The Maze Runner (by James Dashner)

29 01 2011

Maybe it was the lingering stomach bug, but the cat couldn’t really get into James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. This first part of a trilogy is yet another book in a long recent series of dystopian Young Adult novels. It’s been done with more sci-fi gimmicks and explosions (Gone), it’s been done with more speed & spunk (Hunger Games), it’s been done with more skill, character development and panache (Chaos Walking-trilogy).

OK, so  credit where credit is due: most of the elements of a good dystopian novel are there. Boy meets mysterious fate; boy meets equally mysterious girl; out of the blue event turns around the world (“the maze”) as they know it; boy needs to save the day… In this case it’s Thomas who is literally thrown into a maze of mystery and adventure without having a clue what happened to him – except of course for that burning feeling in the back of his mind that he’s there with a purpose. And yes, throughout the course of the (extremely detailed) action-packed book, Thomas sets out to boldly go where no boy has gone before…

However… I don’t believe a thing of what Dashner sets out with Thomas and Theresa. Even if this is only the first part of a trilogy, you want to see at least a hint of real “character”, and this is where I feel the novel shows some serious flaws. It’s not that Thomas is boring (e.g. Rachel Ward’s Numbers or that things just happen to him (like in e.g. the Harry Potter series), I just don’t have any reference point within the novel itself. None of the other characters have any depth. Theresa, for instance, is supposed to be incredibly important, but there’s never any action or scene in the book that proves this. None of the other character have any sort of back story. OK, they don’t know what their past was like, but still, they’re supposed to ‘be’ certain people, kids, types… anything. Instead they are pretty empty vessels.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled with Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, but I want my dystopian main characters to have some stamina, determination, spunk, sexiness and if possible some thought-provoking actions and ideas to top it off!

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