We put Dashner’s dazzling dystopian novel under the microscope...
With the release of the big-screen adaptation so tantalisingly close, what better time to revisit Dashner’s gripping YA read ‘The Maze Runner’? Check out the fifteen things that stuck out most for us!
Warning: major fangirling (and some spoilers) ahead.
‘Lord of the Flies’-esque sagas are inherently captivating
It’s a fantasy familiar to everyone as they grow up–escaping the confines of society and parental authority for the freedom of a wilderness where you make the rules. However, as ‘The Maze Runner’ reveals, the reality of this is far from idyllic. The boys’ struggle to maintain some sense of order in such chaotic circumstances makes for some nail-biting conflict.
There’s nothing scarier than the unknown
The poor inhabitants of the Glade don’t have much of a clue about anything for the majority of the novel: why they are there, how to solve the maze, how to talk to the only girl for miles around. Remember being scared of the dark as a kid? Being left to imagine what lurks in the shadows is often more terrifying than confronting the truth head-on. Although, let’s face it, that turns out to be pretty horrifying as well…
Especially when even your own identity is a mystery
With no memories of the past aside from their own names, the Gladers really don’t have much to go on. Unable to draw from past experiences, or even trust in their own capabilities, their situation is rendered all the more bewildering. Alien as this circumstance may seem to us readers, the angst of not really knowing who you are is something everyone can empathise with, particularly young adult readers who are still forming their identities.
God complexes really are the worst
SPOILER ALERT. REPEAT, SPOILER ALERT. At the end of the novel it turns out that the whole fiasco was an experiment conducted by the sinister Creators to test the strength and resilience of the Gladers, to see whether they’re capable of saving the crumbling world outside the maze. Having discovered that our beloved characters are merely puppets in some grander scheme, the fates of those who didn’t make it becomes even more tragic.
Thomas is a grade-A underdog
A lot of readers have a problem with our rather petulant protagonist Thomas. And yes, his childish, stubborn nature at the beginning of the book would test the patience of a saint. But the great thing about him, and the mark of a truly memorable main character is that we get to see him outgrow these traits and flourish within the group – even willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the others. Of course, the fact that he’s played by Dylan O’Brien aka Stiles from ‘Teen Wolf’ in the movie adaptation doesn’t hurt either. Swoon!
We all need our Neville Longbottom, wish fulfilment fix
And Chuck, the unfortunate outcast provides just that. He’s at the bottom of the pecking order in the Glade – there to provide comic relief as a side-kick to Thomas. But his heroic sacrifice at the end of the novel proves that true bravery can come from the most unlikely sources.
Conformity can have catastrophic results
Again, spoilers. Ironically, the characters that meet the stickiest ends in ‘The Maze Runner’ aren’t those who are desperate to escape, but those who fear the outside world more than the confinement of the Glade. Stricken with a sort of Stockholm-syndrome, antagonist Gally chooses to die inside the Maze rather than face the real world.
Oppression can be deceptively comfortable
As this suggests, whilst the Glade can hardly be described as cosy, throughout the book there’s plenty of suggestions that life on the outside is far, far from peachy. But is freedom to high a price to pay for relative safety?
Simplicity of style can have powerful effects
Another awesome aspect of Dashner’s book is his precise, uncomplicated writing style. Discarding flowery description in favour of a fast-pace, the resulting work is unpretentious and action-focussed.
Inventive dialogue can really pay off.
‘The Maze Runner’ packs a punch via the original slang terms like, ‘shuck’ and ‘greenie’ employed by the boys. Language evolves as cultures change and time passes by, so this new way of communicating heightens the reader’s awareness that the characters occupy a totally transformed world.
Dystopia-fever is still alive and well
As the boundless popularity of ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’ has shown us, the reading public relish in disaster. Tales chronicling oppressive governments and apocalypses of every nature reign supreme in the YA genre, due to their ability to to express worries about our current world, as well as where society is headed... And all the hype surrounding ‘The Maze Runner’ and its big screen adaptation prove the craze isn’t going to die down anytime soon.
Keeping readers guessing is key
The best books colour their universes in many shades of grey, demonstrating that black and white morality simply doesn’t exist. We see this in ‘The Maze Runner’ with Alby’s betrayal not obviously motivated by any inherent evilness, but by the psychological torment of the Changing, and his fear of the outside world.
Considering this, a maze is a pretty fabulous metaphor
Disorientation, befuddlement, claustrophobia! The journey through the perilous maze arguably symbolises the Gladers’ search for answers on a wider scale. Phew, we’re getting dizzy just thinking about it.
Despite being part of a trilogy, ‘The Maze Runner’ holds up as a stand alone read.
Although we couldn’t wait to devour ‘The Scorch Trials’ after binging on the first book in the series, Dashner completely nails the balance between leaving readers hungry for more with some compelling unanswered questions and frustrating them with over-the-top cliff-hangers. So, even if you’ve only got room in your life for one more book at the moment, it’s still worth checking out.
15. We all need some kind of community to get by.
Apologies in advance for ending on such a cheese-tastic note, but above all else, ‘The Maze Runner’ communicates that even when society has totally collapsed, it’s impossible to get by without some semblance of community. This is evident in the recurring examples of self-sacrifice throughout the story, and the team-work required to mastermind a successful escape from the maze. With such a stellar cast lined up in the film adaptation, we can’t wait to see how the interaction between Thomas, Teresa, Alby and the rest of the gang translates into onscreen chemistry!
What do you think of ‘The Maze Runner’? How about your expectations for the film? Let us know in the comments!