Friday, August 02, 2013

Book 94: The Maze Runner

The concept behind The Maze Runner is intriguing but unfortunately, I became less interested in the novel as it went on due to poor pacing and characters that were rather lacking in development.  Thomas arrives in the Glades one day with no memory of his past though he feels like the place may be vaguely familiar.  He joins a group of fifty or so very well organized boys ranging from 11-17.  None of them remember who they are, either, beyond their names, and they have arrived a month apart at the Glade for the past two years.
Thomas tries to get answers the first day he is there, and while I understand his desire, I'm not sure if I was more annoyed with him or the other characters when they told him he would get his answers on a tour of the Glade on his first full day.  I understand Thomas wanting answers before then but maybe he could have been a bit less obnoxious about it given that they promised him answers on their own time line.  The area is surrounded by a maze, and a group of the boys are maze runners, who chart and run through the maze daily, looking for clues or an exit.  Every night the walls to the maze close, keeping the boys locked in the Glade and the monsters (things called grievers) outside in the maze.  Despite these creatures and the danger they pose, Thomas develops a feeling early on that he is meant to be a maze runner.
Before Thomas can settle into his new environment or get too comfortable, something happens that completely shifts the balance in the Glade.  The day after Thomas shows up, a girl is delivered to the Glade with a note saying that she is the last.  No other girl has ever shown up in the Glade, and no more than one person has ever arrived in a month, let alone on consecutive days.  This raises suspicions about Thomas due to his timing, and also leads to an even greater desire to find a way out of the maze as the supplies also stop coming through the delivery system.
The premise was good, and I certainly wanted answers about what was going on as I was reading.  The problem with this type of concept, however, is how to keep it interesting - the whole story and plot revolve around the idea of getting answers.  I feel like this novel got the pacing off - it wouldn't even have had to reveal answers earlier than it did if other parts had been better written or more engaging.  As far as making this a trilogy, once these questions are answered, there needs to be something else and more to maintain interest.  For example, the Chaos Walking trilogy started out in the same way where something was being hidden from the main character, and he finally has a good portion of the answers by the end of the first novel.  While Ness actually had developed a lot of other things for beyond that novel, for me, the rest of the series was never quite as engaging because I no longer had that nagging desire to know what was going on, but I kept reading based on the strength of the first novel and the fact that I actually liked and cared for his protagonists.  I feel like the only reason I kept turning the page in The Maze Runner was to know why because I certainly didn't care about the main characters.  I didn't like Thomas that much, didn't care about Chuck, and some of the other characters had moments were I thought they were interesting but their actions seemed inconsistent and conflicted.  It seemed like their actions and words were based more on what would serve the plot than on what would be consistent for the character.
I admit part of it may be a preference for women authors and protagonists when I read YA.  I don't feel like I have this preference in general since I love the Dresden series and the Codex Alera, both by Jim Butcher, I love George R.R. Martin, Patrich Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson and enjoy many other male authors.  Sometimes I don't always feel a connection to coming of age stories about adolescent boys but I have read and enjoyed plenty of books by male authors with male protagonist.  And yet, both of the big YA trilogies by men that I have either started or read completely, I just didn't enjoy that much.  I find that odd.  The other thing, and I brought this up on someone else's review of this novel, is that I find it very weird that both recent pieces of dystopian YA I've read by men focus on communities of men or boys where a lone woman showing up is the trigger for change.  I can't think of a single YA novel by a woman I've read where there aren't any guys (that doesn't mean they don't exist but they are obviously not quite as popular as The Hunger Games, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Graceling, etc).  In fact, Thomas states that he hadn't even noticed that there weren't any girls until the girl showed up.  I mean I'm sure there are probably novels that take place at a girls' boarding school, but I feel like boys or guys would still at least be mentioned.  Patrick Ness actually had a bigger message with his and I liked where he went with it, and from what I hear about the sequels I'm sure Dashner had a purpose, too, but I still find it slightly weird that women are just completely written out (because really the girl in The Maze Runner wasn't a character, she was a plot point), and that Thomas wouldn't even notice that there aren't any women around.
Having said all that, the ending was both intriguing and also kind of pissed me off.  When I say ending, I'm referring to the last two pages specifically, because the rest was just in line with the rest of the book - I didn't care too much.  Not a single character death actually affected me, and some readers were talking about one death being incredibly moving when to me that was one of the most annoying characters.  However, the very last two pages throw in just enough to make it interesting again, and make me want to know what happens next.  However, I feel like the book itself should have made me want to read the rest of the series, not some little comment thrown in at the end that promises more answers, so I will not be picking up the rest of the series.

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