Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: "The Scorch Trials" by James Dashner

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety . . . until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim . . . and meal.

The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

 Has anyone read "The Death Cure"?? Is it good? I'm seeing mixed reviews. Just thought I'd ask before I traipse all the way to the library to find it. I got a Kindle just to avoid that thirty minute trip to the library (yes, I live in the boonies!) but I'm too stingy to buy the books I want and the Overdrive library lending feature has flummoxed me...I am not tech savvy. This blog is held together by duct tape and sheer willpower, in case you were wondering.

I had a hard time deciding how to rate The Scorch Trials. I think 3 is really a little low because I did enjoy it and found it hard to put down. If 3.5 stars was an option, that's closer to how I feel about it.
THINGS I ENJOYED: The book starts out more quickly than The Maze Runner, and moves along at a good pace, especially at the beginning. I liked that Thomas has a little bit of a sense of humor in this book, although obviously this series isn't going to be a big laugh-fest. I enjoyed the interesting plot twists, the way I'm still not sure about the motives of several characters or whose side they are really on. Or whose side is the right side to be on, for that matter. There were some genuinely scary moments (although I agree with another reviewer who said the narrative POV is oddly detached, even in moments of extreme crisis) that were well done. (The kids' game "I got your nose!" will probably always remind me of one particularly horrifying Crank encounter Thomas has. Yuck!)
The setting and landscape were described very well. I really got how brutally bright, hot, dry, and awful it was, and I appreciated the explanation of how certain parts of the world came to be that way from the Solar Flares.
The character of Brenda was an interesting addition to the mix, and I liked how Dashner teased it from the beginning that there was more to her role in the Scorch Trials than she let on. But there's more to EVERYTHING than what we know at this point, which leads me to...
Things I Wasn't Crazy About: While I enjoy a certain amount of open-ended questions, I was hoping for at least a bit of solid information about what WICKED is doing. We still don't know much about WICKED, and the majority of questions from the Maze Runner are still hanging, with a few more added. Characters talk and think about what WICKED is doing, what the trials mean, what Thomas' visions mean, etc., but they get nowhere and neither do we.
There are too many nameless, faceless characters and it's weird that Thomas doesn't seem to know all these people he spends every moment of every single day with. They've been whittled down considerably, so maybe we'll find out more about a few of them later on. Speaking of numbers of Gladers dwindling, this book was certainly full of maiming and death, but it started losing shock value after a while. At one point near the end, Thomas notes that the dead bodies he sees aren't people he knew well or cared about so he doesn't really feel anything about their demise. Neither did I.
There were times when I expected some revelation or event to have a big pay-off, to explain something or lead to a discovery, but nothing much came of them. Example: The Crank city with signs posted everywhere saying, "Thomas is the real leader" really didn't amount to anything.
When I finished the last page, I found myself kind of wiped out from the whole thing and wishing I had a better grip on what was going on. I realize the middle book in a trilogy exists in part to build up suspense for the final installment, where (hopefully) all will become clear and we'll understand how and why we got to this point.
I'm involved enough in the series to want to find out what WICKED is up to and what role Thomas and the others play in their plans. I'm encouraged by Thomas resolving that he's not going to be a pawn in WICKED's game, and curious to see how this new resolve of his plays out. I will certainly read The Death Cure when it's released, and I'm holding on to hope that Dashner has a really tight plan for wrapping things up and answering the many questions left unanswered in The Scorch Trials.

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