The Death Cure is the third and final installment of The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner.
I had many questions while reading the first two books. I can tell you that the third book finally does give answers.
The story is not a happy one. There are no “good” or “bad” choices, there are only “bad” and “worse” choices. Dashner delves into a zombie-like society and a topic that many of us do not wish to think too much about: the cost of human lives. Is one human life worth more than another? Can the value of human life be quantified? There is no right answer and they are not questions that many of us will ever have to try to answer.
The two themes that swirled around in my head after reading this book are the ethical limits of scientific research and hope vs. reality.
Ethical limits of scientific research
I don’t think there is a right or wrong anymore. Only horrible and not-quite-so-horrible.
One of the running mysteries throughout the trilogy is the statement, “WICKED is good”. The books take readers through the manipulated lives of the Gladers as they are thrown relentlessly into trials or experiments, in which their minds are faced with extreme pressure or emotions. The Gladers form a strong hatred and distrust to WICKED as they stress under paranoia and survival in the post-apocalyptic world. All the while, WICKED scientists and representatives reassure the Gladers that everything that is done to them is to find a cure for the deadly disease, the Flare.
It is interesting to note that the Flare was a man-made disease. WICKED created the Flare with the objective of population control. I don’t know why they would want to further decrease human population after the natural disasters of the sun flare attacks, but apparently WICKED thought this was a good idea. As expected, the Flare spread like wildfire, and the intelligent scientists that they are had no cure designed.
In their final memo/report, WICKED says that they spent the remainder of their years trying to compensate for creating the Flare. And how do they do this? By running maze experiments on teenage boys for 3 years. By watching children – and may I add some immune children – die just so they can single it down to a final candidate… who will also die by giving up his brain.
I was expecting more from WICKED. A better plan. A better reason. Gradually throughout the series, Thomas turns against WICKED even though it is said that he used to work for WICKED. Although he was one of the maze’s creators, Thomas eventually decides that there is no reason that can justify the horrors WICKED has put through the Gladers and himself- not even potentially saving the human race.
Hope vs. Reality
Kill me. If you’ve ever been my friend, kill me.
It seems to make sense in theory. Logic tells us that sacrificing a few dozen boys in exchange for saving the human race is a good deal. But this type of logic only kicks in when you’re a third party. Like Thomas, he also believed that the maze trials were facilitating for a greater cause. But when he becomes the one who has to go through it, his opinions shift.
The reality dawned is that there is no cure- or at least, not a definite one. The reality is that all of the world’s resources had already been wasted and dumped into creating scary Grievers and giant mazes for that 0.01 possibility of finding a cure. If everybody had continued to cling onto the hope of finding a cure, it would have been the end for humanity. In the end, a small group of the immune were sent to some lush forest paradise to restart civilization, the most realistic and convincing ending Dashner could’ve come up with.
Again, the logic kicks in. Logic tells us that in this situation, it is best to give resources to the immune as they will not die from the disease, but they can die from insufficient living conditions. I wonder if Thomas’s opinion would shift again if he was not immune.
I think the sad reality I understood through The Death Cure is that you cannot save everyone. Thomas could not save the world as he had intended in the beginning when he helped the maze creators. He could not even save people important to him.