The Maze Runner Trilogy – A Disappointment in Three Parts

After detoxing from my major Hunger Games overdose, I had a craving for more post-apocalyptic dystopias. I hit Barnes and Noble (yes, I still shop at bookstores and buy books – I have a thing about the physicality of books, don’t get me started) and in the “If you liked The Hunger Games…” section, I found The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

The opening of the first book (The Maze Runner) is totally gripping. A kid wakes up in an elevator/lift-type of contraption and knows absolutely nothing other than his first name (Thomas). He has basic understanding of how the world works, but has no specific memories to tie to this knowledge. The lift brings him to an expansive courtyard where he is greeted by a group of other boys that had the same experience.

The courtyard (known as “The Glade”) is the center of a gigantic maze, comprised of enormously tall walls that keep out “Grievers” (gross squishy-robot-killer creatures) that come out at night. The boys have created a community amongst themselves, organizing to clothe, feed and train all new boys that arrive, none with any memories. While most of the boys tend to the courtyard, the most skilled boys run the maze during daylight hours, trying to find a way out. Their way of life is challenged when a girl shows up and they are told she’s the last person that will ever be sent up in the lift. Thomas becomes a “Maze Runner” and we find out it’s up to him to figure out the challenges of the maze and ultimately help everyone escape.

The Maze Runner is well-written, a gripping tale, and has a fantastically Lord of the Flies-esque feel to it. This group of adolescent boys have created a way of life in a hellish situation, have their own jargon and clearly know they are on their own in this unknown world. There are great twists and interesting clues that allude to the greater mystery surrounding the Maze and it’s purpose. And… it all goes downhill from here.

After a fantastic first book, the second book, The Scorch Trials definitely didn’t live up to the hype that the cliffhanger of the first book suggested. It kind of recycled the idea of the first book – putting a group of kids (surrounding Thomas) in impossible, random and life-threatening scenarios to ostensibly serve a higher purpose or “greater good”-type of function. However, there were some kind of tired concepts (labeling members with “Leader” “Traitor” etc.) that seemed like a lame social psychology experiment. There were also random causes of deaths and injuries that, looking back, didn’t ultimately serve the “higher purpose.”

At the end of the book, Thomas rebels against the “higher purpose” for freedom and answers. By the end of The Scorch Trials, I was bored and frustrated, but I can’t read 2 out of 3 books.

So, I begrudgingly downloaded The Death Cure onto my Kindle (having no attachment to this series and no desire to spend more money than necessary on this story). It was unbalanced and stupid. Thomas tries to rebel against the evil forces that put him in the Maze, but there’s no real logic to the plot, no closure, we never find out who Thomas is or where he came from (because he chickened out of getting his memories back) and it’s just a cop-out of a trilogy-ender.

I’m torn about my recommendation – the first book is very interesting and sets up a world full of fascinating potential. If you can only read one book and you’ll deal well with leaving the trilogy on a cliffhanger, go for it. I truly enjoyed the craftsmanship of the first book.

If you’re like me and it’s all-or-nothing, just don’t do it. The second two books are NOT worth your time. Go re-read The Hunger Games. The Maze Runner Trilogy tries to be a sad, formulaic rip off of the Hunger Games trilogy anyway.

As a note about post-apocalyptic literature in general: it’s kind of a giveaway when it’s written in first person. It’s really interesting to see the world through a specific point of view, but then you know that the protagonist can’t die, so all mortal peril that they’re in is kind of dampened. Someone get on this.

-Diana

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5 Responses to The Maze Runner Trilogy – A Disappointment in Three Parts

  1. Sarah says:

    I too thought the ending of the series was a cop-out! It really frustrates me because the reason I kept reading was for the hope that the ending would somehow satisfy me and it sure as heck didn’t! I wish he could just rewrite an ending that isn’t so callous. It’s a happily ever after for these people/screw the rest of the world. You’d think the people who got their memories back would have some sort of drive to continue to try and help the rest of the world? The ending felt rushed, there was definitely not enough answers, and Thomas was a disappointment.

  2. denbo says:

    Completely agree. So disappointed with books 2 and 3. His memories… the Chancellor…. Theresa… finish the story Dashner.

  3. Couldn’t have agreed more with your post! I was so excited to buy the trilogy after watching the movie and have spent this whole Saturday reading the first, second and third book only to find out that its a rip off to hunger games where Peeta gets mind controlled (Thomas gets mind controlled too) and only to find out that Teresa dies for no apparent reason… What was the Romance build up for? The Tension? Only to have both potential lover of the Protagonist killed off or taken away… Unreasonable excuse for a trilogy with no closure whatsoever, greatly disappointed!

  4. jb says:

    So did you find something to feed your “if you liked the Hunger Games” craving that you do fully recommend?

    • It’s sort of in the neighborhood – Check out the Richard Bachmann books (Stephen King’s pen name before he was Stephen King). I highly recommend The Running Man and The Long Walk. I’ve discovered that I prefer the Bachmann books to anything under the “Stephen King” brand.

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