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(97) The Maze Runner by James Dashner (audio)
labandbooks
proseandkahn
Thomas awakens in an elevator with no memories and no idea where he's headed. The ride seems to go on forever and when the doors open, Thomas is greeted by a group of boys who seem to be expecting him. They welcome him to "the Glade," a community of boys who live inside stone walls where each has a job that contributes to the community. They all arrived the same way, with minds wiped and at the same time of each month.

Like the others who arrived before him, Thomas is overwhelmed by his new reality. Unlike the others though, he is not reduced to tears by it. Instead, he's intrigued and finds himself drawn to what's outside the stone walls of the Glade - the maze. Inexplicably, he wants to be a maze runner. Not only is this the most dangerous job to have, thanks to the stalking of the grievers, but a successful maze runner must spend a lot of time proving his worth to the Gladers before even being considered for it.

Life in the Glade is orderly, even rigid, but it works. New Gladers arrive once per month, as do supplies. However, the very next day, an alarm sounds the arrival of a "greenie." As if this was not unsettling enough, the new Glader is a girl and she clutches a note that promises that everything will change. And change happens.

If I had to sum this book up in a word, it would be suspenseful. This one had me from the start. I listened in my car and found myself driving when I usually walk, driving out of my way, hoping for traffic and sitting in the driveway or parking lot to listen to one more track. If my durned portable cd player hadn't plotzed, I would've listened all day, every day.

That is not to say that it's perfect. There seemed to be a few repetitive reactions and situations that didn't really serve the book. I was listening, so I couldn't mark and keep track. But I did feel moments of deja vu although I quickly lost my irritation with the next reveal.

Thomas was an intensely likable, imperfect hero, as were several of the secondary characters like, Newt, Chuck and Min Ho (sorry if the spelling is off - I was listening!). I also loved the invented curses. I am usually annoyed by this gimmick (to wit: An Abundance of Katherines). Here, it was very cool. I also thought the world building was vivid. I could easily see this as a movie, but didn't feel like it was written with that in mind. The violence in this one is not excessive or gratuitous, but definitely cringe-worthy. 

The performance by Mark Deakins was superb. He had lots of cool voices. I especially loved his portrayal of Newt. Although nothing in the story indicates different nationalities, his brogue was very cool.

I cannot wait for the next installment, which is due out in the fall, with the third book (it's a trilogy) due the following fall according to the author's blog. The book also has a cool website where you can listen to a clip of the audio book (that I listened to).

Librarians and teachers: give this one to your dystopian fans and your video game fans. I just gave it to a student who returned Unwind asking for another like it. I can't wait to hear what she thinks.