Life’s not about butterflies and candy anymore, children…let’s see how you fare in this miserable maze (cue evil laughter)

And, to follow my trend of reading grim, post-apocalyptic type novels, I present to you The Maze Runner by James Dashner – another very dark and twisted story about young children having to go through terrifying tests to prove themselves for some greater goal for humanity (usually, some fantastic idea the adults came up with).

This story is about a boy, Thomas, who finds himself dumped into this walled enclosure with most of his memory wiped out. Turns out he’s landed at the center of a giant maze, the newest boy among many who’ve been steadily trying to solve this huge puzzle and get to an exit. But there’s something strange about Thomas – things feel familiar to him somehow. The place is horrifying after the artificial lights dim for nighttime and creatures of unimaginable ugliness and horror roam the outskirts of their enclosure.  But, despite this, Thomas feels he has a chance of survival and maybe, escape. First, he’s got to get the boys to trust him, though. It certainly doesn’t help that, as soon as he’s entered the enclosure, odd things start happening, routines get broken. And one boy in particular is convinced he’s seen him before, and that the memory isn’t associated with anything pleasant.

So, this story was quite a read. Jammed packed with action. Full to the brim with frustratingly unanswerable questions. An intelligent, courageous and honest narrator with a mysterious past. Psychological thrills aplenty. Bone chilling scenes of creepiness. Some gore. I zipped right through this book of course, wrapped up nice and cozy in blankets and pillows (with some food and a hot drink at hand, this time). This is really why I read post-apocalyptic novels.  Those poor kids live in a reality (that’s probably real life in some parts of the world) that starkly contrasts with the comfortable, luxurious lifestyles us modern day North American kids live in. It makes us ask ourselves if we can be just as brave and quick thinking as these resilient characters can be when faced with such situations. We like to believe we can.

The pacing of the books is calculated to get you gorging on the words. Every chapter ends with a hook – there’s no pause in reading this one. Too many mysteries to solve. If you stop reading, how will Thomas figure things out?

One character – Gally – it was almost too easy to hate him. He just did all the wrong things at the right time to make me detest the guy.  Some of his accusations were just plain crazy – irrationality, that’s what helps me get annoyed with a character.  And of course, Winston, the guy that butchers animals for the community – he’s got to be the one that most understands Gally’s point of view. Any kid that volunteers for that job must be slightly twisted already, right?

Best scenes were the ones when Thomas actually goes into the maze and runs around with Minho. Those were exciting bits. I was on the edge of my seat every time they went out there. What would they find out? Would they get back to the enclosure in time before the walls shut them out? Why won’t Minho or any of the other boys who lead the pack answer Tom’s questions?

Conclusion of the book – you guessed it. Big fat cliff-hanger. With another book to come. Gone is the age of one novel stories with relatively wrapped endings. Welcome the age of trilogies and series and frustrating non-endings! Hey, authors have to make money, too. And, what with the attention span of readers now-a-days, a book longer than the standard pocket-size may be too daunting.

Well, what can I say? I am overwhelmed by children’s literature. I love it. Children are heroes. Adults are manipulative and twisted. Geez, I don’t want to grow up 😛 . That’s kind of the message I’ve been getting from all the post-apocalyptic novels I’ve been reading, lately. Adults don’t care about preserving the value of each individual. Their eyes get unfocused as they think about this “greater picture” – this greater good that can be achieved if we’d just sacrifice a few people. Meanwhile, most of the adult characters are sitting safely behind their reinforced glass, miles away, observing and taking notes on which weakling of a child died today, and how can we push them to run more laps on the wheel before they’ll snap? Children, on the other hand, prove to be constant underdogs, with the kind of integrity that should make their adult counterparts ashamed of themselves. And they have to grow up before their time in order to survive, but the best of them don’t lose their compassion and their sense of the value for human life. These children are cynical, but they haven’t lost hope entirely.

Sometimes, it seems like modern society just loves the dark and twisted. I’ve been thinking about this lately, and I do wonder. If you look at the kind of books that seem popular, like this one and the Mockingbird ones and all those vamp reads, and the kind of tv shows and movies that people watch, Dexter, SAW, 20/20 – it kind of suggests to me that people are getting increasingly drawn into this macabre, morbid, “realistic” trend of stimuli where anyone could die in a horrific way at any moment. It’s a scary world. Twisted, and full of so-called justified killings and complete psychos. Curious, we are, though. Curious and very cynical. It’s frowned upon to have a happy ending, now-a-days, (no more Disney!) not considered realistic and therefore not deep reading material. Someone in the story has to die in order for the story to be legitimate. I can almost predict which character in a story is set up just so that he/she can die at the end and make for a tragic story – add that element of realism. It’s just too perfect. But, what do our thirst for crime and our immersion into the dark side of humanity reflect about us? Are our lives so empty that we need to fill it with scary things to make living feel more wholesome? I really don’t know. I just know that I have these random urges to indulge for dystopian-style stuff like this book.Dark, gritty, perhaps stripping humanity to their barest essences for examination. But, usually, in children’s literature, there has to be hope. Always there is hope – looking forward to the future. Sometimes with adult ones, I turn the last page and just feel grey.

Kind of off topic, but did you know that they have book trailers now? And that there are book video awards, too?

Here’s a book video about this book:

I have mixed-feelings about book trailers. It depends on what’s in them. Just like I prefer not to have an image of the main character on the front cover of the book, I also prefer the book trailer to be just as mysterious. I like to come to my own conclusions about what I think about the main character, even in how they look. If it’s an art cover, like a painting, I’m okay with that. But, I hate it when they put a photo of a real person on the cover, it kind of takes away the mystery for me and then I don’t bother trying to think about what kind of personality the character has, I just take it for granted that if the model has a smirk on her face it’s because she’s probably got a huge ego and that just colors my whole reading of a text. What do you think? (Oh my goodness, the best example being the guy from one of the earlier covers of The Demon’s Lexicon…)

Rating: 4 Beetle blades

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5 comments

  1. You bring up an interesting point about happy endings. I love a happy ending (I really do), but I get frustrated with endings that are too pat. I think if you’re going to write a book that deals with certain issues (inhumanity, control, power, and like that), you have to be prepared to follow these issues through to their logical conclusion. If a character is willing to sacrifice anything to get what s/he wants, we have to be able to see that s/he will really do it.

    Incidentally, I think JK Rowling has had an impact on the darkness of children’s books. The Harry Potter books became steadily darker and darker, and we did get to see that her evil characters weren’t going to play nice because they happened to be living inside what had been labeled children’s books. And I think seeing that this worked for Rowling has made a difference to the way publishers and readers perceive sad happenings in books for a younger audience.

    Point being, I don’t think we’re seeking out darkness because our lives are empty and dull. I think we’re seeking it out because seeing life in extremes in books and films can say a lot to us about those same issues in our own, more moderate lives. Seeing a psychopath struggling to be a good person, as in Dexter, raises questions about our own fuzzy morality.

    That isn’t to say that all of the “dark” stuff has something profound to say. I don’t think, for instance, that Twilight does. But I do think that a more rosy view of the world can feel trumped up and fake; and when a book has a bleak bleak premise and then a joyfully happy ending where everyone gets exactly what they want and the bad guys are punished and nobody ever dies, I do feel a little cheated.

    (Sorry! Longest comment ever!)

  2. Please accept my apologies for putting this in your comment section but I could not find your email. At the same time it’s kinda auspicious your post is about dystopias

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