Review | The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)

Thomas is a blank slate. He remembers nothing but his name. Awakening in a pitch black room to the background noise of machinery and the smell of oil, he soon finds himself the newest in a “Lord of the Flies” like community of boys who live in what they call the “Glade” at the center of a giant maze.

Each day, when giant doors to the maze open, runners go out into the maze to explore, looking for a way back to a world that none of them remember. At night, monsters stalk the maze, hunting the boys who do not return in time.

With Thomas’ arrival in the Glade, things begin to change, and when a girl arrives the next day–the first girl–things begin to look scary in earnest.

The fight to survive the maze, and to escape, is on.

I listened to The Maze Runner with my Better-Half on a road trip, and we are of two minds about what we thought of the book. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a guy and she’s…not, but we both walked away from the car, and the story, with different perspectives.  I really enjoyed it, and she, well, almost really enjoyed it.

Right off the bat, I was hooked by James Dashner‘s opening. It’s rarely a good idea to start a book off with no context, but that’s exactly what Dashner does, and for his story it works very well. Usually a reader wants to know within just a few paragraphs where and when they are, what’s going on. Instead, all Dashner tells us on the opening pages is a name “Thomas” and an elevator (and a pitch black one at that).  That’s it. Even when Thomas arrives at the Glade, no one seems willing, or even able, to provide information. The questions seem to multiply even faster than the answers, and it pushes the story along from one cliffhanger to the next.  I felt lucky that we were trapped in the car for a long, ten hour stretch, because I didn’t want to stop listening.

If there is one critique that I might agree with my Better-Half about, it’s that Dashner tends to over-describe what’s going on in his characters minds. While this could be chalked up to him catering to his audience–teen boys, I think–I wonder if readers could do just as well gleaning from the contextual clues what’s going on between the characters.  I mean, when one guy is described as yelling with an angry look on his face, we get that he’s angry. It’s a small critique, though; I only noticed it because my Better-Half pointed it out.

In any respect, I enjoyed the book and the surprise ending both satisfied and whet my appetite for more. It’s one of those books where I give it three and a half stars (out of five) overall, but a full five stars for plot intensity. I mean, look: I went out and bought the next book in the series at a bookstore along the route we were driving just because I knew I was going to want to read it.

The Maze Runner is a fast, intense and exciting mystery. I can’t wait to find out what Dashner does with Thomas and the others from the Glade in happens next in the sequel,  The Scorch Trials. Also to look forward to, The Maze Runner is slated to hit theaters as a major motion picture next March.  It’ll be fun to see how well the book translates on the screen.

Overall Rating:   4 of 5 stars false

Parent’s guide:

  • Sex: Beyond a single mention about the possibility that two characters (a boy and a girl) are lovers, there is almost no reference to sex.
  • Language: I don’t recall there being any profanity.
  • Violence: Uh, yeah, it’s an occasionally violent book, though not descriptively so. There are monsters stabbing, smashing, and chopping teens, one teen fires an arrow through another, a woman is shot in front of the teens, etc.


About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.


  1. I thought the opening worked really well, too. I hope you like Scorch Trials. The books just get more intense as they go along! I think this book will make a great movie and I can’t wait to see it either.

  2. That opening is amazing, isn’t it! I really enjoyed this book, but felt a little disappointed by the next books in the series. It will be interesting to see what you think of them. I look forward to the movie too! It’s going to be fun to see what they’ve done with it!


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