“Are they changed because they want to go back to their old life, or is it because they’re so depressed at realizing their old life was no better than what we have now?”
The first book in James Dashner‘s young adult dystopian trilogy of novels, The Maze Runner, originally published in 2009, follows a group of boys who wake up in a place known as the Glade with no memories apart from their names. When the last of the boys, Thomas, joins the group, he soon realises that the Glade is actually a gigantic maze and that the boys not only have to survive on their own, but they have to figure a way out. By piecing together fragments of his past with clues that come back to him in his sleep, Thomas begins to uncover his true purpose, as well as the possibility of a way to escape. But is there even an exit to be found? And is the world outside even one worth returning to?
The following post is a review of the book only. You can read my review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book here.
The Maze Runner is a dark adventure full of hope, determination, and desperation. Centring on a group of young characters who are forced to grow up in unbelievable circumstances, it’s this dark approach to its dystopian setting that is The Maze Runner‘s strongest quality, giving a refreshing approach to a typical teenage coming-of-age story. The Maze Runner explores this theme perfectly, as the boys eat, drink, work, sleep, and fight together, having to grow up fast and become men way ahead of their time.
The Maze Runner may often be compared to The Hunger Games with the similarities in its dystopian setting, having adults in control and inflicting violence on young characters, but, to me, it feels a lot more like Lord of the Flies at times. The Maze Runner is about a group of young boys working together, creating a life for themselves in an unknown environment, making their own rules and keeping order, and ensuring that everybody has a part to play. Thomas works closely with everybody, getting to know the different jobs and Keepers of these roles, describing to us every corner of the Glade. Before the action and dystopian setting really kick in, it’s this focus that The Maze Runner has, seeing how these teenagers cope in a world without adults as they try to understand their place in an unimaginable world.
It’s a very character-driven story about the friendships and rivalries that come about it such an environment. Whilst Thomas may be the main protagonist, he often takes the back seat to let those in charge make the decisions and keep order. It’s these relationships that keep the audience invested. There are some really great friendships made, but also a number of intense rivalries that constantly give the story a darker edge. There is the inevitable romance sparking between Thomas and the only female of the group, Teresa, as well, but it doesn’t get in the way at this point. The focus remains on the boys working together, with the romance working more as a narrative device for readers to find out more about the Gladers’ pasts and of the outside world from which they came from.
What makes The Maze Runner such a great read is the original story and the way in which it develops, with so much constantly left to find out. With no memories, we know nothing of the world outside of the Maze; whether it has been burnt to the ground, has been taken over by a strict government, or if the Maze is simply somebody’s idea of just a bit of fun. Glimpses of the world outside through visions and piecing together of information are slowly unravelled, but it doesn’t sound promising. All we know is that this group of boys need to find a way out, if there is one at all.
This is how the novel keeps you on edge throughout. The need for answers, the cry for these young boys to find a way out, and subsequently their families, and the rushing excitement of wanting to know how the story will all piece together, ensure that you’ll be eagerly anticipating the next instalment.
The Maze Runner is adapted onto the big screen in 2014, which you can read my Book vs. Film Review for here, and watch the trailer for below: