Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Kill Order: Full-on Apocalyptic

Book Review: The Kill Order by James Dashner

I'm not a fan of apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic literature, although I did enjoy reading The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure, all part of the Maze Runner series. But The Kill Order is the prequel to that series that tells what led up to the three-part series. This book is full-on apocalyptic.

It's full of rich detail like Dashner's other books, has a main male teenage hero who has crush on a female teenager, and he's fighting a foe - in this case, it's the Flare, the virus set off by the multiple governments that survived a solar flare that roasted Earth. That's where the comparisons end.

The story begins as humans attempt to rebuild their lives after the massive solar flare and then are without warning attacked by an unknown force with darts laced with the virus that will become known as "the Flare." Everything sinks into chaos afterwards as the virus spreads out of control and our main characters, with the aid of two adults who have rescued them after the solar flares, try to find the unknown force to get answers. It takes a downward spiral from there as the characters fight off memories of the effects of the solar flare and then a never-ending zombie-like horde of sick people affected by the virus. It gets down right ugly.

Unlike the Maze Runner series, this book has no happy ending. It's actually quite a depressing read with few high points. At first I thought the main character, Mark, would turn out to become Thomas, and his love interest, Trina, would become Teresa, in The Maze Runner. Sadly, no. Then I thought perhaps one of the minor characters, a child named Deedee who is immune to the virus they rescue during the book, would become Teresa, but I think not.

As I read this book I found myself liking it less and less, unlike the other books. It's well written, don't misunderstand me, but a story that drags me through despair and gives me as a reader little hope for the characters and then in the end snuffs out all hope is not my kind of reading. Perhaps it had to be that way to lead the reader into the world that created the scenario behind The Maze Runner series. But I would have felt better off without it.

Dashner's next book coming out at the end of September is The Fever Code, which is book five, another Maze Runner prequel. I bought The Kill Order - I don't plan on buying this next installment.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Death Cure: A Satisfying Conclusion to the Maze Runner Series

Book Review: The Death Cure by James Dashner

What a great conclusion to the Maze Runner series was The Death Cure!

I bought The Death Cure after watching The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials movies. After being disoriented by reading The Death Cure, because it didn't seem to connect with what I saw in the movies, I began reading the series from scratch. I'm glad I did, because while the movies track generally with the books, the movies diverge from the books in some significant ways and the books are - as is generally true when comparing movies with their original books - much better.

As interesting and compelling as The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials were, The Death Cure didn't proceed or end in the way I expected it to. And yet, it ended in a totally satisfying way. Well, there was the way Dashner dealt with Newt, which I didn't find satisfying. And I would like what happened to Teresa to have been different. But Thomas's end was very satisfying, as was Minho's. And what happened to Rat Man was equally satisfying. I thank Dashner for that.

The movie version of The Death Cure is supposed to release in February 2017. I have read some speculation of how it will treat the characters considering the departures the other movies took from their original books, and I have my own theories. I believe the screenwriters will bring the movie arc back to its original plot as the others did, even if it departs from it in other ways. But there will be a significant departure that I won't conjecture on here. It relates back to the relationship between Thomas and Brenda and something significant that occurred near the end of The Scorcher Trials movie.

Ah, but this is a book review. Back on topic. The story line moves into a more zombie-esk extreme tale in this last book of the trilogy, which brings Thomas, Minho, Newt, and the other survivors to Denver. I'm not a fan of zombie stories. But the ending of the story more than makes up for this strange diversion from the tale.

On the whole, The Death Cure fits in nicely with the other two parts of the series, and if you enjoyed them you will enjoy this final piece of the puzzle. I look forward to seeing the movie when it comes out in 2017 and seeing how the filmmakers bring that version to conclusion. I hope it is as successful as the book.

As a fan of The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials, I can highly recommend The Death Cure. Enjoy!

By the way, I thought the fourth book, The Kill Order, was another sequel. It isn't. It's actually a prequel to the series, and I'm reading it now. I'll review it, too, once I finish it.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The Scorch Trials: So Good I Didn't Want to Put It Down

Book Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

I finished reading The Scorch Trials by James Dashner in two days, it was that good.

The Scorch Trials is book two of The Maze Runner series, in the young adults genre. Its subtitle is, "The Maze Was Only the Beginning." Dashner wasn't kidding. Whereas The Maze pitted twenty or so teen boys and a teen girl against a series of tests they weren't really expected to solve and deadly beasts called Grievers, The Scorch was a trial of teens against nature, infected humans called Cranks, and a series of trials they were expected to solve. And the story began to fill in a series of mysteries only begun to be surfaced during The Maze.

Dashner paced the novel well, presenting interesting new characters as well as bringing along past ones, stringing along the reader to the very end through a series of hoops and loops through the narrative thread that kept you guessing, much as each of the characters were kept guessing. Although this is clearly science fiction or fantasy or speculative fiction, it could just as easily be a mystery or thriller. And never once was I tempted to put the book down, other than the need for sleep. Honestly, I was so interested in resolving the mystery and conflict, I desperately wanted to get to the end of the story, to help get the characters to safety, as much as the characters themselves wanted to reach the end of the trials.

There are two more books the series: The Death Cure and The Kill Order. I can't wait to get to them, next. I know they will be as solid reads as the first two. Actually, I can't wait to finish them. Dashner is that good of a writer.

Do yourself a favor and read this series. You don't have to be a young adult to enjoy it. Put yourself in the place of these characters and enjoy the journey.