Book Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Having already seen the movie [1] for this book, I was curious to see how the movie interpreted the book, and when a friend of mine who is a fellow fan of dystopian fiction loaned me the series, I figured reading it would be good. I was pleased to see that with some understandable differences, the movie conformed to the general tenor of the book, including the ambiguous nature of its hero, Thomas, whose role with regards to the Wicked company who has taken the orphans of the world after a massive ecological disaster and put them through a horrible series of tests is certainly questionable. Indeed, this is the sort of book that would make anyone who is uncomfortable with authority rather upset at its abuse and manipulation against vulnerable members of society for some sort of Machiavellian and utilitarian goal, and long for authorities that are not abusive.

In many ways, the audience of this sort of book knows who they are [2]. This book bears all the hallmarks of a successful dystopian series–it has compelling drama, characters that one can easily root for, a struggle among competitive people to realize that the real enemy is outside of the maze, and clear and chilling relevance for the corrupt and abusive nature of authorities on this earth. The story itself progresses in a straightforward but compelling way–a fish out of water is introduced into an area with stable equilibrium and immediately there is a lot of drama and change as the stranger (and his companion) prove themselves to be disruptive elements into a dysfunctional environment that has gotten a little bit too comfortable for many of its inhabitants. Who among us cannot relate to that sort of situation? The fact that the characters of this novel are so easy to relate to, and their portrayal so poignant, only increases the emotional states of the novel as a whole.

The metaphor of the maze for the troubles of life is itself also worthwhile, showing a deep concern for the fact that our trials seem to be tests, from which there often appears to be no mistake. The only way the characters are able to survive is to refuse to surrender and to face peril and immense risk. And this is only the beginning of their struggles, as this is the beginning of a four volume novel series (three novels in the main plot line and a prequel) that promises to test these characters in immense ways. One gets the sense in looking at these characters, and others in novels like this one, that one senses a sort of massive societal test of great adversity. One sees oneself in a dangerous world, and one hates to see others tested in such a cruel fashion. Recognizing these characters, and their search for an exit from constant peril and degradation and cruelty is a sort of instinctive aspect of self-defense. This mood of fast-paced but reflective material is aided by the book’s short chapters and absolute economy of style, avoiding anything that would distract the reader from the momentum of the story, propelling it to a shocking end that is clearly a false dawn before an even darker follow-up. Sometimes life is like that too.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Book Review: The Maze Runner

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