Friday, May 23, 2014

Maze Runner Trilogy, Books 2 and 3

I will try to be super vague about these books by James Dashner since they are sequels to a book you probably haven't read and might want to. This review is mostly my feelings about the sequels and won't contain details. If you want to know what the series is about, read my review of The Maze Runner.

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner #2)

I had a hard time getting into this sequel. The end of The Maze Runner bothered me a bit, perhaps because the answers to the riddles of the maze were not quite what I was looking for. And those answers are kind of what the second book is about, so I just wasn't as interested. Also, the book seems to meander around a bit without focus. I guess the first book didn't feel like it was meandering because it was mysteriously building up to the reveal. In this installment, Thomas and his buddies are still looking for answers, but their environment is less controlled; perhaps that is then reflected in the writing. I did really get into the end of the book, though, and that happened in The Maze Runner, too, despite the unsatisfactory answers. Dashner is particularly strong when his characters have a mission and goal, when everything is action-oriented. Everything moves quickly then, and the books are hard to put down at the end.

The Death Cure (Maze Runner #3)

Though The Maze Runner is still my favorite book of the trilogy, I enjoyed this last book more than The Scorch Trials. By this point, I knew more or less what the author's big picture was, so I was able to enjoy the journey a little more. There weren't as many surprises, maybe, but the action, Dashner's strong point, was good. If I rated The Maze Runner four out of five stars and The Scorch Trials three stars, you'd think I would rate this book four also. Sure, there are minor flaws in all three of the books. For instance, sometimes when the reader might have a question about something happening in the book, the author appears to address it, but sometimes it feels like an afterthought, like (and I'm clearly paraphrasing), "Thomas wondered why so-and-so did such-and-such," but that's all we get. The reader wondered. The author acknowledged that we were wondering by also making Thomas think about it a bit, but no real answer was given. Like I said, that's a minor flaw that might take you out of the action for a second but that doesn't ultimately matter. A bigger issue I had with the books is that Dashner kills off a lot of his characters (in all the books, not just this one), and though Thomas is particularly sensitive to a few of the deaths, there's a certain "Oh, well" feel about the rest. I understand why Thomas feels the way he does (he's on a mission, and there will be sacrifices), but I wish there was more commentary on the whole thing. (SPOILERS to the end of the paragraph.) By the end of this third book, Thomas has had enough. He feels most of the deaths have been for nothing, so we do get some commentary but nothing that really feels satisfactory. In fact, the end of this book is a big reason it gets only three stars from me. It feels a little cheap, like the author couldn't fix the problems he set up. The idea is: "We can't save the world, so let's scrap it." I guess it's a consistent philosophy throughout the books (I can't save those kids who just died, so I'll push on.), but again, it's not satisfactory.

A Final Note on the Series: At this point, I do not plan to read the prequel to the trilogy, The Kill Zone, which is about different characters. But The Maze Runner is still an attention grabber, and I do plan to see the movie, out in September. The setting itself is fascinating, and that's probably what attracted me most to these books. Unfortunately, that setting is almost exclusive to the first book.

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