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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Run Along, Maze Runner

A friend of mine recently finished Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy and posted a question on Facebook about what to read next.  After seeing the post I glanced down at the paperback copy of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner resting in my lap and considered whether or not I should suggest it and the rest of Dashner’s books in the Maze Runner series.
I read The Hunger Games books last year—devoured, would be a better word.  I read all three books, Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, in about six days.  It’s a fantastic trilogy full of action and suspense that left me thinking about the themes, setting and characters, including protagonist Katniss Everdeen, long after I’d finished the books.  I probably would have enjoyed The Maze Runner more without Katniss in my head constantly sneering in disgust at the story’s main character Thomas.
Like Hunger Games, Maze Runner is dystopian science fiction.  We meet Thomas in the opening scene of the book when he awakens in a box.  The box is pulled through an opening into the Glade, the setting of much of the story, by a group of boys known as Gladers.  Thomas remembers nothing about who has sent him to the Glade or why, or how to solve the giant maze that lays just outside of the Glade's walls, although he is sure doing so is the only way for him and the other Gladers to ultimately survive.  In fact, Thomas remembers almost nothing but his own name and I was reminded of that so many times as a reader that I couldn’t stop Katniss from screaming in my head, “Okay!  We get it—you don’t remember anything about your life, how you got here or how to escape.  Quit hiding in the woods and talking to yourself about it and find a way out of here, you whining idiot!”
After Hunger Games, The Maze Runner fell a little flat for me.  I’d almost decided to pass on the sequel The Scorch Trials until the last few chapters of the first installment.  The end of Maze Runner makes up for its lack-luster beginning and I’ve started book 2.  Unfortunately for some authors, there are a tremendous amount of readers out there that aren’t willing to stick with a story they are less than thrilled with to see if the ending makes up for any initial disappointment.  Dashner’s books have done well.  The third book in the series, Death Cure, was chosen as one of nine “Best Books of 2011” for teens by Barnes and Noble, and in November of 2011 Delacorte Press Books announced the upcoming release of a prequel to the series called The Kill Order.  But Thomas is no Katniss, and I believe it will be hard for lovers of the genre not to constantly compare the two if they’ve previously read any of the Hunger Games books.
So, I say:  Run along Maze Runner, but know that Katniss Everdeen would have had the whole mess figured out a lot sooner and probably without a single inner monologue about how frustrated *sigh* she was with not understanding what was happening to her *tears*.  When did boys become so moody and introspective anyway?
Happy reading!