Monday, September 20, 2010

The Maze Runner

Reading The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, is a bit like reading a version of Kafka's The Trial adapted for a younger audience. There's an ordeal and the main character doesn't know why he has to go through it. No one answers any questions. You never really find out the purpose. The entire reading experience consists of sympathizing with the main character and being unable to understand why anything happens to him.

I kept reading, thinking surely something would happen, that something would be revealed. But no. The main character, Thomas, spends his time "living in a giant maze, surrounded by hideous beasts" where "sadness filled him like a heavy poison. Alby's screams, now distant but still audible, only made it worse." The reason for Alby's screams is never fully revealed. There are hints and allegations; if you like conspiracy theory perhaps you would enjoy the ending, in which the characters believe they've been removed from the world in which scientists are toying with them, but they really haven't been.

I spent the entire time I was reading this YA novel just like the main character: "Frustrated, he put it aside and sprinted to catch up." But there's never anything important to catch up to; it's frustrating that every turn of the plot leads to just another dead end in the maze.

16 comments:

FreshHell said...

How did such a thing get published?

Amanda said...

Question - do you feel like it was SUPPOSED to be all pointless and surreal, the way The Trial is? Because if so, that's so far the greatest recommendation I've ever gotten to read this book. If not, if it just happened to be like The Trial when it was trying to be coherent, that's the greatest recommendation I've had to never pick this book up...

Jeanne said...

FreshHell, probably because the characterizations of the boys are interesting enough to keep you reading.

Amanda, I can't judge authorial intent. All I can say is how it affected me, as a quite widely-read adult, and I didn't like the way it all turned out to be pointless. There's going to be a sequel, if anyone wants to follow the novelist down a new path, which I don't.

Amy said...

You are right - no answers in this book! I liked that fact though, it felt like it was supposed to be like that, perhaps. And definitely great for conspiracy theorists!

Amanda said...

Hm, well I'll have to keep it on the semi-radar then, I suppose...

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

I too found this novel to be mostly pointless. I am still considering reading The Scorch Trials, with the hope that it will be better, but this is a great review.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

Sounds frustrating as a book, but then again some books I really like have lots of questions to them. Not sure what I think :)

Jeanne said...

Amy, I'm not getting the distinction between a novel that seems pointless because the author meant it to and a novel that seems pointless because there's no point. Perhaps it's because I'm pretty sure I'm not missing the point.

Lu, I can see why you'd try the next one. As I said, the characterizations kept me reading.

Kim, some good novels have unanswered questions, but I think part of the craft of fiction should be to somehow imply a few possible answers.

Jenny said...

Sooo I'll be giving this one a miss then. I didn't like the cover in the first place. :p

Jeanne said...

Jenny, my library copy has a picture of what appears at first glance to be a boxwood maze, which would make the maze so much more benign!

bermudaonion said...

I haven't read this, but my husband did and when I asked him how it was, he said "meh," so I'll probably skip this one.

Care said...

I swear I've read some good reviews of this! I put it on my tbr and am now wondering why.

Jeanne said...

Kathy, your husband and I agree once again!

Care, Lenore is one blogger who liked this one better than I did. I think it could have been the context of all the other dystopias she was reading...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jodie said...

I think I became adverse to books with Maze in the title this year for no apparent reason - no matter what I heard about this book I couldn't make myself want to read it, or The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds. It sounds very frustrating, do you think it was kind of pointless because there was no resolution, or was there osme kind of point to the way it never revealed anythign fully?

Jeanne said...

Jodie, I didn't see much point to the way questions were never answered and the purpose behind the maze was never revealed. It read like conspiracy theory always reads, to me--an easy explanation of a series of events which could be explained in about a hundred other ways.