Author: James Dashner
Genre: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: October 2010
Hardcover: 384 pages
The Maze was only the beginning…
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, much of 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 done 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?
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Maze Runner series
How did I get this book: ARC from New York Comic Con (Thanks, lovely people at the Delacorte booth!)
Why did I read this book: I truly enjoyed The Maze Runner, Dashner’s first book in this post-apocalyptic/dystopian/SF adrenaline rush of a series, and so was thrilled when I was able to procure an ARC of this second title.
The Gladers have escaped their Maze only to find themselves in an even more terrifying and inescapable situation. Having discovered that they have been test subjects in an ongoing experiment from mysterious international conglomerate WICKED (World In Catastrophe – Killzone Experiment Department). According to WICKED, the Gladers are providing them with invaluable data, establishing patterns that will hopefully unlock the key to saving the world – a world that has been scorched dry and ravaged by disease and environmental catastrophe. Due to intense solar flares, civilization has collapsed into chaos as people have contracted a devastating disease called The Flare, gradually turning them into insane, flesh-hungry murderers, or “cranks.” All of WICKED’s manipulations – the wiping of the teenagers’ memories, the ritualized tests, the grievers, the murders, and the deathgames – have all been a necessary evil to save the fate of humanity.
Or so WICKED says.
Naturally, Thomas and his fellow gladers have a slightly different reaction to WICKED’s meticulous plans and justifications. When the group wakes up, they find themselves in a sanitized environment with a lone adult behind some kind of forcefield. The “Rat Man” (as Thomas dubs him) tells the boys that the next stage of experimentation is about to begin – The Scorch Trials. The rules are simple. The boys are to travel 100 miles across a harsh, arid landscape in two weeks. Their motivation? Each of the boys has been infected with The Flare, and the only way to get a cure is to reach the so called “Safe Haven” at the end of this final trial. Without any other choice, Thomas and his friends set out on another impossible test, faced with WICKED’s numerous machinations as well as the murderous cranks running rampant in the city. Except Teresa, the one person that matters most to Thomas, has disappeared without a trace, and somehow she is part of WICKED’s next stage of research.
Just as with The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials is an insanely fast-paced, action-packed book. Picking up immediately after the dramatic events of the maze, Thomas and his fellow Gladers get about a day’s reprieve before being thrown back into the fire, and the stakes are even higher this time around. While the boys knew basically nothing in the first book, this time around, they at least know who their torturers are, and have some idea of the purpose of their trials. And, as with its predecessor, The Scorch Trials is one of those read-it-in-a-single-heart-stopping-sitting types of books.
As with most books of this insane adrenaline rush caliber, there isn’t really much in the way of character development or thematic depth – but then again, that’s not the reason why one reads this type of book. Thomas certainly goes through the grinder with The Scorch Trials and begins to regain memories from before the box and the maze (even though Thomas’s overall significance remains elusive). Although his reactions and development as a protagonist are basically superficial, there is this tantalizing question underlying all his actions – for we learn that Thomas figures predominantly in WICKED’s plans, and may even have chosen this for himself. In contrast, Thomas’s counterpart, Teresa, is unfortunately flat and her motivations even more bizarre. At the book’s emotional and climactic scene, Teresa’s choices don’t quite make sense (other than for melodramatic effect) – but then again, WICKED’s plans aren’t exactly clear or logical at this point in the series, so perhaps that’s a point of mystery that will be cleared up in later books. Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is something of a triangle in this book, but with Thomas and two girls for a change! That’s kinda cool and refreshing in a YA landscape dominated by ho-hum girl and superhawt boys falling all over her. Just sayin’.
From a pure plotting perspective, The Scorch Trials does a fantastic job of pacing and evolving the overarching storyline, which is no small feat because once the kids are out of the maze, the entire makeup of the series changes. The idea of The Flare, the scorched land, and the gradual insanity of the cranks is imaginative and horrifying – for example, at one point in the book, Thomas comes across a self-mutilated man who hunts Thomas down because he wants Thomas’s nose. Seriously, this is creepy stuff. Although the novel is not without its cheese factor (the acronym WICKED, for example, is more than a little kitschy) and I still don’t quite see how Mr. Dashner will be able to reconcile WICKED’s actions with anything resembling a plan to save the world, I’m interested to see how it will all turn out. (Plus, The Scorch Trials ends on – you guessed it – another crazy cliffhanger. So at this point, I’m obligated to carry on with the series. Bring it on, Mr. Dashner!)
Though lacking in the depth of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games books or Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy, James Dashner’s The Scorch Trials is a heart-thumping rush of a book. Recommended, especially for reluctant readers.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From the first chapter:
She spoke to him before the world fell apart.
Hey, are you still asleep?
Thomas shifted in his bed, felt a darkness around him like air turned solid, pressing in. At first he panicked; his eyes snapped open as he imagined himself back in the Box–that horrible cube of cold metal that had delivered him to the Glade and the Maze. But there was a faint light, and lumps of dim shadow gradually emerged throughout the huge room. Bunk beds. Dressers. The soft breaths and gurgly snores of boys deep in slumber.
Relief filled him. He was safe now, rescued and delivered to this dormitory. No more worries. No more Grievers. No more death.
A voice in his head. A girl’s. Not audible, not visible. But he heard it all the same, though never could he have explained to anyone how it worked.
Exhaling a deep breath, he relaxed into his pillow, his razor-edged nerves settling down from that fleeting moment of terror. He spoke back, forming the words with his thoughts.
Teresa? What time is it?
No idea, she replied. But I can’t sleep. I probably dozed for an hour or so. Maybe more. I was hoping you were awake to keep me company.
Thomas tried not to smile. Even though she wouldn’t be able to see it, it would be embarrassing all the same. Didn’t give me much choice in the matter, did you? Kind of hard to sleep when someone’s talking directly into your skull.
Waa, waa. Go back to bed, then.
No. I’m good. He stared at the bottom of the bunk above him–featureless and darkly fuzzy in the shadow–where Minho was currently breathing like a guy with ungodly amounts of phlegm lodged in his throat. What’ve you been thinking about?
What do you think? Somehow she projected a jab of cynicism into the words. I keep seeing Grievers. Their disgusting skin and blubber bodies, all those metal arms and spikes. It was way too close for comfort, Tom. How’re we gonna get something like that out of our heads?
Thomas knew what he thought. Those images would never leave–the Gladers would be haunted by the horrible things that had happened in the Maze for the rest of their lives. He figured that most if not all of them would have major psychological problems. Maybe even go completely nutso.
And above it all, he had one image burned into his memories as strongly as a branded mark from a searing hot iron. His friend Chuck, stabbed in the chest, bleeding, dying as Thomas held him.
Thomas knew he would never forget that. But what he said to Teresa was: It’ll go away. Just takes a little time, that’s all.
You’re so full of it, she said.
I know. How ridiculous was it that he loved hearing her say something like that to him? That her sarcasm meant things were going to be okay? You’re an idiot, he told himself, then hoped she didn’t hear that thought.
I hate that they separated me from you guys, she said.
Thomas understood why they had, though. She was the only girl and the rest of the Gladers were teenage boys–a bunch of shanks they didn’t trust yet. Guess they were protecting you.
Yeah. I guess. Melancholy seeped into his brain with her words, stuck to them like syrup. But it sucks being alone after everything we went through.
Where’d they take you, anyway? She sounded so sad that he almost wanted to get up and look for her, but he knew better.
Just on the other side of that big common room where we ate last night. It’s a small room with a few bunks. I’m pretty sure they locked the door when they left.
See, told ya they wanted to protect you. Then he quickly added, Not that you need protecting. I’d put my money on you against at least half these shanks.
Okay, three-quarters. Including me.
A long stretch of silence followed, though somehow Thomas could still sense her presence. He felt her. It was almost like how, even though he couldn’t see Minho, he knew his friend lay only a few feet above him. And it wasn’t just the snoring. When someone is close by, you just know it.
Despite all the memories of the last few weeks, Thomas was surprisingly calm, and soon sleep overpowered him once more. Darkness settled on his world, but she was there, next to him in so many ways. Almost . . . touching.
He had no concept of time passing while in that state. Half asleep, half enjoying her presence and the thought that they’d been rescued from that horrible place. That they were safe, that he and Teresa could get to know each other all over again. That life could be good.
Blissful sleep. Hazy darkness. Warmth. A physical glow. Almost floating.
The world seemed to fade away. All became numb and sweet. And the darkness, somehow comforting. He slipped into a dream.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
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Verdict: 6 – Good
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