Escape from beyond-this-world maze

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 March, 2011, 12:00am

The Maze Runner
James Dashner
Published by Chicken House
ISBN 978 1 906427 50 4

Since Alice fell down that rabbit hole into Wonderland, writers of youth fiction have had teenagers pass through the back of wardrobes, fall down ventilation shafts, vanish into tunnels, step through windows in the air and walk through mirrors - just to get them into a weird world where a new story can begin.

Now it's the turn of James Dashner to get character A into world Z. What hasn't been done? Ah yes, drop the main teen character down a lift shaft in a dark lift! It has the required urgency and speed to grab the reader's attention.

When he wakes up in a strange metal box falling through the air, all Thomas can remember is his first name. He knows he is Thomas, but not who he is, why he is trapped in a metal crate or what is going to happen to him.

The beginning of The Maze Runner is a breathtaking start to Dashner's story. Things slow down when the metal crate hits the ground and the lift door opens.

When Thomas takes his first cautious steps outside the lift, he is immediately surrounded by a gang of teenage boys. They explain that he is in a dismal place called The Glade, an empty space enclosed by stone walls. They don't know how they got there either, but the boys have created a sort of society to help themselves survive. The Glade is in the centre of a maze. Every morning, someone opens a door into the maze. But is this a way out or is it a trap?

The Maze Runner is a very vivid read. The characters are real and the images, settings and situations that Dashner packs into his story are darkly exciting.