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The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner - James Dashner The newest trend in teen fiction, following the paranormal romance craze that followed Twilight (and the less said about that, the better), is dystopian science fiction. I guess we have The Hunger Games to thank for that (although, now that I think about it, Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series preceded it by a few years), but at least in this case, the genre offers more for readers who aren't starry-eyed fifteen year-olds. The Maze Runner is another series in this genre, and while it may not be deep enough to win a bunch of awards, it's certainly a heck of a lot of fun to read.
Thomas, the sixteen year-old main character and point-of-view for the story, awakens in an elevator as he arrives at a place called The Glades, with no memory of his history before he awakes. Occupied by about 50 other teenagers, The Glades is the central point of a large maze. The teens live in The Glades pretty successfully, with a farm, complete with animals and produce, a kitchen, and even a small jail, but the most important part of The Glades is the Map Room, where they store the maps of the maze. One of the occupations among the teens is being a Maze Runner, a person who runs out into the maze to map whatever changes happen from one day to the next. See, parts of the maze move at night, and what the runners are trying to find is a way out. They have a limited time each day to examine the maze, though, since Grievers -- a biomechanical critter than kills anyone found in the maze -- roam the maze at night. The story is about how Thomas joins the group and helps them fight against the maze.

I've read a number of negative reviews about the book, focusing on how Dashner does more telling than showing, and how the one female character is as one-dimensional as most of the other secondary characters, and I honestly can't argue those points. The thing is, I'm not convinced that Dashner set out to write anything more than an exciting, male-dominated story of survival. In that case, he succeeded in doing what he set out to do, and I think he did it fairly well. Action/suspense stories typically sacrifice characterization and lofty prose for pacing and plot, and while I think he missed an opportunity to make the female character more than just a shell (I get that he was writing this for male readers, but for a good two-thirds of the book, she was "the hot chick" or the "I call dibs!" girl), I can't deny that he wrote a compelling, exciting read.

There's a good chance that the reason I liked the book as much as I did is because I didn't expect much out of it, but I enjoyed it enough to want to read the other books in the series (two more in the main series, a prequel, and a "between the volumes" novel). Without spoiling anything, it looks like the rest of the books in the series will follow a different path from The Maze Runner, which is reassuring. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.