The Scorch Trials is the sequel to one of my favorite books last year, The Maze Runner. Both books are action-heavy and feature REALLY AWESOME/SCARY monsters and places, and the characters are subjects of experiments run by a mysterious organization called WICKED. It all sounds pretty cool, (and it all IS pretty cool!), but I can’t help but be a little disappointed by the actual writing and plot development.
If you haven’t read The Maze Runner, the premise is pretty simple: a bunch of boys are dropped into a gigantic labyrinth with no memories of where they came from or explanation of why they’re there. So they start exploring the maze, trying to find a way out. But if you don’t get back to the center of the maze (known as the Glade) by nightfall, the entrances to the maze close and terrifying monsters called Grievers will kill you. Grievers are like giant slugs with deadly Edward Scissorhands appendages. Fun, right?
The Scorch Trials picks up right where the first book leaves off. Thomas, Teresa, and the other Gladers have found a way to escape the Maze, and they’re met by a group of people who say they’re there to rescue them. They all get a real meal and a good night’s sleep before they realize it’s a trap, and that they’ve actually been thrown into another bizarre experiment.
This is where my problems begin. ANOTHER experiment? Really? I was skeptical when Katniss had to go back into the Hunger Games in Catching Fire, but then Suzanne Collins made it awesome by changing up the formula in a clever way and having something completely game-changing happen at the end. But in The Scorch Trials, it’s kind of more of the same. The landscape is different – instead of being trapped in a maze, the Gladers are out in an open desert and then the ruins of a city. But there’s never much direction. They’ve been given instructions on where to go, but as a reader you can never figure out if they should be following those instructions or if it’s another trap. There’s not enough development for characters like Teresa or Aris to get a sense of how they should react in any situation or whether you should trust them, which is IMPORTANT since they are set up as backstabbers.
But all that said, I keep reading this series because COOL STUFF HAPPENS. I mean, how can you not like a book that features zombies and ridiculous lightning storms in the desert? And Alex Mack-silver goo-monsters that turn your head into a metal ball and kill you? And giant humanoids that you kill by attacking vulnerable bulbs all over their bodies, just like in a Zelda boss battle?
I mean, this is all good stuff. I just wish there was a more cohesive plot, and that the characters were more defined. They’re sort of interchangeable at this point. I didn’t really have an emotional response to any of the kids dying in this book, because I couldn’t remember who they were. And that’s kind of a problem. Furthermore, by the end of the book, we didn’t have any more answers than at the beginning. Thomas still doesn’t know who WICKED is or what their agenda is, he doesn’t know why he found signs all over the city saying that he is the real leader, and he doesn’t know why he and Teresa are special or why everyone is being put through these trials. I feel like there needed to be more payoff in order to keep the reader invested.
So, the bottom line is this: I like this books a lot, but there are some pretty big problems keeping me from loving it. I actually think this is a series that might fare BETTER as a movie, since the best parts are the cool hybrid monster-machines and the scenery, and the weak parts are things like characterization. I’m very excited to see how the upcoming movie version of The Maze Runner turns out. And I’ll pick up the third book and final book in the trilogy, but it better deliver some real answers.