured out every piece of the plot, and then realized during the epilogue that I literally have no idea what the hell is going on.

The goal of this novel: Escape the Maze.

The goal of the series: No fricken idea.

Pacing: ★★★★★ – The pacing of this book was excellent. It fit the speed and urgency that it seemed as though the characters had throughout the book. I never found myself reading a chapter and wondering when the hell it was going to end, which is great. The novel tugged me in and – if I hadn’t know better – I might have thought I was relying on the mystery of the Maze being solved as well.

Ending: ★★★★★ – For a singular novel, with no sequel or prequel, this ending sucked. For a book series, this ending was AMAZING. Normally, I get kind of bored of a subject by the end of the first book – either the first book was way too long, the urgency fades, or the plot just sucks – but in this case, I feel like writing this review is taking too long. I just want to keep reading.

Cover Art: ★★★★★ – I think the cover was intriguing enough to catch my eye, but at the same time mysterious enough to not really give away any secrets. Within the first few chapters, I was able to confidently acknowledge that the image was a close up of the walls of the Maze. I think the most interesting part is how the cover discreetly displays objects that have significant roles, or moments, in the novel.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

Spoilers below!

The Arrival

We are introduced to the Maze-world at the same moment as our main character, Thomas. He awakes in a box, scrutinized by strangers, in a dome referred to as the Glade. However, almost instantly he realizes that somehow, he’s different.

For some reason, his surroundings are vaguely familiar to him. It’s almost as though he’s seen it before, but for some reason he can’t remember. When he mentions it to his guide – the previous “Greenie” – it’s confirmed that this normally isn’t the case. What’s going on? Why is he here? Where is here?

Thomas goes through a normal – at least, normal for the Glade – first day. He’s instantly hated by Gally, a boy who’s went through the Changing after being stung by a Griever. The boy claims to recognize him. However, things are just about to get weirder.

See, the next day, a girl arrives. This is strange for two reasons: A girl has never arrived before and a Greenie is only supposed to arrive once a month, like clockwork. Thomas can sense something is up and, unfortunately, so can every other boy in the Glade. Of course, the message that accompanied the girl – things are changing – doesn’t do much to settle anyone’s fears.

The real question, though, is why does Thomas want to be a runner? No matter how horrible the stories are, no matter how painful Newt’s limp appears to be, he can’t resist the urge that he is supposed to be out there solving the Maze. Then the Keeper of the Runners comes back and announces that he’s found a dead Griever. This wouldn’t be such a problem, but if they’re the only ones living in the Maze – who killed it?

The In-Between

Suspicion about the new kid Thomas is already peaking. Who is he? Why are things changing? And where did this girl come from? Thomas wishes he was confident that he didn’t have the answers, but why does she look familiar?

None of that matters though, when they see Minho – Keeper of the Runners – dragging Alby back after they went to check out the dead Griever. Unfortunately for Alby, it wasn’t actually dead; unfortunately for them both, the doors are about to close and they are about to be stranded in the Maze overnight, a sure death sentence.

Motivated by pure instinct, Thomas runs out the door. As night comes, Minho abandons him and Alby. Using all of his strength, he manages to tie Alby safely to the walls of the Maze, using vines. Then he distracts the Grievers from easier prey, but while he is running through the Maze – and eventually cornered – Minho grabs him and they are both able to trick the Grievers into falling over the cliff.

When morning comes, the other Gladers are beyond shocked to find Minho, Alby, and Thomas alive. However, this is looked suspiciously upon by some boys, as no one has ever made it before the night before. Alby is treated for his sting and, after a Gathering, it is determined that Thomas will be a Runner.

He is then encouraged to try to remember life before the box, a time that no one in the Glade can really fully recall. In order to – hopefully – encourage him along, he is brought to the room of the girl. Even though she is still in her coma, she is able to communicate with him telepathically. Her memory is fading, but she is sure about two things: Wherever they are, Tom and her – Teresa – are at fault for them being here and she has triggered the ending.

The Departure

Eventually, Teresa wakes up. However, around the same time, Alby comes out of his “Changing” and clearly recalls that Thomas was there. However, when he tries to explain this to Thomas, he ends up trying to “choke” himself out. Then, later that day, when the supplies is supposed to come in the box, it doesn’t show up. Then the gates don’t close. Although people believe that Thomas isn’t against the Gladers, most are unsure of how to react to his involvement.

Then he and Minho find realize that the cliff that the Grievers disappeared into was more of a hole that they jumped into. However, when the gates fail to close on the Glade that night, everyone is sure that trouble is coming. The Gladers board themselves into the Homestead building and receive a message from Gally – who went missing around the same time people told him to shut up about Thomas being evil.

Until they solve the puzzle, the Grievers will kill one Glader per night.

In their efforts to escape the Maze, Thomas and Teresa are able to use what she telepathically communicated to him prior to waking up – when she lost her memories, too – to unravel the puzzle. Instead of solving the Maze as a Maze, they realize that the moving walls have actually been writing words that can be used as a code to shut the Grievers off. This code needs to be entered into a computer, which is conveniently located in the Griever Hole.

Eventually it is determined that a large group of boys will go on the mission to enter the code and hopefully escape. Most of them are fairly comfortable with the mission, as they believe that the Grievers will only kill one Glader. Regrettably for them, the spy beetles have informed the Creators of what is going on and the Grievers are hungry. This means that Alby’s attempt to sacrifice himself for the greater good abruptly failed.

During a battle between the Gladers and the Grievers, Theresa and Thomas – accompanied by Chuck – manage to get in the hole and enter the code, ultimately turning off the Grievers. All of the remaining Gladers, that had left the Glade with them, join them to jump down the slide and end up in the lab, where the Creators reside.

Then a woman enters, accompanied by Gally, and begins to congratulate them on making it. Her lack of regard for the lost boys sets off the group of Gladers. In all the commotion, Gally attempts to knife down Thomas. Chuck jumps in front of the knife, igniting his own demise, and the woman again just brushes it off.

Them a group of roughly dressed individuals burst into the lab, killing the woman and all of the other Creators. The Gladers follow them to what they believe is safety. Then, at the very end, we find out that they’re “rescue” was really just part of the plan.

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About CFawley89

A United States Marine Corps Veteran with 9+ years of experience working in various administrative support, customer service, and management positions. Enhanced writing, communication and interpersonal skills, in-depth educational background, refined work ethic and the ability to work well with others in a diverse environment. Presently a member of the Wisconsin Association of Public Procurement and possess a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Professional Writing with a concentration in Religious Studies, as well as an Associates of Science Degree in General Studies.