I'm trying to think about how I'll begin this review, but I can only think of saying "I loved it like whoa!". Which is kind of helpful and unhelpful at the same time. But I can say for sure that The Maze Runner has pitched itself fitfully into a top five placing as my favourite fiction of all time. This book is so good.
And I hummed and hawed during the first 50 pages or so, thinking "this book can go either way in my esteem". And then something happened and I was reading this book faster than I was processing the words. I craved the story when I wasn't reading and burned to know what the heck was going on.
Thomas wakes up in a pitch black metal box which begins moving upwards. He knows somehow that he's forgotten everything about his life except his name. Then the box opens, he realizes he's been in an elevator-type place and a bunch of faces are peering down at him from above. He's hoisted out to meet the Gladers; boys, only boys, who have been living in The Glade for two years. None know their pasts or how they got there, or even what is beyond the world they're trapped in. Do you remember the movie The Cube? It's what The Maze Runner reminded me of at first; strangers wake up to find themselves trapped in a labyrinth that shifts and moves, trapping them and testing them. Except The Maze Runner also has particularly horrible beasties running around. The boys are safe as long as they stay in The Glade and have even managed to set up a system of governing and a decent day-to-day lifestyle. But every night they send out a team of Maze Runners who try to out-pace and out-smart the maze. No one has solved the problem after two years and then one day the Gladers receive a note, and a girl, and everything changes.
There is so much mystery in this book that I was actually frightened of how it would end. Would the ending be satisfying? It's also the first of a trilogy. And I have to say that not only does The Maze Runner end in a satisfying way for its own contained story, it also makes you desperate for the sequel. As a lady familiar to reading sequels, trilogies and series, I can say that this is very hard to do. The drive to know the answers is very strong. And I have no idea when the second book is available...Ah, Fall 2010 (from James' Blog). He also mentions that he didn't just pull the sequels out of the air, but had them planned all along as an on-going larger story arc, but also as stand-alones. The second book will be called The Scorch Trials. I really appreciate and love when I feel I can trust an author; there is a LOT of mystery in The Maze Runner but I have faith that all will be revealed and it will make sense to the story.
I also love that TMR does a few genre-defying tricks. One scene in particular; Thomas is in the maze, at night, explicitly a really bad time to be trapped outside The Glade, and he's been spotted. *shivers* So scary. The tension was beautifully crafted, and I still have this very vivid sense of the action. I think SciFi can segue neatly into Horror pretty easily, but this scene was a great example of this potential--total spookstown.
I think also that the designer did a pretty good job on the cover art. If I was left to my own imaginative devices I probably would have just been picturing David Bowie's Labyrinth and it wouldn't have been so scary. Although, reading TMR, I felt like the maze might look a little less green and a little more robotic? The hanging vine/ropes are there in the story but I don't remember wall-spikes. I also had a problem trying to picture The Glade; it looked smaller in my mind than it was described in the book. I was like, "Oh, there are gardens and a forest? *push the edges of my mind's map back significantly*".
I want to shout out an extreme thank you to Random House for making this giveaway possible!