James Dashner's The Maze Runner is about as action-packed as a book can be. If you are at all inclined to start reading a book at bedtime and then just keep on reading because it is way too exciting to stop, then make sure you don't have to set your alarm when you settle into bed with this book. It has "all-nighter" written all over it (also because it's seriously freaky. You won't be doing any sleeping after you meet Dashner's "Grievers." Trust me).
The Maze Runner is the first book in a trilogy, with book two, The Scorch Trials to be released in fall 2010. Maze Runner begins when a boy wakes up in a lift, with his memory almost entirely gone. All he knows is his name. This boy, Thomas, can't remember anything of his former life beyond the vaguest traces that seem to hover at the very edge of his consciousness. His new home is a vast open area enclosed by high stone walls, called the Glade, where other boys like him have found themselves likewise stranded with no answers about their past lives or present situation. Every thirty days another boy is brought to the Glade in the lift, deposited there like all the others before him. Beyond the stone walls of the Glade is a maze. During the day, the stone walls open up for the boys to access the maze. At night, the walls seal up again which is just as well, because fearsome creatures called Grievers crawl through the maze at night, hunting anyone who remains inside. The Gladers believe that solving the maze is the only way they will be able to find their way home again so they assign some boys to become Maze Runners. These boys run the Maze everyday trying to map its shifting patterns. When Thomas arrives, everything starts to change. Escape and survival seem more distant than ever.
Here's the snazzy book trailer:
Pretty scary stuff. The book conveys all of that menace and "you-can't-see-what's-out-there-in-the-darkness" tension. Over and over again as I was reading I was impressed at the tight pacing in the novel. Dashner sure knows how to end a chapter so perfectly that you simply have to turn the page to see what happens next. Closing the book seems impossible. The characters are well differentiated, with a dynamic that is a believably complex mix of camaraderie and ruthlessness. The Grievers have got to be the creepiest monsters I've come across in a really long time. Since you are as clueless about the true nature of the Glade and the Maze as the boys, it makes for a disorienting reading experience - thought not in a bad way. By keeping you in the dark, always guessing and wondering, Dashner jacks up the tension and helps you to sympathize all the more with the characters' feelings of futility and powerlessness.
There is a website devoted to the book, where you can read the latest news, see what others are saying about it, and even play a game where you "map the maze" and avoid getting squished and stung by the Grievers. It's fun/terrifying - a lot like the book itself. The Maze Runner is an ideal choice for someone who is a fan of The Hunger Games. Like that bestseller, this is a survival story, with intrigue and nonstop action. This is a downright frightening read, backed up with strong themes exploring justice, freedom, ingenuity and hope.
The Maze Runner is published by Delacorte Press.