Maze Runner

I grabbed a copy of The Maze Runner by James Dashner after the film trailer grabbed my attention.

The overall premise is that a group of young men and boys without memories are trapped in an immense mysterious maze.  A simple shelter makes for a comfortable nature cave in the center of miles of immense concrete mazes.

For years the boys have searched the maze, and they only know two things.  The maze changes every night after the gates close.  No one caught on the other side of the gates survives the nights.

Thomas wakes up into this nightmare full of hostile allies and a pile of mysteries, and it rapidly becomes clear that he has to solve the Maze soon or they’re all going to die.

This novel had some interesting bits of YA dystopia.  About a third of the dystopia fiction I read has the humans as lab rats, but never as blatantly as this film.  The mechanics of the maze, and the things that wait inside were clever, well put-together, and almost everything that the boys do to try and survive and solve the maze makes perfect sense.

The writing craft is par, neither impressive nor painful.  I never sat and marveled at a well-crafted sentence, but never got the impression I was drowning in tired re-treads.  All right, there is one plunking bad point about the writing.  Fake profanity pretty much always backfires.  The successes are fracking rare, and the failures a dime a dozen.  Fake cuss words are on almost every single page, and I couldn’t really buy them from page one.  Yuck.

I didn’t particularly care for the characters in the book.  I wasn’t given enough time to sympathize with Thomas the main character, and never got a particularly good reason to.  He was a place-holder stock character: Boy A, smart, plot device.  Part of that was due to the novel’s fast pace, but by and large the boys spend as much time being needlessly hostile or openly needy to one another.  One rule of characterization is that your readers have to like your characters and root for them.

The story had the potential to be a lot better than it was.  The ending of the first book left me dispirited enough that I won’t be trying the second one.  I will give the movie a chance to change my mind, but that is going to be a long shot.  Maybe actors I already like and visual special effects will cover up a story that didn’t really pay off for me.

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