This book, by James Dashner, was suggested by Goodreads as one I would enjoy because I enjoyed Hunger Games. I read a few of the reviews and they either raved about it or hated it. I was intrigued (and it was like $0.99 on Google Play). So I picked it up, knowing it probably wasn’t going to be a world-smashing title, but very curious.
I am possibly being generous on this review because this is not written for adults. This book was definitely written for YA – maybe even middle grades. If I had read this book when I was ~12, I would have been fascinated. The world concept was intriguing.
And much like Lord of the Flies, these are almost caricatures rather than characters. I mean, the book even eventually explains these kids are all named/nick-named after famous scientists rather than “owning” their names. Taking into account that the characters are not the driving element in this book….
Characters: Thomas and Teresa had a bit of a “Mary Sue/Garry Stu” feel to them. Thomas was always the hero and Teresa either had the answers or gave the required clue to Thomas. Even taking out the sense that these were “real” people (I just said – caricatures), these two were kind of…. broken. They were smarter, faster, prettier, and of course more better. Even their memories aren’t quite as erased as everyone else – they are both driven by “feelings” and “almost memories.” At 11, I might not have noticed this trait in characters. It made relating to (especially) Thomas kinda hard.
Much of the character interaction felt too-planned. The bully who hates immediately for no apparent/poorly explained reasons. The nice best-friend who might be a little annoying, but means well. The tough-guy Thomas “admires” – which was a bit difficult to swallow with the Garry Stu feel of Thomas… anyway. They were a bit 2D and it was noticeable. It however wasn’t borish enough to drive me away from reading. I took it with a big grain of salt.
World-Building: This is really what raised the story as high as I scored it. The concept was intriguing and well-built. Personally, I would have enjoyed a little more physical description, but then I am one of those people that likes architecture and 5 pages on Notre Dame… but even with that benchmark, a little more would have been useful.
There wasn’t a lot that surprised me in the world-building the author showed (by its nature we only really saw inside the maze). Much like Thomas, I wanted to see more of the world with each turn of the page – and I wanted to see more than he did! There are hints of more and I suspect if I read the rest of the series some or all of my questions would be answered. Even so… as a stand-alone it was good and interesting but not rave-worthy.
Plot: It’s hard for me to sometimes “call” a YA novel. The only thing(s) that surprised me was the things he didn’t answer – leaving me wanting to know more. However, this was clearly planned as the start of a series and most of my queries would probably be answered in later books. The questions of how did something work or why was something there. The biggest plot hole to me was how the boys had the answers they did have: how did they know what was a spy and what wasn’t? Some of the answers were explained, some were not.
Overall/Summary: I can see why some people hated it. I’m sorry, but it is not comparable to Hunger Games in my opinion. Except that it is dysopian+ teenages + weapons (so is Z for Zachariah, but I haven’t ever see HG & ZfZ compared!) . The greatest strength is the “world” and in this novel, it is pretty limited. Perhaps across the whole series the world would feel more complete, but Hunger Games (#1) stood alone very well and there is something to be said for assuming a first-in-series can stand alone.