Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Maze Runner Series (books 1-3) by James Dashner

**No more spoilers given than what is published to advertise each book**

Thomas wakes up one day to find himself in a field with other boys surrounding him.  He has no memory of who he is or how he got there.  Same as the others before him.  He soon learns he is trapped in a maze and joins their quest to find a way out.

This series starts as many YA series do.  Strong, compelling, slightly twisted.  But by book three, I find myself back to 2006, watching the third season of LOST - frusterated, confused, and less willing to believe.

The maze runner was good, if not a bit strange.  Thomas becomes a "runner," or one of the boys whose role is to map out the constantly changing maze and try to find a way to solve it.  The entire first book is consumed by the maze itself and the boys' lives therein.  My questions are the same as the boys'.  Why?  Where?  What caused this?  What is going on in the rest of the world?  But because they have no memory and I don't really know when this takes place or in what kind of world, I am along for the ride.  Dashner ends the book strongly - with a promise of answers to many, if not all, of my questions.  Ok, I say, I can continue down this rabbit hole with you.

So I pick up book two.  Here's where we get into season two of LOST.  I'm invested in these characters, I understand the premise, and I like it.  Yeah, there are some strange things that happen, but I'm willing to trust Dashner and see how he'll tie everything together in the end.  Ok, maybe this book isn't quite as good as the first...but we're building to something here.  I can feel it.

Without giving too much away, book two places Thomas and the other boys, or "The Gladers" as they've called themselves, into the "Scorch," which is basically the desert.  And here's where the series evolves into basically a zombie tale (no complaints yet).  The Gladers have learned they are a part of a special group undergoing trials in order to hopefully effect a cure for the condition of the world today.  Just as a drug undergoes trials in testing, the Gladers, quite literally, are enduring their course of trials.

This second book has a bit more teenage angst and drama, which I feel just meh about.  Thankfully Dashner keeps things platonic and the drama more on an emotional level, which I think is fair.  I'm more interested in how jacked up everything has become and why.  But do I get many answers?  No.  Just more questions.  Well, I'm already invested.  Might as well pick up book three.

Book three picks up the pace.  Answers begin to come.  But the more I understand what is going on, the more I realize how everything in the previous two books was kinda meaningless, subplots within the grand scheme of things,  I guess.  Are the Gladers really accomplishing anything?  Or are they literally just running around for no good?  Dashner puts in details that seem so important at the time but become forgotten as the series evolves.  Is it poor planning?  Did he abandon those ideas?  I start to get ambivalent.  I start to think Dashner has made more happen than he's going to explain.  I can't decide if I like the series or feel jilted by it.  I look at the book like an old lover.  Do I keep you in bed with me?  Or throw you across the room?

After much frustration and some eye rolling, I've finished.  (In case you're wondering, I'm not still using the jilted lover parallel here.)  I like the ending, in all, an interesting series.  There is a fourth book, a prequel.  Will I read it?  Probably.

So it's a mixed recommend.  Definitely something different with its ups and downs, but Dashner has managed to keep me interested and feeling...something...while I read.  I suppose that's the point.

And for you lazies who like the on screen version, I hear this book has a movie in post production, scheduled to be released this fall.  Should make for a great movie.

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