Friday, September 4, 2009

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Flap copy from ARC:
"When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as anyone can remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, for just as long, they’ve closed tight. Every 30 days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the maze after dark.

The Gladers were expecting Thomas' arrival. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might find their way home...wherever that may be. But it's looking more and more as if the maze is unsolvable.

And something about the girl's arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers- if only he can find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind."

This was an excellent young adult book- just enough questions to peak the interest, just enough answers to keep you invested in the narrative. I thought Dashner did a wonderful job portraying Thomas' confusion as he seeks to make his way in a world without any true frame of reference. The descriptions of the maze and the terrors it contains are masterful- Dashner has invented a wonderful dystopian world populated by teen-aged boys trying unsuccessfully to make sense of it all.

I was very impressed by this novel right up until the very end. I know this is the first book of a trilogy, but I would have been happier had the book ended a few pages earlier with the narrative arc completed- the introduction of a whole new underlying story in the last pages of the novel was a turn off for me; I was planning to buy the sequel anyway, so I didn't need the sequel to start at the end of this book. I prefer books in a series to be capable of standing on their own in addition to as part of the series, and the foreshadowing at the end of this book defeats that objective.

Regardless, still a strong four star read (would have been five if the book had ended earlier) bound to appeal to both teen and adult readers. Dashner has an interesting vision and a strong narrative voice- I look forward to the sequel.

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