Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Scorch Trials - James Dashner

The Scorch Trials
I have been holding out on you. Not only did I keep my post on The Maze Runner from you for months while I waited for the movie to come out, I withheld posts about the sequels, too.

Most additions to the dystopian genre surge right now are a series. Can no one just write a good stand alone novel? Are the additional royalties really that appealing? 

Ok, ok. I'll avoid the soapbox today. In general, I like series. They give you something to get excited about and you learn more about the characters you've become invested in. Once in a while, there is a dud or two and you have zero interest in reading the sequel. Most of the time, though, you immediately put your name on the library's waiting list for book two.

Thankfully, that was the case for me after reading The Maze Runner. I stuck my name right on that waiting list and, about a month later, was reading book two: The Scorch Trials.

After reading the first book, I definitely had a bit of a Hunger Games flashback. After all, how was Dashner going to get those kids back in the arena maze? Rather than taking a cue from Suzanne Collins, Dashner did not even bother with getting his characters back to their original challenge. Instead, he made up a whole new environment and challenge for them to overcome.

I liked that he did this. It kept the series moving without feeling repetitious. (To clarify: I don't think Catching Fire feels repetitious. In fact, it might be my favorite of the series.)  In this sequel, the Gladers begin a journey across the Scorch, a hundred or so miles of barren earth raved by the sun's flares. They are told that their female counterparts are a few days ahead of them. Meanwhile, Teresa has disappeared, mysterious tattoos have appeared on their backs, and Dashner has created a whole new line of horrific terrors for them to face.

I struggled with the characters in this book. Because of the layers of deception, it became difficult to know where loyalties lay. I know this was part of the point, but Dashner took it to an extreme at points. You just didn't know who you were supposed to be rooting for, but not necessarily in a good way. When the Gladers met Jorge and Brenda in a decimated city, I simply could not decide whether they were supposed to be good or bad. I get it, I get it. That's the point. It was still frustrating, though. I mean, I'm in the middle of the third book now and still don't know! I like complex, but it seems that Dashner has made some things and characters unnecessarily so. Complexity needs to have a purpose, not just confuse readers.

I also felt that, at times, all of this led to a lack of character development. The characters all certainly have strong personalities, but I don't really see them grow much throughout the story. At points, it almost seems as though they are regressing as people rather than growing. Maybe that's the idea?

I will say, I really appreciate how Dashner has set Thomas up to deal with violence and the horrors of his world. Dashner writes, "Thomas had done the right thing. But guilt still gnawed at him, crept through his bones." I found it so refreshing to see another Katniss-like hero who does not relish violence, but rather sees it as a necessary evil to achieve a greater good. Now there's a character trait I can get behind. 

Over all, I did enjoy the book. It was not as good as its predecessor, but few sequels are. I am anxious to see where Dashner takes the story. Hopefully his climax won't be the train wreck Veronica Roth's turned out to be. Sorry, Veronica. You seem like a nice person, but you butchered (literally) the end of your series.

I'll let you know how things turn out. Next week, in fact. Come back in one week to find out if Dashner was able to successfully bring this series to a close.

Pages: 360
Date Completed: April 9, 2014

1 comment:

  1. About characters and violence: I'd like to see more characters who question whether violence really is necessary after all. It's an assumption that almost all characters make, and it needs to be questioned.