Books: “The Maze Runner,” “The Scorch Trials”

James Dashner wrote the very popular young adult “Maze Runner Trilogy.” It starts with a book published in 2009 called “The Maze Runner,” and concludes with the 2011 book “The Death Cure.”

“The Maze Runner” begins with a boy named Thomas–our central character–rising in a box and emerging in a huge open area called The Glade, populated by a group of about 60 other teenage boys. Like the other boys, Thomas’s memories have been wiped.

The Glade, it turns out, is the center of a huge maze. Outside the glade, in the corridors of the maze, hybrid animal/machine creatures called the Grievers keep everyone terrified. A small handful of boys, called runners, spend their days running through the maze and mapping it out. They know there’s a solution, but after a couple years of effort, they’ve not been able to find one. Meanwhile, boys die–often at the hands of the Grievers–and a new boy arrives, like Thomas, every month. Along with a weekly selection of supplies from the unknown maze creators.

Thomas becomes a runner, and a leader. Then one day the next new arrival comes–and it’s a girl, named Teresa. And Thomas and Teresa are able to communicate with each other telepathically. It’s clear that they knew each other before arriving in the Glad, but they can’t remember anything about it.

So anyway, that’s the situation. They need to figure out the puzzle of the maze without getting killed by the ferocious Grievers.

“The Scorch Trials” finds the group out of the maze, in a world where solar flares have killed a huge portion of the world population and left the planet hot, very hot. Scorched. Plus, a plague called The Flare infects most people, gradually turning them crazy. The boys are released into this world for a new set of test–yes, the maze was a tests–and it’s gotten more demanding.

I liked “The Maze Runner” quite a bit, even though not much was explained–who the creators are, what they hope to accomplish, etc. I expected more to be revealed in “The Scorch Trials,” but was disappointed. Instead, “The Scorch Trials” makes things even more confusing, raising even more questions about what the purpose could possibly be. It also brings into play a group of teenage girls who emerged from their own maze.

So now, that leaves “The Death Cure,” the third book, which would explain everything…right?

Not necessarily. I read some reader reviews, and too many of them expressed disappointment–that the third book was the worst of the three, moved slowly, and didn’t answer the questions generated in the previous two books. So I decided against investing any more of my Christmas B&N Gift Certificate in this series. I decided I was just going to be disappointed, that James Dashner had a keen imagination but hadn’t really planned out where he was going in advance. I decided to take a pass. I can live without knowing what happens to Thomas & Company.

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