I spotted the film trailer for The Maze Runner, another dystopian YA fiction series on IMDB and thought it looked intriguing. It’s out this October, so I decided to get the books read first.
Big mistake. Despite average ratings of 4-5* across Amazon and GoodReads, The Maze Runner is one of the worse books I’ve read in living memory, and I feel compelled to share my review and warn any hapless readers who might – like I – get sucked in by the hype…
As I say, I bought the Maze Runner series after finding the concept interesting – the protagonist wakes up in a metal box with no memory of anything other than his name. He soon finds that he has joined a large number of other boys who are trapped at the centre of a maze filled with unknown terror. So far, so good.
From chapter one of The Maze Runner, I could sense something was amiss. By the end of the book, I was ready to kill someone – preferably James Dashner for inflicting this monstrosity on the world, but possibly myself, if only to make the pain stop.
It’s hard to even know where to begin with criticising this book, but some of the major bugbears are as follow:
Clunky, slow, so contrived it’s untrue. Instead of genuine suspense and clear plot arcs, the book is just a long line of events that never really succeed in building up any suspense.
Dashner seems incapable of showing the reader anything, instead choosing to describe *everything* in painstaking (and often painfully boring) detail, which results in the plot melting into one big sloppy river of words. I was never able to lose myself in the story because the omnniscient narrator and the annoying protagonist (whose voices often get mixed up, annoyingly) are always there, explicitly stating which emotions/reactions are appropriate at any given time. We don’t *feel* suspense; we get told that things are Super Tense.
The protagonist, Thomas, is one of the most unlikeable characters I’ve had the misfortune of encountering. And that’d be fine if he was supposed to be unlikeable, but he isn’t.
Thomas is a textbook Gary Stu, and we’re supposed to find him admirable/heroic/impressive/all things marvellous when he is, in fact, erratic, unpleasant, obtuse and ridiculously entitled. Oh, and unbelievably dense, a lot of the time, although this seems to be more of a plot driver than anything; he does a lot of daft things and asks a lot of very daft questions simply so the reader can be privy to information that was obvious already:
“‘Where was he bitten?’ Thomas asked. ‘Can you see it?’
‘They don’t freaking bite you. They prick you….’
For some reason, Thomas thought the word prick sounded a lot worse than bite. ‘Prick you? What does that mean?’”
This guy is supposed to be 16-17 years old, and hyper-intelligent, and he doesn’t understand what the word ‘prick’ means. So many interactions like this read like word-count fillers.
Sexism / objectification…
The only female character for the vast majority of the book – Teresa – is supposed to be around 15-16 years old. And yet, she’s incessantly described by the author/Thomas in nauseatingly clichéd terms relating to her physical appearance – Thomas can’t even think about her without including something about how girly/feminine/pretty she is.
She conveniently stays in a coma until needed, when she wakes up, magically realises that she’s meant to be with Thomas (I won’t tell you how, but it’s vomit-inducing) and spends the rest of the book clinging to him and making acceptably non-threatening and vaguely ‘spunky female’ comments, mostly in response to the male characters’ naff gender stereotyping about ‘girls’.
Tereas is a plot device, pure and simple, and a prop for showing what a big, amazing dudebro Thomas is, very much in the same way that the character of Chuck is used.
Language and style…
Utterly heinous. I genuinely cannot understand how this book is being described as well written. While quite a lot of people defending the book are excusing the language due to the series being YA fiction, I don’t buy it. His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Lord of the Flies by William Golding and The Peacock Spring by Rumer Godden are some of my (widely varied) favourite YA fiction books/series and they’re all wonderfully well written.
The same cannot be said for The Maze Runner, which features gems such as:
“Burning blue eyes darted back and forth as she took deep breaths. Her pink lips trembled as she muttered something over and over, indecipherable…Thomas stared in wonder as her eyes rolled up into her head and she fell back to the ground.”
“He guzzled his water, relishing the wet coolness as it washed down his dry throat.”
OhmyGodplease. Other foodstuffs are described in the same excruciating detail.
“Thomas stood up to pace around the little room, fuming with an intense desire to keep his promise. “I swear, Chuck,” he whispered to no one. “I swear I’ll get you back home.”
And my personal favourite: a hunk of cliché, gender stereotyping, bad grammar and poor writing all rolled into one:
“He was somewhere very close to sleep when a voice spoke in his head, a pretty, feminine voice that sounded as if it came from a fairy goddess trapped in his skull.”
I can only beg for mercy at this point. And what in the name of all that is holy is a ‘fairy goddess’? Ohhhh, of course, it’s a made-up thing that brings together everything pretty and nice and girly and lovely because that’s what the only female character has to be.
I’m pretty sure that when Dashner wrote this book, he filled it will swear-words and then went through with CTRL + F and replaced them all with the infuriating made-up, faux-swears that the characters use. “shuck-face”, “klunk” etc.
And is though that weren’t enough, he even has Thomas’s sidekick/adoring fan, Chuck explain why they use the word “klunk” and what it means (sh*t). So the characters themselves are aware that they’re using ridiculous, invented words, but it’s never explained why. It’s like Dashner expects us to accept that this is a world where the swear-words we know don’t exist; otherwise, why would a group of teen boys self-censor? It would have been infinitely better to just leave the swearing out entirely.
Why Does Dashner Have To Capitalise Every Made-Up Word In The Book?
So yes. That about sums up my most basic feelings about this book. I’m an avid reader of both adult and YA fiction, and I’m not one for leaving a book unfinished, but The Maze Runner just about did me in. It’s an incredibly bad book, and I’m considering taking the (brand new!) other books in the series down to the charity shop rather than actually putting myself through the torture of reading them.
I can only hope my suffering serves as a warning to anyone tempted to pick up this dreadful series.