I’ve gotten myself into a fascination with novels about dystopian words. Stretching back to The Hunger Games trilogy I read last year, I’ve spent the past week finishing off the first books to new series: Divergent by Veronica Roth and Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I’m not quite sure if the movie spoiled the book for me, but Divergent was not as riveting as I had hoped it would be. In regards to Uglies, it was a little too shallow, a common problem I have with young adult fiction.
However! The Maze Runner by James Dashner shone a new light of hope for my reading crave. It was pages and pages of mysterious thrill, making me itch with questions and theories.
“When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.” (Goodreads)
The maze is essentially an experiment and the boys are the lab rats. An interesting question is: Would this story be as interesting if everything wasn’t an experiment? Would it be just as sinister without the manipulation factor?
I think the manipulation of the setting is an important aspect of the story. I can’t really imagine how the story would tie together if it wasn’t an experiment (where do the supplies come from? where do the boys come from?). I believe manipulation is what nurtures the determination of the boys. If everything was real and there were no “creators”, I don’t think the boys would feel that passionate desire for revenge or freedom. It’s all about having an enemy, something you can fight against. It’s what makes the reader root for them in their hearts. If everything was real… wouldn’t it just be hopelessness?
Fear is everywhere in the novel. Fear is the Grievers in the maze or the maze itself. The biggest fear is the unknown. Many instances throughout the book feel like the opening and closing of a Pandora box. When a boy is stung by a Griever and has to go through “the changing”, he is able to recollect memories of the past. Those who go through the changing no longer wish to solve the maze. What is known cannot be unknown.
Rules and Order
The boys function as a mini-society with a structured hierarchy. Even in a chaotic situation, order is a top priority for the council members. In fact, it is order over morality. One of the leaders, Newt, argues it is necessary to maintain order in the Glade. Otherwise, people would just give up.
My favorite thing about The Maze Runner is that it is unpredictable. While the story unfolds bit by bit through new developments and hazy memories, I essentially had no idea where the next sentence would take me. James Dashner’s writing is subtle and simple with little hints of plot twists, if any. Even without giving away the bigger picture of the series, Dashner is able to fabricate an intriguing and detailed world inside the Glade. The Maze Runner is only the first book of his series on a post-apocalyptic world, and he never even mentions the idea of such a world. The only world that is shown is the Glade, which completely consumes the lost boys for the entire book. The readers too, get sucked into the Glade. I had so many questions about the maze itself that I didn’t even have time to wonder about what lies after the maze. The world outside of the Glade remains- for the most part- unknown and a mystery.
Dashner does, however, hints that the outside world is even worse than life in the Glade. Again, his hints are not enough to understand the situation unless you get to the end of the book. This does not stop Thomas or the boys from wanting to leave the maze. Because anything is better than being trapped in an unsolvable maze with monsters for 2 years, right?
This question is left unanswered until I begin the second book, The Scorch Trials. Just like Thomas and the rest of the Gladers, I will embark in a new survival of a whole other world.
“If you ain’t scared… you ain’t human.”