May 29, 2011

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Just the word "maze" incites an instant mental picture of adventure, mystery, danger, and bravery. James Dashner's, The Maze Runner, has screamed at me from bookshelves for the past six months. At last, when I found an extra $9.99 in my pocket, I purchased it.

The story follows a teenage boy named Thomas who wakes up in what seems to be a never-ending pitch-black elevator that deposits him into the center of a maze--a maze that's kept over 50 boys prisoner for several years. With a faulty memory and determination to find answers, Thomas seeks knowledge in every nook and cranny of the hundred-foot walls surrounding the only safe square to live in--the Glade.
He has a rough entry into the created Glade-culture, where boys take little pity on newcomers and everyone has accepted the fate of what seems to be an unsolvable maze. Every Glader has a duty--farming, cooking, healing, etc. Thomas wants to be a Runner--an explorer of the maze who spends all day seeking answers.
Instead of welcoming him with open arms, the Gladers suspect him when things start to change. Boys remember him, but they don't know why. A girl shows up in the elevator-box (the first one ever). A message is received from the Creators. And Thomas somehow has bravery and answers no one else has seen before.

When the "end" is triggered, the boys are forced to fight for their lives, their friends, and their sanity against the dreaded enemies called "The Grievers". Time is running out and escape options dwindle like a trickling waterfall.

This book was a quick read--took me less than a week, which is saying a lot in my busy schedule. The plot was intriguing and many of the character emotions were deep and believable. I felt confused with Thomas and frustrated with his fleeting memories. The adventure is constant and page-turning, but a little on the darker side. Many children die over the course of the book and there are other things like sacrifices and torturing sickness.

The end was rather dark and a little depressing. Not a lot of hope is left or achieved. The "last battle" of sorts is graphic, sad, and slightly disturbing with the knowledge that all the screams and deaths are those of teenage children. Throughout the novel, I found Thomas's lack of compassion in certain situations disturbing, like when a boy is sacrificed to the Maze. My siblings and I were all disappointed in his an extent.

The plot had a lot of potential. It built and built and built to something I hoped would be great, but turned out to be cliche, drawn-out, predictable, and repetitive. Once I discovered the answers behind the existence and purpose of the maze, I was sorely disappointed. It wasn't believable. It kept the imagination-cogs turning through the novel, but in the end weakened the story.

The characters were sadly bland. One dimensional and inconsistent. Thomas in particular seemed lacking in emotions and somehow manages to succeed at absolutely everything he does. While the reader wants to see the character eventually succeed, there needs to be more conflict--both inner and outer. Thomas just had a lot of outer conflict that was "conquered" with just a little average thinking.

There are made-up words in the novel like "shuck", "slinthead", and "shank", which are used in replacement of swear-words. The character, Newt, who appears to be British, uses British "swear words" that may be acceptable for the American culture to read, but if you're British they're on the line and used quite often.

On a Christian level, there are a few flippant mentions of God, but more as a passing note of jest or random comment referring to a generic deity. The "culture" created in the Maze is lacking a lot of hope and compassion and the only clear theme running throughout the novel is "never give up", but once we reach the end, no hope is reached.
The book had so much potential--cool title, catching first chapter, and who doesn't like the idea of a giant creepy maze? But Dashner took a good idea and delivered it like a bad video game. Overall, I found the read interesting, but mediocre. It's doubtful I'd read it again.

Violence Level: ***

Romance Level: *
Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: **
Story Depth Level: ***
Recommendation: **

For a more detailed explanation of the above ratings, visit the 6-Point Nutshell post.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at


  1. I just happened upon your website while looking for a Christian review for the Mazerunner series. I have teenage daughter who love to read but we struggle with finding quality literature that is God-pleasing and edifying. Thank you for providing these reviews for parents like me! My daughters' very favorite book series ever is The Dragons in our Midst by Bryan Davis. Have you read them? I would be interested in hearing your review on his novels.

    1. You're welcome! I'm glad that this review was able to help. :)
      I haven't fully read the Dragons in our Midst series, but I have heard of them and I started the first book a while back. I've heard good things about the author, but I'd love to read the full series and review them. :) Thank you for the recommendation!