Review: The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner, #1) by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner, #1) by James Dashner
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Released: October 6th 2009
Format: Ebook
Source: My own
If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

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.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

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.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.
The first thing I tweeted after finishing this book was this:
(The Grammar Nazi in me realises it should've been 'what I planned' instead of 'how', but meh, who cares)

Hold your seahorses, there are some spoilers in this review but I've got spoiler-hiders! If you're reading this in your email, they probably won't work, though.

So I finally got around to reading The Maze Runner after it appeared in my Top Ten Tuesday post and when I finished it, I felt like this:

and it was due to many reasons.

I have heard great things about this book, heard people gush over it, been recommended it countless times and sensed the hype over the release of its movie adaptation. I wouldn’t say I'm entirely disappointed with The Maze Runner, but I know for sure that I definitely enjoyed The Hunger Games more. 

Nevertheless, this novel does have originality and some strong points.

First off, the premise: A boy named Thomas wakes up in a lift remembering nothing else but his name and meets other boys living in a forest-y place called the Glade, situated in the middle of an ever-changing, stone-walled maze with dangerous, abominable creatures outside of it. No one knows why or how all this is happening. When a girl arrives in the Glade for the first time in two years, everything changes and they have to work together to escape the maze and its perils. 

The Glade is sort of like a mini-society all on its own with rules and roles established by its inhabitants, who are inherently called Gladers. They've unique slang like “shank”, “klunk” and “shuck-face”, most of which are their own versions of swear words. I thought these were nice embellishments, but perhaps not entirely necessary. There are the Grievers, which are slimy, half flesh and half machine/metal creatures outside the maze and Beetle Blades, which look like metal lizards with twelve bug legs.

All in all, a very fine plot but quite lacking in execution. I felt detached from most of the characters like Newt, Alby, Minho and even Thomas himself while also feeling like I was wading around in octopus muck trying to make sense of the bigger picture.

When Thomas first arrives in the maze, many of his questions are left unanswered and he’s always told to be quiet. The suspense Dashner tries to create nearly failed because all we are told instead of shown is how “confused” and “annoyed” Thomas is, and we don’t actually feel confused confused or annoyed annoyed along with Thomas – I for one was frustrated with the repetitiveness of it all because it just wasn’t shown in the writing.

As a result, I couldn’t get a deeper sense of Thomas' character. There was some awesome maze-running action in between, but if it weren’t for the plot, I wouldn't have stuck through with this book. Chapter cliffhangers kept me turning the pages, but this was due to the nature of them dishing out information only to move the plot forward. I don’t recall desperately wanting to find out what Thomas or Minho or Newt would do next. Yet, there’s potential for Dashner’s characters to stick with you, and I’m talking about moments like this:
“No way,” Alby said. “...We can’t freaking ask people to go out there and die, Minho! Who’d volunteer for that?”

… “I will if I have to,” Newt said, surprising Thomas; though he’d never talk about it, the older boy’s limp was a constant reminder that something horrible had happened to him out in the Maze… 

“With your bum leg?” Alby asked, a harsh laugh escaping his lips.

Newt frowned, looked at the ground. “Well, I don’t feel good askin’ Gladers to do something if I’m not bloody willing to do it myself.”
I think this is the only part where I really connected with Newt. Maybe it would’ve been better if the other Gladers had been more central to the plot; they weren't fleshed out enough for me to form enough emotional attachments to them.

And then there were instances when I had to re-read some parts of the book more than twice to visualise how the maze doors looked like and worked, how Thomas did the mapping with wax paper to get the code and how the Grievers looked like compared to the Beetle Blades, because I kinda got both creatures mixed up into some hybrid (that wasn’t very fun, I can assure you) and so I ended up googling them. I remember thinking that the movie adaptation might be the best way of showing these plot elements instead (another disappointment, unfortunately. Not going to cover this in another blog post because I could go on and on about it. But you can tweet me if you wanna discuss the movie!).

Another thing which had me feeling quite meh was how some parts felt deus ex machina-ish to me. Like BOOM suddenly something happens out of nowhere and the problem is more than half-solved, and all Thomas needs to do is think for a minute (or sometimes he doesn’t need to) and ta-da, job done.

This is especially applicable to when Teresa (the girl) arrived and gave a crap ton of completely new info to Thomas when she was unconscious and also when Thomas found the Griever Hole with Minho AND also when Thomas figured out that he should go get stung by a Griever and rely on the Changing to give him more info.

I just felt like something was lacking – like there should've been something more to everything, but there wasn’t.

And then I cried.

I actually cried when Chuck died, and to be frank I don’t really know why I did! Chuck was probably the only character whom I felt a little more for than any other character throughout the story. I guess Thomas actually telling us how much he treasured Chuck got to me after all. I also think Thomas being unable to fulfil his promise to Chuck just did it for me, and so the tears just came.

It was fleeting, though. Once I finished the novel, I thought that the ending – or payoff – of Dashner’s entire concept was questionable, and probably one of the biggest downers for me.

I have no idea if it was because of all the pre-movie hype or the fact that my classmates gave me a gist of the plot before I read it (no spoilers were involved) that could’ve influenced my reading experience on a such high scale. They pretty much told me just the blurb, so it must be either the hype or my high expectations…

I’ll still be reading the rest of the trilogy to see if it picks up (I heard the next book is better). The Maze Runner will be getting half a starfish more than I’d have given it because, well, I cried. And I usually don’t cry over a book – I mostly get hangovers and can’t touch another book for days – so this might spell something better for the rest of the series. I think.

AboutPortrait AboutJames was born and raised in Georgia but now lives in the Rocky Mountains with his family. He has four kids, which some might think is too many but he thinks is just right. Once upon a time, James studied accounting and worked in the field of finance, but has been writing full time for several years. (He doesn’t miss numbers. At all.)

In his free time, James loves to read, watch movies and (good) TV shows, snow ski, and read. (Reading was mentioned twice on purpose.) Most of all, he’s thankful that he gets to make a living writing stories and considers himself pretty much the luckiest guy on the planet.

Get your copy of The Maze Runner!


  1. I agree the premise and idea were so good, but I found the characters lacking. That's why I think that for once the movie might be better than the book. I'm in the minority in the fact that I didn't like (hated the third) sequels of this trilogy. I hope you enjoy them though. Nice review! :)

    1. Have you watched the movie yet? The visuals are actually pretty amazing, but I think the movie and the book can't exactly be compared to each other on a which-one-is-better scale.

      Ick. I'm sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy the rest of the trilogy, but thanks for your thoughts! Have a fin-tastic day (:

  2. Oh, it's a shame you couldn't enjoy this book as much as you wanted to. I did read it before all the hype, which might have helped some. And as well as that, I didn't really like the Hunger Games much so I had nothing to compare it too! I liked the originality but I know it bothered some people more than others. I basically liked all the characters except Chuck - I felt like he was only there for the Rue affect that is the HG already...

    1. I never noticed the possible parallel between Chuck and Rue! Thanks for pointing that out. The whole concept about the Maze is intriguing, but I guess a lot of other things just worked against it and fell flat. I'm probably like the only one at school who didn't enjoy TMR that much, and I get uncomfortable whenever it's being brought up by my classmates.


Merci pour ton commentaire! If you have asked a question, do check back for a reply - I'll try my best to answer.



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