08 April 2014

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I came across mention of The Maze Runner in a reference from Veronica Roth’s blog, and thought it was worth checking out.

It’s another dystopian young adult novel, and a little research revealed it’s being adapted into a movie for release this year, so I’m glad I came across it now - I like to read the book before seeing the movie.

I thought it was a good book - full of suspense, a mystery to be solved, a great cast of characters - but it was not great.

One of the things I found lacking in the book was answers.  Mystery is central to the book - who are these kids, and how did they get into the Glade - but answers were, so often, too slow in coming.  I was reminded of Buster’s description of his mother, Lucille, in the brilliant Arrested Development: “It’s like she gets off on being withholding.”  That’s how I kind of felt about the plot and the author.

The world was beautifully realized, and yet at a certain point I got angry at it.  I was tired of not knowing.

Part of that was useful for character development - after all, they didn’t know where they were anymore than I did - but it dragged out too long for me.

Another problem I had with it was the protagonist, Thomas.  It seemed to me that most of the choices he faced were decided not by conviction but necessity.  Only once - maybe twice - did he make a choice where I felt like I truly got to understand who he was.  Every other time, the choice he made was simply the only viable option.  If the only alternative is death, that’s not really much of a choice, is it?

It felt like the story was on rails for the whole second half, with events proceeding the only way they possibly could.  No other outcome seemed possible.

The Maze Runner also lacked the strong moral grounding that I find so compelling in dystopian young adult.  It was certainly there, but because we didn’t know what was truly happening in the world - and because our heroes choices were so forced - I felt like there was little room, or cause, to examine the moral underpinnings of those choices.  Yes, what was happening was terrible, but without really knowing why - without the protagonist knowing why - there’s no time to question what was going on, and whether Thomas’s actions were good or bad.

Lastly, and perhaps most disappointingly, I felt like The Maze Runner was tragically lacking in subtext.  One of my professors once told me the best scenes are those which aren’t really about what they’re about.  Hmm...that notion is much harder to write than it is to say aloud.

Despite all this, I liked The Maze Runner, but I liked it in the way I liked Dan Brown’s Inferno - kind of a cheap thrill.  I liked the characters and the world, and I’d be willing to visit again, but they didn't haunt me in the way that a really good read does.  Even so, I've already requested the sequel from the library.

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Books: Time flies, I guess.  Since writing this review I have in fact already read the sequel, The Scorch Trials, and am now reading Why Buildings Fall Down.  Kansas City has apparently had two famous architectural collapses - Kemper Arena and the Hyatt.  Who knew?  Maybe even more will be revealed.  I'm not very far in the book yet.

Bottles: Graffito Malbec and Casa Silva Carmenere.  Very interesting wines.

Writing: Working on a complete rewrite of the new Chapter One (formerly Chapter Two) after giving the former Chapter One the axe as it was a ridiculous info dump that I added because I was worried readers wouldn't get what was going on.  So now the old Chapter One has become the new Chapter One all over again.

Guitar: Still working "Comfortably Numb."