19 June 2014

The Kill Order by James Dashner

Well, this is it.  The prequel to The Maze Runner trilogy, which I sort-of-liked.

It’s strange.  The Kill Order was in many ways a better-written book than any of the other three.  Language-wise, it was an improvement.  Story-wise, it was much less frustrating.  I liked the characters better.  And there was a significant decrease in the use of falling-unconscious-as-transition.

So why didn’t I like it more?

I loved that we got to see the world fleshed out more.  I loved seeing how things got the way they were.  And actually, I really loved the people we met in the story, even though it was certain things would end poorly for them.

I think the three things that most impacted my enjoyment were these:

First, lack of significance: Even though it was a good story, I had a hard time seeing the significance of a lot of the events.  They were just kind of strung together.  I enjoyed that the characters had actual choices, and they made them and faced the consequences.  That was great.  What was less great was how it felt like none of the consequences mattered in the end, because they were all doomed.  That’s how it felt.

We started with a prologue - and finished with an epilogue - that tied in to The Maze Runner.  Yet nothing else really did, other than sharing the world.  Things could have been tied together so much nicer than they were.

Second, lack of resolution.  This has more to do with my own tastes than anything else.  I think I’m pretty realistic about the world, taking as it is and not expecting too much in the way of karma or cosmic justice.  But I like to see that in books.  I like to see people pay the price for their poor choices.  It fills a deep-seated need in me.

So the fact that evil is never really directly opposed or punished bothers me.  Perhaps it’s childish, but there we are.

Third is the lack of denouement.  This is something that bothered me about the original trilogy as well, but I could never put my finger on it until now.  Both The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trial end in cliff-hangers, so I can more or less forgive them for ending abruptly.  But both The Kill Order and The Death Cure end abruptly, too, with short epilogues added in to make us feel better.

One of the genius things that J.K. Rowling did in the Harry Potter series was that each book (save the last) ended with Harry going home on the Hogwarts Express.  Not only did it give us a chance to come down from the emotional high of the climax of the book, it also eased us out of Harry’s world and back into the real world, in a way that perfectly mirrored what Harry himself was experiencing.

Not every story is structured to allow for such perfect denouement, but even so, as a reader, I need that breathing space.  The denouement is a chance to show the reader all kinds of things: what the characters’ hopes for the future might be, what the new status quo is, or sometimes, just a chance to say that despite all the pain the characters went through, things would ultimately be okay.

The Kill Order lacked that, as did every other book in The Maze Runner trilogy, and I think that hurt them most of all.


Books: Nearly done with Supergods by Grant Morrison.

Bottles: Had two bottles of K Vintners Syrah Milbrandt Wahluke Slope 2011.

Writing: Still fixing the query.  Had a good brainstorm.

Guitar: In Dallas right now (hence the delayed post) so no guitar.