Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner


Due out October 13, 2009 (Delacorte Press)

While attending the Random House Children’s Books Fall Preview a couple weeks ago, I heard this book described as “Lord of the Flies meets The Hunger Games.”  Sweet Jimminy! That pretty much bumped the ARC right on up to the top of my to-be-read pile.  After plowing through the 374 page sci-fi/adventure/thriller in less than two days, I was not disappointed.

It begins with a boy waking up in the darkness.  He is in some sort of metal lift, ascending slowly towards- well, he has no idea.  In fact, he knows almost nothing about himself; where he comes from, how he got into the lift, where it is taking him.  The only thing he knows for sure is his name, Thomas.

After what seems like a half-hour or so, the lift shudders to a stop and opens to bright sunlight.  Thomas is pulled up out of the metal box into what he learns is the Glade; a large square courtyard surrounded on all sides by impossibly high rock walls.  Gawking at him are about fifty boys, between the ages of 11 and 19.  They each came to the Glade in the same manner as Thomas.  And they have been waiting for him.

The boys of the Glade, like Thomas, have no memory of their former lives.  What they do know is that the walls surrounding the Glade move every night at sunset to seal up the giant openings on every side.  And every morning, at first light, the walls move again, opening onto pathways to what exists beyond:  the Maze.  Thomas quickly learns that the Maze is a dangerous place, harboring terrifying creatures called the Grievers.  In the hierarchy of the Glade, specially chosen boys, the Maze Runners,  risk the dangers outside the Glade by exploring the Maze each day and running back before the walls close for the night.

By the time Thomas arrives on the scene, the boys have been living this life for about two years.  They believe that some one, or some group of people (“the Creators”) have sent them here and that their only hope of escape is to solve the Maze.  The boys have since setup a crude but orderly government whereby the major tasks (cooking, farming, cleaning, building, etc.) have been divvied up.  An elder boy serves as an overseer for each group and sits on a governing council.  Supplies and food are mysteriously delivered via the metal lift in the center of the Glade every two weeks and every thirty days a new boy, or Greenie, is sent up to join them.

While the boys of the Glade had expected Thomas’ arrival, what happens the very next day is unprecendented.  The lift brings up another newbie.  Not only is the timing off, but this newbie is girl.  The message she delivers before collaspsing disturbs all the Gladers and casts a suspicious light on Thomas.  From this point on, The Maze Runner is off and running- almost impossible to put down-  as we follow Thomas on his journey to figure out who he is, why the boys are in this place, and where the horrifying creatures that dwell in the Maze originate.

Although primarily plot-driven, the characters are well-drawn and their makeshift society carefully wrought.  From Newt, the tough second-in-command with a soft-heart, to the sweet, childlike Chuck who befriends Thomas almost immediately, you come to care about these boys and their complex relationships with eachother.  The tender moments between the boys are so real- with manly punches and sarcasm used to mask an errant tear or puffed up bravado laid thin over fear of spending a night locked outside the safety of the Glade walls.  The action moves quickly, and like The Hunger Games, you get absorbed into this rollercoaster of a story, on the edge of your seat (or armchair, as it was in my case), rooting for Thomas and his friends, holding your breath as they delve deeper into the dark corners of the Maze.

I would venture to guess that this may be the first book in a series.  I was left breathless by the last page and look forward to more.

A note on the audience:  Even though there is some faux-swearing (a la Battlestar Gallactica’s “Frac,” the boys in The Maze Runner use made up swears like “shank”), I think Dashner’s book would be appropriate for middleschoolers (grades 6, 7, 8 ) as well as highschoolers.  A nice crossover novel that I’d recommend to fans of Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion and fans of Pete Hautman books.


16 thoughts on “Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

  1. I just started my signed ARC of “The Maze Runner”. I hit about 30 pages and HAD to leave the house. IIt’s 10:00pm and I’m about to go lay in bed and read the REST of this one! The first 30 pages definitely reminded me of “Lord of the Flies” with the free-range makeshift child government. I have obviously not got that far into the book, but am hooked already. I plan to put this one down tonight whenever I hit the last page! Work will suffer tomorrow, but that’s what you get for being a Dashner fan. HIGHLY suggest both of his “13th Reality” books. They both rocked and I couldn’t put either one down. This guy is going to be HUGE! I hope Dashner can write fast as I’m already itching for the 3d book of the “13th Reality” series and I’m sure after tonight, ill be itching for the “Maze Runner’s” next installment. That’s the part of ARC’s I HATE, I’m ready for book 2 and 1 isn’t even on the shelves yet. Well, off I go, but I know this is gonna be a great read as I am about to tear into the rest of “Maze”. Thanks for the review and GO DASHNER!

  2. I just started reading my signed ARC of “The Maze Runner”. Immediately I was reminded of “Lord of the Flies” with the child government structure. I have only read about 30 pages and have taken a “forced” break to run an errand, but am planning on not putting it down tonight until I hit the last page. Dashner has AMAZED me with his “13th Reality” series of which I also had to read each of the 2 books out so far without putting them down. Dashner is going to be HUGE if he can at the least keep up his works, as I fear he may only get better. He has already earned a spot at the top of my list of favorite authors and him being so young, I can’t imagine what this guy is going to come up with next! His writing “Chi’karda” (if your a Dashner fan, you read me loud and clear on that one) is similarly mirrored to Tick’s! Great writer, and a great start to my long night ahead of me!

  3. I just read the galley of this as well. I haven’t read The Hunger Games so I have been describing this as a cross between Lord of the Flies and Lost. There is also a subtle Harry Potter influence, which seems to be permeating all YA fantasy fiction these days. The different groups and their keepers, for instance, parallel the houses of Hogwarts. Minho, the token minority in a minor role. (Like Cho Chang, Dean Thomas). I also thought Thomas and Chuck had a Harry/Ron dynamic going on. Teresa wasn’t a Hermione though. She didn’t really emerge as a strong character at all which, considering she is the only female in the book, made me think that Dashner can’t write them. But yes, it’s a page turner, it pulls you in, and I would read the sequel in a second.

  4. I, first of all, heartily disagree with Forsest on Teresa not emerging as a strong charater, and that Dashner can’t write females. Teresa was actually one of my favorite characters in the book, with the way she stood up to the med-jack(still laughing on that one), and her smart, tough character. And the Thomas/Chuck to Harry/Ron comparison.
    Harry and Ron had/have a different element in their relationship than Thomas and Chuck. Mostly I find myself disagreeing because I can find many comparisons from Thomas to Harry (as i can compare Harry to most all of the main characters in most fiction books now), but pretty much none from Chuck to Ron.
    Anyway, I read an ARC of this book (signed-lucky me!) loaned to me by my school librarian. She went to the Random House preview too, I think, and got many 1st Edition and ARC copies of books that haven’t yet debuted straight from the authors. My LA teacher and her set up a summer program that lets the kids read and reveiw the books on a school blog, and was one of the lucky reviewers. I absolutley loved the book and finished it in two days-I was so glued to the book my family was a little afraid : ). The book was just so capitavating, i found myself sharing the emotions of the characters and feeling their fear with them, as only happens when one reads a truly well written book. I am now a huge Dashner fan, after only his first book, as has happened to me with only Christopher Paolini and, of course, JK Rowling.

  5. I haven’t read any other of Dashners books so I don’t have a clue who he writes for and so far this hasn’t been a good intro. I think the the intended readers may be too young or just (now I’m hoping to god here) too smart. This looks like a “tween” book so i was forgiving for all the things you would expect: e.g. exaggerated depth of plot, words the author makes up, overly written details for the screen play, you know. Unfortunately it was a bit heavy with these problems…and gore. I like gore, But for twelve yearolds it’s a almost too much. and the highschoolers left reading it would hopefully catch on with the exaggerated depth of plot, THE GOD AWFUL PSEUDO SLANG WORDS THAT THE AUTHOR MAKES UP, overly written details for the screen play etc.; And go find a book that doesn’t have this wired unease that every one is naked, It starts in the first six or so chapters as Tomas rides up the in the box with the cold steel on his back andohayhheswaringatshrit attitude and it lasts the whole book till the “grever grease tube”. Speaking of the grevers I was hoping they would be the summation of there nightmares not a v-6 night crawler with pushpins and mr. potato head robot arms. that more then kills what could have been a real “edge of your armchair” scene with the vine tying/climbing.
    And having The tomboy girl spending half the book in a coma,in a society of boys, and a then third in prison,by a society boys, adds nothing to the plot that could’t be said in a post-it; just add to the unease.
    All of this kinda detract from a good idea that would have made more sense if they were seemingly random chosen teens instead of just’a bunch’a rowdy but lovable boys. Now as for the tomboy girl spending half the book in a coma and a then third in prison, she doesn’t count. all she does is tell me Dashner can’t write females.

    where people are getting this harry potter stuff is lost on me. other then grasping at the similarities of basic societal rule or the Mary Sue character.

  6. I just finished this book. Tio those of you waiting anxiously for this book, I am so excited for you!. I read my ARC in a day and I a dying to fins out what happens next. Asa LS graduate and a bookstore employee, I come across a lot of “great books of the year” but I can honestly say that this was a well thought out, well written, exciting, captivating, Young Adult novel that will keep me coming back for years.

  7. I have just finished this book. Stayed up all night to read it. I give it 2 thumbs up! More if I had more thumbs! Definitley a MUST-READ

  8. Anybody read P.K.Dicks The Maze of Death. Different underlying premise but some real interesting parallels i.e. people didn’t know how they got there, tiny “watcher” robots, bigger robot killers? The name too.

  9. In general, this book was good, not great, but good. It was extremely hard to read though, all of the authors made up slang really confused me, and I had to read some passages several times just to fully comprehend what the author was writing.

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