Friday, February 27, 2015

Bad Shakespeare 52 Project: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

           There’s a debate amongst my circle of friends: Should you see the movie first, or read the book first? Personally, I think that a movie and a book should be treated differently. For example, it would be really cool to see Harry Potter blast every Dementor possible while Hermione Granger fights for the rights of house elves, but that would relate to a roughly eight and a half hour movie, would allow for more book splitting, and then we’d end up with things like Harry Potter 4: The Goblet of Fire part 6. Then I would have to quit movies and books altogether and take up a nomadic lifestyle of yelling at people on the Metro.

            Bottom line for me: Book is a book. Movie is a movie. And a roll is a roll. (Robin Hood: Men in Tights Reference for the win!)

            So, it is with this in mind that I ventured into a movie theater late last fall and saw The Maze Runner without having read page one of the book. I vaguely knew that it involved some amount of “maze running” because best books often have their descriptions in the title. I was so amazingly blown away that I had to start devouring the books as much as I possibly could. The movie was THAT good. So, I sort of did it in reverse, where most people think you should read the book first so you can smugly say, “how can you be surprised about the Red Wedding that was like two books ago?”

            Needless to say, this is about the book, not the movie.

            The Maze Runner tells the story of a young man named Thomas who wakes up with no memory except his name in a box in a place called the Glade. He’s quickly welcomed by several other characters, including the injured and extremely British Newt, (all of his dialogue is accented with the word “bloody” in case you forget), Alby, the leader, and the immediately antagonistic Gally. There’s also the lovable Chuck, so lovable that (spoilers for a book that came out three years ago) his death at the end is all at once a surprise and not a surprise.

            Turns out, they all live in this place they’ve named the Glade, they’re given a fresh boy and supplies each month through a box in the ground, and they’re encompassed in a giant maze. Thomas longs to be a maze runner… but he has to go through the rules and regulations of finding his job, until he eventually becomes a maze runner through acts of courage just before the box opens again, well before schedule, and introduces a young woman with whom Thomas can communicate with telepathically. Together they have to battle through the maze, get their memories back, and figure out just why “WICKED is good.”

            This is an interesting book that manages to suck readers in immediately with an interesting premise and interesting “hook”… no one remembers anything about their pasts except a few who had been stabbed by monsters that inhabit the maze, and when they get their memories back they go somewhat crazy. The best thing about this novel is that it keeps ratcheting up the crazy and the sheer insanity… rather than being content to rest on it’s premise, it works to increase the craziness and make it that more insane. There’s the mystery of the maze. When that gets solved, there’s the mystery of why they’re there. Then Theresa shows up, and the mind reading starts… just insane.

            I also liked the characterization of our main character, Thomas. He doesn’t suffer from the “special snowflake role” that a lot of young adult literature sometimes relies on. I mean, obviously he’s a little bit different… there’s a whole genre of story that relies on “stranger comes into town,” and he really hits that. But at the end of the day he’s still a confused guy trying to find his way out of this maze with everyone else.

            The only real weak point of this novel is the main antagonist, Gally. He’s set up as the “bad guy” who doesn’t like the new guy immediately. The problem is that a lot of it is set up as foreshadowing as he has “regained” part of his memories, but can’t articulate them. This novel doesn’t follow the all too typical YA structure of using first person, but rather third person and then limits it by letting us see a lot of the story through only Thomas’ eyes. Yes, it’s his story, but you take one of your more interesting story and manages to sort of push him into a role of a one note bad guy. (I’m currently reading the trilogy, and the third book fixes this. But hey… I’m just doing one at a time.)

            I really did enjoy this book. Like I said, I like the twists. It can be a little difficult to get through from time to time because there’s not a lot that sets it apart from a lot of the Young Adult (spoiler) post-apocalyptic fiction that is running (see what I did there) around out there. But that being said, I’m looking forward to seeing how it all ends.

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