Read: April – July 2014
Author: James Dashner
Published: 2009 – 2012
Genre: Young Adult
Selected By: BillMo
“A mysterious survival saga that passionate fans describe as a fusion of Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, and Lost.” – from the EW summary.
This is a review of the entire trilogy, which includes the following works:
The Maze Runner (2009)
The Scorch Trials (2010)
The Death Cure (2011)
So, I picked the first book in this series, The Maze Runner, for our April selection. I actually hadn’t heard of it until I saw articles regarding the upcoming movie, but it seemed promising and different, so I figured the books must be at least a little interesting. I enjoyed Book One, though I felt it did have a few plot holes – but I also figured all of those seemingly questionable or ridiculous things would be threaded into some more intricate pattern as the series progressed.
In the end, “intricate” is not a word I would use in relation to this series. “Silly,” perhaps. “Eye-roll inducing,” maybe. But “intricate?” No. Not at all.
That first book is really the only reason I gave this series two cups at all. As much as I hate to admit it, the remaining books became what one of the Ladies said Book One felt like to them: a big gimmick. The whole driving force behind Book One is that we, the readers, want to know what is going on – we want to know why Thomas is there, what makes him special, who are these children with whom he is forced to form an uncertain alliance, who are Wicked and what do they want…
We want to know, dammit!
But Dashner doesn’t tell us. He didn’t tell us in Book One, and I know we lost Elle and Esbe at that point; Em persevered through Book Two in the hopes that at least a few of the questions that arose during our reading of The Maze Runner would be addressed… and when they weren’t, when more questions were added but none were resolved, she leaped off the Dashner train, too.
But I kept chugging along, propelled forward by my trust that the author would have to give us answers at some point, and since this had been my selection, it was only fitting that I be the one to find out what those answers were and relay them to the other Ladies.
And it dragged on… and on… through Book Two… through Book Three… just one improbable scenario stacked atop another… until, a few chapters before the end of The Death Cure, we are handed our answer in a neatly-wrapped little parcel complete with big, pink bow on top. It’s like the Dashner train jumped off the tracks and slammed directly into the Great Wall of China, and all we few who survived long enough to see the unlikely ending can do is look at one another in a daze and ask, “What the what?”
Are all of the questions that arise throughout the series addressed and answered? Yes. Yes, they are. But do those answers make sense? No, not necessarily. Not at all, in some cases. During our discussion of Book One, one of the Ladies mentioned that it seemed as if Dashner had written himself into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to get the boys out of the Glade and Maze…
This pretty well sums up the entire series. The “mystery” drags on and on, adding more questions than are answered, until the end of Book Three, when an answer – of sorts – is provided. Only that answer raises one very huge problem:
Everything that happened was completely unnecessary. Not a single child needed to be sent to the Glade. Not a single one of them needed to run through that stupid Maze. All of those people died for no purpose at all. The entire resolution is so illogical in the grand scheme of things that nobody – not even the teenagers to whom this book is marketed – could buy it. I don’t want to tell you what happens, exactly, but let’s create a little analogy to put it into perspective:
You’re walking through the woods when you come across two unicorns – a male and a female. At that point, you have two choices: capture the unicorns and put them in a safe place so they might breed and create more unicorns… or grab the unicorns and make them fight to the death to determine which is the strongest and smartest unicorn. You opt for the latter because you’re an insane person, and you take the alpha-unicorn, the lone survivor of a mythical species, and you rip it to pieces to figure out what makes it tick on the off-chance that peering at its squishy internal bits might give you a clue as to how to create more unicorns from donkeys.
Right. Dashner spends three books telling us that unicorns exist and must be hunted to the ends of the earth, only to turn around at the end and say, “Well, the reason we have to kill them all is simple: it’s the only way our best and brightest minds have come up with that will determine how unicorns work.”
What the what?
In the end, this series as a whole was a huge disappointment to me. I read all of these books, and I wanted to be able to come back and say, “Look, you Ladies poo-poo’d the series, and it turned out to be brilliant!” But noooo. Now I’m left wanting to write James Dashner a letter demanding that he return to me the past few months of my life that I wasted on this tripe. I absolutely refuse to read the fourth novel in this series, the prequel The Kill Order. After reading the first three, I just really can’t bring myself to care how this ridiculous tragedy (sprinkled with bits of stupidity) began. Maybe the movies will be good, maybe the scriptwriter(s) can change the stupid parts and add new, more exciting, more intelligent plot lines and character arcs. Maybe.
And maybe unicorns will fly out of my ass into the clear blue sky above a peaceful and tolerant world.
(For those who don’t mind spoilers, I can save you the trouble of reading 900+ pages and sum up the premise of the entire series in a brief poem… which is happening… now!)
THIS IS MY POEM. IT IS ALSO A SPOILER.
To control a population crisis
Mankind created a deadly virus
But oops – by playing god they made a grievous error!
So they captured those immune to their viral terror
And tested them to see above all who would ascend
Just to send them all away in the end.
And then they let the infected turn into zombies and die slow, horrible, crazy deaths like they had rabies, the end.