The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner
This book, the second part of the Maze Runner series , in many ways continues along the trail blazed by the first novel. Given that the world is familiar and that the villainous company has been set up as being full of surprises, a dark utilitarian worldview that encapsulates what people hate most about both business and government, and that most of the main characters are familiar, this book seems mostly content to ride the momentum of the first novel and essentially add variations on the theme (though perhaps the wicked world government would call them “variables”). As such, those readers who enjoyed the first novel will probably find a great deal of pleasure in this novel as well, and it was a good page turner that had some things to say about those governments that take their own rhetoric too seriously about the need to make others suffer for the benefit of society.
There are, of course, some surprises and some differences between “phase one” of the trials (the Maze) and “phase two” (the Scorch Trials), namely that the control groups appear to have been different in that the genders were reversed in another group, which adds another group of competitors and rivals with a specific mission and test. Additionally, all of the people appear to have had tattoos on them with their roles and groups, except that there has been a lot of manipulation in the area of the world (presumably Mexico) in ways that creates both danger and opportunity. Thomas, and a few others, have been told things that shift their behavior, and there is a lot of betrayal and what looks like betrayal going on throughout the novel, so much so that trust becomes an area of considerable danger for the characters as they wrestle with the behavior of others in an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion.
I have mixed feelings about the way the novel goes about its point. As appears to be all too common in fiction of this type, there appears to be a sort of love triangle set up here. For a variety of reasons, I tend to really hate anything dealing with love triangles, as it is a painful personal subject, and this book attempts to encourage two different ones–one between the other two telepaths in the group of test subjects as well as one between Thomas and a young woman he meets named Brenda, both of which are supposed to be blocking characters between the obvious couple of Thomas and Teresa. In the end, everyone seems to act in ways that attempt to manipulate Thomas, and it’s impossible for me not to feel for someone who has such a fierce integrity and loyalty to others despite the ways in which he is continually betrayed and put in uncomfortable and even impossible situations. So, while on the one hand I appreciate the craft of this particular novel, I also find it more than a little heartless the way the author treats a basically noble (if complicated) character with whom I can greatly identify. Perhaps that is part of the point–in our lives, I suppose many of us find certain aspects of our existence to be deeply manipulative, but still we struggle to form meaningful relationships and survive day after day, hoping for an opportunity to rise above our present conditions.
 See, for example: