Exploring the art of storytelling.
Over the past few months, I have read the entire Maze Runner series by James Dashner. My goal was to finish the first book before the movie came out, but I ended up just reading all the sequels (and prequel) which may or may not have been a good idea. Here are my thoughts on the overall series:
I liked how the situation broadened in each book. The main conflict of “The Maze Runner” was to escape the maze. As we delved into “The Scorch Trials,” the conflict surrounded the larger problem: the Flare and the Cranks. As the series went on, we were given more and more glimpses of the bigger picture. Dashner illustrated that this wasn’t a situation for just the Gladers, but the entire human civilization as well.
I liked that Dashner added scientific summaries at the end of each book. Not only was this original, but it was also an interesting detail that provided more information about Wicked and their trials.
Dashner is an inventor. For this particular series, he created new words and technologies, diving into the world of his story. Being a story from the future, Dashner did a great job in creating the slang of this futuristic society. This was a small detail, but added a lot of realism to the story. I could easily envision words such as Shuck and Crank being used in the future. Along with the unique diction, I liked all of the technology that Dashner created for his future world. Some examples were the Flat Trans, bergs, transvices. This future technology wasn’t too out of the box, so I was able to understand how it worked and truly believe that it could exist in the future.
Creative writing teachers have engrained the phrase “show, don’t tell” in my brain. Writing is an art and being an artist, the writer’s job is to create a story in which he/she uses descriptions, dialogue, and plot to evoke feelings and thoughts in his/her readers. Unfortunately, in Dashner’s case, he did not take this rule to heart. Throughout his series, a lot of the information provided about the characters, setting, objects, dialogue, and/or action was told through summary, usually from the point of view of Thomas or Mark. Dashner told instead of showed. For example, in “The Kill Order,” Dashner wrote, “Alec asked, his tone making it clear what a crackpot idea he thought it was.” Personally, I don’t fully understand what type of tone Dashner is describing. It would have served him better to describe the tone that Alec spoke with rather than what it implied. Did he talk slowly or quickly? Was it loud or soft? High-pitched or low-pitched? Etc. etc. Similar lines occurred throughout the series, preventing me from really understanding what was happening. I wish Dashner provided more sensory details, allowing me to interpret the characters and their actions on my own.
Now for my biggest complaint: In all four books, the female characters were stereotypical. They were one-dimensional and not provided many lines or actions. The descriptions of them were through the eyes of male characters and were usually just summaries rather than sensory details and specific dialogue. And most female characters were just romantic figures for the males. Teresa and Brenda were very focused on Thomas (which was odd to begin with because Thomas lacked any type of personality). In a situation like this, I would have expected the women to be more focused on defeating Wicked and less focused on romance, especially considering the fact that the male characters were far less focused on romance. This was also true for Lana and Trina. They were the damsels in distress that lacked any personality. The male characters were far more interesting and unique than the female characters, and this bothered me greatly.
At the center of every story, there is a conflict that needs to be resolved. In the Maze Runner series, this conflict is never resolved. In “The Death Cure,” Thomas never defeated Wicked. Instead, he just ran away. He escaped and didn’t accomplish anything. In “The Kill Order,” Mark never stopped the spread of the virus. Throughout the entire series, nothing was accomplished. Even character relationships such as that between Thomas and Teresa and Thomas and Newt were never resolved. Overall, the endings were disappointing and caused me to question why Dashner even wrote his story. I found no true meaning in the endings, and felt like I was cheated.
Overall, I think this story will be much better as a film. There is a lot of action with little character development. The filmmakers have a lot of visual effects to work with which will look great on the big screen. And hopefully the screenwriters can make a few adjustments, allowing more depth to the female characters and maybe a more satisfying ending. We’ll just have to wait and see.