“The Maze Runner” by James Dashner – Novel Review-Imani-Amour

A novel review and analysis by Imani-Amour

* Spoiler alert warning: in the review segment of this written work, any sentences that give away spoilers have been written in a nearly illegible font colour. This ensure that those who have not yet read the book won’t have the plot spoiled for them. Those who have finished the book may simply highlight the text with their mouse to see it. The analysis segment is not spoiler coded however, so spoiler-wary readers must proceed with caution.

Review

Rating 3/5 ◊◊◊◊◊

The Maze Runner was a unique, intriguing novel with several gasp-worthy plot-twists that left me in shock. Amongst all the dystopian, apocalyptic themed books that are becoming popular today, The Maze Runner fits into this genre while still remaining original one of a kind. James Dashner impressed me with his excellent imagery skills throughout this novel however slightly bored me with the slow pace at the start of the book; thank goodness, the plot line picked up after a few chapters. My favorite part was the plot twist towards the end when Thomas went through the changing and found out that all the Gladers, including himself, had been named after iconic historical scientists such as Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Isaac Newton etc.  I was fascinated with the Gladers’ resilient and self-supporting personalities. In the midst of the inexplicable world of chaos that they have been thrown into they have managed to create their own small, peaceful society with their own lingo, laws, political meetings, executions and assigned jobs. The dynamic and admirable characteristics of the Glade society really added a touch of originality and style to the book and showed that Dashner put a lot of thought into the story line. Despite his originality, I felt Dashner lacked creativity in some areas. For example, if I could change one thing about the plot it would be how the escape occurred—the hole and the “kill the maze” button. It is like James builds up this big conflict and suspense around how the Gladers are going to escape after being locked in the Maze for decades but in the end the resolution is just a hole in the void that no one ever saw. Do you mean to tell me that the Runners never found that hole until Thomas came along? After all the hype that Dashner made about how the Gladers escaped, you would think there would be some crazy blood and fire ending. The resolution was anticlimactic, to me, and after leading us on for so long, I felt that it was lazy on James’ behalf. Despite this flaw, there are some important messages that may be taken from The Maze Runner

Analysis

After a thorough analysis of this novel, I have found some lessons and symbolic messages that I would like to share with the readers of this post. I would also like to discuss my  questions about some blank spots that Dashner left in the plot.

A message that can be pulled from this book is to be open-minded and let our curiosity be satisfied sometimes. This is learned when Thomas dashes into the maze to save Minho and Alby and becomes the first Glader to make it through a night in the maze. Had he just followed the rules and popular opinion, his friends would have died and he would never become a runner. Thomas’ curiosity and thinking for himself is ultimately what allows the Gladers to escape for this thinking helps him unravel secret passages of the maze. It is only when the Gladers see Thomas’ outside-of-the-box thinking that they realize this curiosity that defies rules is required to escape the maze. We learn from The Maze Runner that sometimes curiosity doesn’t kill the cat. Instead it helps an entire civilization to break the restrictive chains of old order and rise into a whole new world.

Adding onto the lesson of being open-minded, I think Gally’s character represents the nature of close-minded people and why we should not be like them. One can understand why I make this claim, if they compare Gally’s behaviour to Thomas’. For example, towards the end, the Maze is in chaos and the Grievers are free to go anywhere. The vast majority of Gladers decide to run into the maze and jump into the escape hole since they’re not really safe anywhere anymore. This is a wise decision, in my opinion, seeing as there is no food or water and everyone was slowly dying in the present state of the Maze. Then, Gally gets defensive and tries to prevent them from going. We later learn that this is because he has been programmed to suck up what authorities have told him without any inquiring as to whether the information is right or wrong. This is just like close-minded people who have sucked up one opinion—whether from their friends, family or society– and just can’t see beyond that. They could be sucking up lies and never know it because they lock in their opinion as correct, never stopping to question the potential validity of other perspectives. In this case, Gally’s closed-mindedness blinds him from seeing that the rule of remaining in the Glade, which he keeps enforcing, only ever applied to the prior Glade. A realistic person would know immediately that the Gladers need to find a way to defeat or escape the Maze rather than remaining in fear because of old rules. It takes someone like Thomas, who has not quite yet been brainwashed by the order and close-minded manner of the Maze, to realize that. It takes someone like Thomas to see that  if the Gladers are successful in their escape, they will not need the rules of the prior Glade; they will be in a different world all together. So, the lesson is to not be like Gally, inhibited and trapped by a closedmind, but rather like the open, creative and free Thomas.

As far as symbolism goes in this book, I feel James Dashner is a very symbolic writer and I am aching to find out what he was trying to depict through The Maze Runner. So far, I have only been able to spot connections and similarities to real life and begin to formulate theories as to what symbolism exits in the plot. I would appreciate any input on this so feel free to comment any symbolism you might have spotted when reading this book.

One potential symbolic message in this book might be James Dashner’s view on reincarnation. For one who believes in reincarnation, the concept of someone arriving in an unknown world, remembering nothing of their past life (just like Thomas does) might sound slightly familiar. Thomas’ predicament is similar to the concept of reincarnation, where at the death of a living organism, their soul is converted into another life form remembering nothing of their past life. I wonder if James was trying to depict this and Thomas is supposed to represent the human coming back to life after reincarnation. Thomas proceeds to resign to the civilization of the Maze, getting a job as a Runner and accepting the rules of where ever he is. This is what the average North American humans do, adapting to the ways of life that surrounds us, growing up through school, a career, building a family, retiring and dying. Perhaps Dashner is suggesting that as humans, there is more to the world than just the safe Glade that we live in. As humans we can be runners and find more to life than just this cycle. When they escape, the Gladers are told that they are under testing and the Maze was just to see how they would react and if they could escape. Maybe the author is suggesting that this life is a test from God or whichever supreme power you believe in, to see which select few can break free of the cycle and understand where we all truly come from. 

I am still left with the question:  what was the point of that code Thomas found when he put all the pages together? When they get into the Griever Hole and Teresa is typing in the code, it turns out that all it took was some random ‘kill the maze’ button. What was the code for then? This confused me and caused my interest in the book to decrease as certain elements that had me hooked and excited proved irrelevant. Of course, knowing how many plot twists James has had up his sleeves, I feel it is safe to assume that this flaw is all part of a bigger plan. For example, perhaps the code that Teresa was trying to type in will appear later on in the series or some WICKED member will explain that the hole only appeared after Thomas arrived or something. Another question is if there is significance to Thomas’ name. It is revealed that each character is named after influential scientists, but of all the scientists, is there a reason that Dashner chose Thomas Edison for his main character?

As a recap, The Maze Runner is a thrilling novel, when you disregard its slightly anticlimactic resolution, and it is filled with symbolic messages and lessons.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Copyright © 2016 by Imani-Amour
All rights reserved. This publication or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a written work.

 

 

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