Friday, July 9, 2010

The Maze Runner - James Dashner

Thomas is in a box, he can't remember his name, where he came from, how he got into the box or why. When the doors open he finds himself in The Glade, at the centre of a giant maze, with other boys who all arrived the same way and none of them can remember who they are.

One boy a month for 2 years.

Thus begins James Dashner's thrilling new series for 10+ boys and girls who like their fiction post apocalyptic and thrilling.

In The Glade the boys have to fend for themselves, whilst doing this they struggle every day to find the answer to why they have been sent to the maze and to find a way out. But as the walls of the maze move every day, the game changes every day, and you don't want to be caught in the maze overnight - that's when the Grievers come out to get you!

Dashner's book is a novel take on 'The Lord of the Flies' theme of children having to make and maintain a society in order to survive. In the first of a planned 3 books series we are introduced to the boys who form part of the Creators experiment. We are also introduced to the lone girl Theresa, who I hope will have a greater and more feisty role in future books in the series. It is clear that as the book draws to a close (no spoilers I promise!) that the maze is only phase 1 of what the band of comrades will have to endure before reaching a safe haven.

Whilst Dashner's characters might be regarded as 'stock' ie the new kid who is way smart, the troublemaker, the potential love interest, the quirky friend, they are believable and well fleshed out. The maze itself is a fantastic concept, I spent half the book wondering if the kids were on a holodeck (think Star Trek) or if it was 'real'. As Thomas pieces together what is going on and how the boys can escape, the tension in the second half of the book mounts as the boy's world falls apart around them.

The boys also have their own language 'Shuck-face', Klunk' which is an interesting way of allowing the kids to swear without them actually doing it. I am not totally convinced that this device worked, a few mild swear words are words that any 10 year old would hear in the playground, and worse, every day. The made up stuff was mildly distracting and affected the flow of the dialogue but did not diminish enjoyment of the book.

Dystopian fiction is all the rage in the children and teen market at the moment with a slew of books dealing with the topic, think Michael Grant's 'Gone' series, Suzanne Collins' 'Hunger Games' series and Pam Bachorz 'Candor' (reviewed here earlier this month). Dashner's book deserves to be read along with these cult oferings and I for one will be keeping my eyes peeled for the next book in the series.

The Maze Runner will be published on the 2nd August.

My thanks to Chicken House for providing me with an uncorrected proof copy for review.


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