Don’t read the book, just go see the movie.
Ask yourself, can you remember a single instance where someone told you that the movie was better than the book? If you’re like me than no, and that probably gives you a clue where this review is going.
Before I get started, some disclaimers. James Dashner’s Maze Runner series was originally conceived as a story for younger readers. It may simply be that I am too old to overlook the book’s flaws. Also, Dashner’s writing style happens to have a number of my pet peeves that get authors on my bad side. I’ll explain as I go and you can decide for yourself.
I originally gave Dashner a try when The Eye of Minds was released. I wanted to like the book but couldn’t manage to finish it. The character’s were poorly thought out and seemed to make decisions that were unreasonable for no reason other than to move the plot forward.
What explanation does the reader get in these instance?
“He didn’t know why, but he knew he had to [insert unlikely action].” To be fair, I get just as annoyed when writers say something along the lines of “her subconscious told her to [insert decision].”
I’m not saying these things are off-limits or that a character has to always know the underlying reasons they do one thing or another, but when a character is forced into an action that seems to beg for explanation, and the writer never circles back to it, it becomes clear that the writer themselves can’t imagine a good reason for their character’s actions.
So, why did I pick up Maze Runner despite having a bad experience with Eye Of Minds? (1) hype: I’d been hearing about the series for quite awhile. (2) Plausibility: I figured that if there was any situation where I can forgive a writer for not explaining their character’s behavior, it would be when the character has amnesia. (3) Peer Pressure: my son really wanted me to, especially once he saw the movie was coming out.
I got through the Maze Runner, even finished The Scorch Trials, never actually finished The Death Cure, though its sitting next to me in my satchel as I write this. Again it’s a children’s series, so perhaps a 12 year old wouldn’t think the plot was headed in an obvious direction. My son listened to the audio books and enjoy them a lot. He asked me my theory on where the plot was going as I had just started book two. I could tell by how quiet he got when I gave my theory that I’d nailed it. I’m not bragging, more warning that if your relatively well read it is doubtful you’ll find the series a challenging puzzle. Which, if you think about, is counter to what you’d expect from a book about people looking for a solution to a Maze.
There are some things I did like in the series. The main one that springs to mind is the vocabulary his characters create. As the “Gladers” have amnesia they create names for themselves, put-downs, and things there aren’t words for outside their world: Grievers, Klunk , Shuck, Slinthead . Admittedly there is a feel that the author was trying to get around swearing in order to keep his novel PG-13, but it isn’t bothersome.
So all that said, did I like the movie? Well, I did not hate it. There were a considerable number of improvements over the book. Hopefully none of this will be considered a spoiler. I’m going go out on a limb and assume you guessed that at least someone gets out of the maze at the end.
The way the Maze gets solved in the book wasn’t clever, more or less it came off as unbelievable. I remember thinking “no one would jump to this conclusion.” It felt like the author started the story and hoped a good idea would come to him before he finished. It was no surprise that the movie took a different direction. The way out of the maze in the film borrowed some elements of the book, but it was far more believable.
The Grievers (maze dwelling monsters) in the movie were loosely based on the ones in the book in that they were part mechanical and part biological. Thankfully, the film’s Grievers were far more threatening. At times, in the book, the grievers come off as a comical combination of a Roly Poly, Inspector Gadget, and Slimer from Ghost Busters. In contrast, the monsters in the film will have you believing the protagonist has likely crapped his pants.
I’d go see the movie if it’s a weekend and you’re bored. I would not bother with the book unless you have a kid that you are desperately trying to separate from a game console and he is intrigued by the idea of people trapped in a maze. In the end, that is really what this book had going for it, an intriguing plot idea.
We all like a story about the lab rat that outsmarts its prison.