Thomas has no idea where he is or how he got there. All he can remember is his name. Blinking in the sunlight, he sees a group of boys, a motley crew who live in a strange glade surround by a stone maze.
A very flustered Thomas just became the newest Glader; he doesn’t know what that means yet, and while the other boys preach patience, the new Glader quickly decides he wants to be a runner; he can feel that this dangerous job is his destiny even though the kids around him see it as an impossibility. Runner is the toughest job by far – they run into the maze when the doors open in the morning and map the ever-changing walls, being careful to return before nightfall when they would be trapped in the maze overnight with the Grievers. That poor soul caught in the Maze at night is as good as dead. The Gladers don’t know who would put them in such a dangerous situation or why, and they’re really baffled when, in a twist from regular deliveries, the box appears again the next day to reveal a girl. A girl who knows who Thomas is. With this unprecedented turn of events, the story barrels into action as the boys begin to realize they must get out now.
Much like Thomas, the reader has no clue what is going on initially. We are just as confused about why he just showed up in a box in a glade with no memories as he is. Maybe it has something to do with signs that say W.I.C.K.E.D. all over the maze? Signs Thomas becomes aware of only because he breaks the glades number one rule; never go into the Maze. Thomas, on top of being one of the older boys in the Glade, is a fast thinker, very observant, using every advantage he has to keep up the fight, take on the Grievers, and help his companions. Oh, and he’s a little reckless..
It is amazing how these young boys, probably 12-16 years of age, band together to create a society that has stood for years. They understood that wallowing in self pity would get them nowhere besides dead, so they devised jobs to keep everyone contributing. Each job has a Keeper and when an important decision must be reached the Keepers gather and vote to find an answer. The governing hierarchy seems to work rather well; newer Gladers respect decisions of their elders. The boys have built shelter, a graveyard, a medical facility, a prison, a governing and judicial system, and a whole culture out of only the supplies provided them from the mysterious box.
The Maze Runner has a strong science fiction element, giving it the a futuristic feel even though much of the story takes place in wooden shacks in a forest. This comes from the bigger picture, floating over the boys’ existence: the whole Maze and the Glade inside it were constructed by W.I.C.K.E.D, whoever they are. They not only built the stage, they filled it with monsters too. The Grievers themselves are a mix of mechanical and organic beings that roll with a mechanized grace and maintain a squishy needle filled body. Thomas’s brain has been altered in some way to allow him to communicate with Teresa, the new girl, telepathically. Neither knows why only they can do it, but they use this gift to their advantage as they work together to decode the Maze and escape the Grievers’ wrath.
By the end of this story, I felt both satisfied by the thrilling yarn that had been spun and yet extremely unsatisfied with how much I had learned about the Maze and why it existed. What are they using it for? Are they good or bad? The epilogue gave some hint into the thoughts behind the Maze, but nothing that scratched that itch to know the truth. It is actually quite impressive the way Dashner managed to write a compelling standalone story but keep so much of the mythology behind it a secret. I, of course, needed to read the rest of the trilogy and the prequel to get my questions answered.
The Maze Runner can now be seen as a major motion picture in a theater near you. On it’s own, the movie is exciting and fun to watch, though I wouldn’t expect it to be exactly the same as the book. There are some major changes in the transition from the page to the big screen, some of which are understandable, others leaving me perplexed. The movie, which hints a little more at the purpose behind the Maze without spoiling the sequels, is enjoyable, and I was satisfactorily disgusted by the Grievers. As for the book, it is definitely worth the read, but beware you probably won’t be able to put it, or it’s companion stories down!