Concept: ★★★★☆ – The concept of “The Scorch Trials” (Book Two) By James Dashner was excellent, as the author took a commonly assessed theory of the future of the world and turn it into a novel. After escaping the Maze, the Gladers are hopeful that the deceit and evil that WICKED represents is over. Unfortunately, the morning after they are rescued and brought to a safe haven, they realize that the “Trials” are still just beginning.
Again the Gladers are left to their own devices to face the challenges that the over-arching government, WICKED, seem to think are necessary for the survival of the human race. Remembering only as far back as their own first day in the Maze, the Gladers adjust quickly to an uncontrolled “real” world. Made up of a desert, a broken city, and a dusting mountain… what could possibly go wrong as these boys face the unknown to arrive at an undefined destination.
Writing: ★★★☆☆ – Think about when you’re writing a paper for a class and then, out of nowhere, you lose all motivation and suddenly what was a craftily developed thesis turns into a “C” paper, at best. That’s kind of what the concept in this book reminded me of. At first, the descriptive essence of the novel dragged me into the book. I was in the desert, the climate had changed, and the world had quite literally lost it. The first two-thirds of the book were so… painstakingly defined. I was there with Tom, Minho, Brenda, and even Jorge. Then, towards the end, it actually started to feel as the author was rushing through the motions to bring the book to an end. He did an excellent job catching the interest of the reader enough to pull them in for a third novel, but – except for that – the third portion of this book felt as though the author wrote it in an inattentive state, causing disinterest for the audience.
Character Development: ★★★★☆ – Although this book had a substantially lesser amount of character development than its predecessor, Dashner does not fail to appease his audience, fulfilling the reader’s desire to know each of the characters and “who they are”. In this novel, the author builds on the personalities of the Gladers, which are already familiar to the readers – assuming they’re like me and refuse to read a series in the wrong order. One thing that disappointed me is that, even by the end of the novel, the girls in Group B aren’t entirely familiar. We know how many there are and a few of their names. I’m hopeful that this will be settled in the third novel in the series!
Plot: ★★★★☆ – The plot was creative and well written, however, it wasn’t necessarily original, per say. It’s not that every book I’ve ever read is about a group of kids marching through a dystopian city in order to save their own lives, knowing little to nothing about the reality of how the world works. (Sound familiar… I think so, too.) However, given the setting of the book, Dashner tossed in a few flares to make sure that people would be able to decipher the happenings of his book from the happenings of other end-of-the-world fiction. Again, like the first book, no matter how clear the plot seemed, a turn of the page threw me – the reader – back to the starting line.
Pacing: ★★★★☆ – If the pacing in the first book had been so superb, my rating would have most likely been five stars for this novel as well. Unfortunately – or maybe it is fortunate – that isn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, this book is action-packed and I still had a hard time putting it down. Yet, there are portions of the book that just feel like fluff, ensuring that the author hits a word quota. The book definitely got where it was going, it just took a little too long to get there.
Ending: ★★★★★ – Even though it may have taken a few minutes longer to get there than I would have preferred, the ending was both spectacular and disappointing. Disappointing because, if this was real life, I would hate to be the characters in this book. Thankfully, I’m only reading the books, so bravo James Dashner! The ending was a finale to a topsy, turvy, roller coaster of a novel.
Cover Art: ★★★★★ – Like the cover of “The Maze Runner”, this cover did an excellent job encompassing all aspects of the book. From the dry heat of the desert to the lightning storms and back to the broken down city, every aspect of the plot is covered in this cover.
Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
The Second Trial
After fighting so hard to attain safety for himself and all of his friends, Thomas is finally grabbing his first safe night of sleep in what seems like an eternity. However, when he wakes up in the morning, he finds that the mirage of safety was simply a band-aid for WICKED; one that they used to snatch Teresa right from under the Glader’s noses and replace her with Aris.
Ironically, when the Gladers awake and explore their surroundings, they immediately realize something isn’t right. From the dead bodies hanging throughout their shelter to the bricks – with dried grout – placed outside the windows that had clear views the night before, things are weird. Of course, after they realize that Aris has replaced Teresa, things only get weirder.
Not for the reasons one might think, though. See, not only does Aris supposedly have no idea who Teresa is or where she is, he’s not the oddest thing in their company. While they were chatting with him, all the bodies disappeared and the Rat Man showed up, with a message. There’s a new trial that’s going to be more difficult than the Maze. Yet, that’s all he can share. He gives them a start time and – like he was never there – he’s gone.
The next morning, the Gladers are all awake, nice and early. They’ve been told to catch a Flat Trans which will transport them to their starting point. They have two weeks to leave their starting point, march across the wasteland, go through a “Crank” infested city, pass over a mountain range, and reach the relatively unsafe Safe Haven. No big deal, right?
Oh, and in case there wasn’t enough of a twist, Aris is the guy who lived in the other maze with females – instead of males – and he talks to Thomas in his mind, too.
A Dangerous World
After their briefing with Rat Man, the guys are well aware that their surroundings can be adjusted to match exactly what WICKED wants them to see. So when they arrive in a black tunnel, where Glader’s get offed by metallic, dripping liquid that fries their heads, they know that they actually can’t have any idea what to expect. When they finally reach the end of the tunnel, they step out in what seems to be a scorched plot of land, which spans for miles. In the distance, they can see what looks to be a city.
Since it’s in the direction they were told to travel in, they make it their next goal. At this point, the only remaining main characters – besides the ever-reliable FryPan – are Minho, Thomas, Newt, Aris, and Teresa, but they have no clue where she is. Actually, they have no clue if she even remembers them. The one time, after her disappearance, when Thomas was able to make a connection, she freaked out, exclaiming that she didn’t know him and that he needed to get out of his head.
A day or so into venturing across the hot desert, Thomas sees a girl standing near a shed-like structure. Thinking that it might be Teresa, he approaches it. She pulls him into the shed and babbles like a crazy person, forcefully pleading with Thomas to trust her. Then they have a brief make-out session – which Thomas refrains from sharing with his friends later – and she warns him about a dangerous day up ahead before he leaves and she slinks off to some unknown location. At this point, the Gladers are approaching the city and expect themselves to arrive the next day.
The next day, while they are hiking with the hot sun glaring down (remember, solar flares supposedly ended the world as we knew it), the sky starts to turn dark. They stumble over an old man sleeping on the dusty city outskirts but are unable to understand anything he tries to tell them. The storm kicks up and they run for shelter in one of the buildings on the edge of the city, as the lightning catches its victims on fire and electrocutes their heads. Minho almost falls victim to this, but Thomas manages to drag him into the shelter with him.
When they awake, they find that they are not alone. Instead, the building in which they sought shelter is already inhabited, by cranks. After discussing who had the biggest genitalia, Thomas – because the supposed leader, Minho, is in pain… and because he pissed off their leader, Jorge – is tasked with briefing the leader of the cranks and convincing him not to kill anyone. After they get him on their side, they ditch the other cranks, except for one female named Brenda, and head into underground tunnels.
An explosion separates Brenda and Thomas from Minho, Jorge, and the other remaining Gladers. So, Thomas and his new companion end up getting chased down by some really far gone cranks and, afterward, get drugged by some more lucid cranks during a party. Right around the time of them waking up, duct-taped to chairs, Minho and Jorge rescue them. However, while they are escaping, Thomas manages to get shot by the only bullet in the City.
The Ending – Or New Beginning
This wasn’t in accordance with WICKED’s plan, so when it gets infected he gets airlifted out. He then gets returned, all nice and new. Teresa pops into his mind that night, warning him and telling him to trust her. The next day, she and the female Gladers – from the other Maze – kidnap him, drag him through the desert, up a mountain and tie him to a tree.
While Teresa is out scouting the area for the other male Gladers, Thomas builds a bond with the other female group leaders. They tell him that she really wants him dead, but they don’t. Eventually, against Teresa’s own wishes, they set Thomas free to continue hiking to the Safe Haven destination with them. But then, Teresa and Aris kidnap him.
It turns out they’ve known each other all along and – even though his little snippets of memory don’t align with their actions and claims – they that their in love with each other and Teresa basically tells Thomas that he isn’t shit to her.
Then there’s a huge plot twist, where she knocks him out in a gas chamber that heals him and it turns out that she was telling the truth – in some twisted way – the entire time. At this point, they’ve reached the final day to make it to the Safe Haven, so Thomas, Teresa, and Aris all follow the other Gladers – monitoring their progress from the tops of the mountain.
When they finally reach the tiny wooden stick and banner that exclaim Safe Haven, they’re all attacked by something that sounded similar to a zombie-Griever mix. It’s during this battle that the storm – which has been slowly developing overhead – finally hits, zonking out the enemy party. At this time, their rescued and promised that the trials are over.
So, after a pretty rough couple days, Thomas goes to sleep in a safe place. Then he wakes up in a white box, after hearing Brenda talk to him in his mind.