Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Book cover of the Maze Runner by James Dashner
I'm glad I've finally read The Maze Runner - not because it's particularly, you know, good or anything (it's not), but mainly because it's reminded me not to use abbreviations in my review notebook... If someone figures out what 'reminiscent of LotF (even a pg) and HHG' means, I swear I'll dedicate my next review in your honour.

Plot summary: When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he's not alone. He's surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade - a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don't know why or how they came to be there - or what's happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything - even the Grievers, half-machine, half-animal horror that patrol its corridors, to try and find out.

I didn't hate The Maze Runner. In fact, I'm not sure I even disliked it... I just didn't care enough about it enough to have strong feelings. Usually when you read something, you forget that you're just holding some text on a piece of paper and you start seeing the images in your head. That's pretty standard for everyone, I think - otherwise reading novels wouldn't have half the appeal that it does. Unfortunately, that never actually happened for me with this book - I never reached the point where the text stopped being just text, which is obviously a fairly large hindrance to enjoyment. 

It wasn't particularly that it was written badly - I've read prose of much lesser quality than this, but it just seemed quite... flat. I also felt alienated by the slangwords used by the inhabitants of the Glade. I understand that the author probably wanted to give the impression that the teenagers were swearing without actually having them swear (and thereby having having potential buyers refuse to let their children read this) but it's absolutely infuriating. It stops the prose from scanning properly as it 'clunks' (which is ironic as 'clunk' is one of the words) in my head every time.

My main issue, however, was the content. Everything was just too easy. Whenever an obstacle gets thrown in their way, it's overcome by a lucky coincidence or miracle that means they can suddenly perform tasks or jump to conclusions that they couldn't before. You know the type.

Easy, but also lazy. Nothing irritates me more than authors who tell you things instead of showing you. You're informed that the other inhabitants think Thomas is amazingly special... but not given a reason. He hasn't done anything to indicate that he's in any way different and yet you're supposed to magically believe that they think so, just because you're told to. Yeah, I've never been great at following orders. It's not the only example of this, but it's the only one I've written down. Or the only one that I've written down and can understand, anyway. 

Alright, let's talk about Thomas. He has every failing usually attributed to YA protagonists, but it jars even more because both Thomas and James Dashner are male. It's quite pleasing to read a male main character for a change, but I'd hoped it would mean avoiding the usual whining, sulking and refusing to tell people critical information they 100% definitely need to know. Apparently not. My absolute favourite part was:

"Hey Thomas, don't go outside the walls. You'll die."
"You'll die if you go outside the walls."
"Don't go outside the walls, Thomas."
*Thomas goes outside the walls*
"...What do you mean I'm going to die!? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN!?"

I did get more into it towards the end, but I was still looking forward to finishing the book and moving on to something (anything) else. It's just incredibly generic. Even the faults I've mentioned above are representative of an awful lot of other YA literature - if you scrubbed out the character names above, you probably wouldn't even be able to tell that this is a review for The Maze Runner. The concept is reasonably unique but unfortunately the laziness of the prose just eroded any interest I may have otherwise had.

Read Kayleigh's review of The Maze Runner at Nylon Admiral.  
 

7 comments:

  1. I didn't even finish this one. Though I might watch the film when it makes it to subscription TV.

    Is LotF Lord of the Flies? Even a pig? Not sure about HHG though ;)

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    Replies
    1. I did consider the Lord of the Flies reference... but there isn't a pig in The Maze Runner!

      Oh, I'm glad it wasn't just me then. You know when everybody seems to love a book but you just can't figure out what you're missing?

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    2. What about the character Piggy from Lord of the Flies - maybe one of the characters reminded you of him (I know I only read this like a month ago but I remember none of the character names)? HHG- hyper hunger games?

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    3. Maybe a pig was mentioned so briefly that you just didn't remember by the time you came back to your notes? I can't think of anything else that could be!

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  2. You make a very good point about making the distinction between telling and showing. It's always so disappointing when an author has the potential and creativity to create unique characters and a setting, but defaults to an easy/lazy way out to wrapping things up :-(

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  3. I had planned to read this at some point, but having read your review I don't think I'll bother. Ah well, more time to read other things!

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  4. Pretty sure that's a T, not H.... Reminiscent of Lord of the Flies (even a Piggy) and the Hunger Games. Couldn't agree more!

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