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Truly dreadful - a chore from start to underwhelming finish
on 29 March 2014
I bought the Maze Runner series after seeing extremely positive reviews here on Amazon. I can only imagine that I must have been reading a completely different book to the one purchased by all the 4* and 5* reviewers, because I've rarely read something as poorly written. It's hard to even know where to begin with criticising this monstrosity, but some of the major bugbears are as follow:
The plot: clunky, slow, so contrived it's untrue. Instead of genuine suspense and clear plot arcs, the book is just a long line of events that never really succeed in building up any suspense.
The 'suspense': Dashner seems incapable of showing the reader anything, instead choosing to describe *everything* in painstaking (and often painfully boring) detail. I was never able to lose myself in the story because the omnniscient narrator and the annoying protagonist (whose voices often get mixed up, annoyingly) are always there, explicitly stating which emotions/reactions are appropriate at any given time. We don't *feel* suspense; we get told that things are Super Tense.
The characters: the protagonist, Thomas, is one of the most unlikeable characters I've had the misfortune of encountering recently. He's a textbook Gary Stu, and we're supposed to find him admirable/heroic/impressive when he is, in fact, erratic, unpleasant, obtuse and ridiculously entitled. Oh, and unbelievably dense, a lot of the time, although this seems to be more of a plot driver than anything - he does a lot of daft things and asks a *lot* of very daft questions simply so the reader can be privy to information that was obvious already:
"'Where was he bitten?' Thomas asked. 'Can you see it?'
'They don't freaking bite you. They prick you....'
For some reason, Thomas thought the word prick sounded a lot worse than bite. 'Prick you? What does that mean?'"
This dude is supposed to be 16-17 years old, and hyper-intelligent, and he doesn't understand what the word 'prick' means. So many interactions like this read like word-count fillers.
Sexism / objectification: the only female character for the vast majority of the book is supposed to be around 15-16 years old. And yet, she's described constantly in nauseatingly clichéd terms relating to her physical appearance. She conveniently stays in a coma until needed, when she wakes up, magically realises that she's meant to be with Thomas (I won't tell you how, but it's vomit-inducing) and spends the rest of the book clinging to him and making acceptably non-threatening and vaguely 'spunky female' comments. Mostly in response to the male characters' naff gender stereotyping about 'girls'. She's a plot device and a prop for showing what a big, amazing dudebro Thomas is, very much in the same way that the character of Chuck is used.
Language and style: utterly heinous. I genuinely cannot understand how this book is being described as well written. Examples:
"Burning blue eyes darted back and forth as she took deep breaths. Her pink lips trembled as she muttered something over and over, indecipherable...Thomas stared in wonder as her eyes rolled up into her head and she fell back to the ground."
"He guzzled his water, relishing the wet coolness as it washed down his dry throat."
"Thomas stood up to pace around the little room, fuming with an intense desire to keep his promise. "I swear, Chuck," he whispered to no one. "I swear I'll get you back home."
And my personal favourite: a hunk of cliché, gender stereotyping, bad grammar and poor writing all rolled into one:
"He was somewhere very close to sleep when a voice spoke in his head, a pretty, feminine voice that sounded as if it came from a fairy goddess trapped in his skull."
I can only beg for mercy at this point. And WTH is a 'fairy goddess'? Ohhhh, it's a made-up thing that brings together everything pretty and nice and girly and lovely because that's what the only female character has to be.
Special mention: Why Does Dasher Have To Capitalise Every Made-Up Word In The Book?
Idiolect: I'm pretty sure that when Dashner wrote this book, he filled it will swear-words and then went through with CTRL + F and replaced them all with the infuriating made-up, faux-swears that the characters use. "shuck-face", "klunk" etc. He even has one of the kids *explain* why they use the word klunk and what it means (s***). So the characters themselves are aware that they're using ridiculous, invented words, but it's never explained why. It's like Dashner expects us to accept that this is a world where the swear-words we know don't exist; otherwise, why would a group of teen boys self-censor? It would have been infinitely better to just leave the swearing out entirely.
So yeah. That about sums up my most basic feelings about this book. I'm an avid reader of both adult and YA fiction, and I'm not one for leaving a book unfinished, but The Maze Runner just about did me in. It's an incredibly bad book, and I'm considering taking the (brand new!) other books in the series down to the charity shop rather than actually putting myself through the torture of reading them.
It was *that* bad.