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Monday, July 20, 2015

Castaways in Dystopia

The Maze Runner

Courtney Druett (oldest granddaughter) told me she desperately wanted the book.  She had seen the film, and she always wants to read the book of a movie she loved.

So I bought it for her, packaged and posted it, and remained curious.  What was it like?

The movie came out.  We saw it.  Terrific.  Effects were amazing.  In fact, the effects were so great that while I could remember the story and the message (human laboratory rats in a maze), I could not remember the characters.

So I read the book.

Better than the movie.  Great, gritty writing.  But the real plus of this book is the characters.  The teenaged boys who are trapped by "the Creators" in a great, stone, ever-moving maze where hideous creatures called "Grievers" lurk, are just so admirable.

They live in the innermost section of the Maze, called the Glade (so they are Gladers).  There is constant sun and water, and the soil works, so they set to making an environment where they can survive.  Like the amazing Grafton castaways I describe in Island of the Lost, they create shelter and food.  On Auckland Island, where the Grafton castaways were stranded, the climate was just too hostile to grow anything, so they were forced to slaughter the local wild life.  In the Glade, they establish a farm and a plantation.

But all the time, they are desperate to get out.  Then Thomas arrives, and he has a number of ideas.  Hugely dangerous ones, but they ultimately work, in an edge-of-extermination situation.  And so on to the sequels, which I can't wait to read.

It was the castaway situation that fascinated me.  These boys were very bright.  They understood three basic tenets:


Have rules. Act as part of a group.  Elect leaders and obey them.  And keep busy.

There were echoes of other books.  Lord of the Flies, for one  And the other was Clockwork Orange.

Dashner's theme of leadership is reflective of the first.  What he lacks is the pseudo-religion that the boys evolved -- worship of a pig's head, as a symbol of hope, penance and aspiration.  The Grafton castaways in Island of the Lost depended greatly on standard Christian piety, of the Presbyterian persuasion.  And you may scoff, but it worked (read the book).

In Clockwork Orange -- which is basically about a group stranded in a social stratum, when you think about it -- the boys had their own language.  Burgess did this absolutely brilliantly.  Dashner has a go at a Glader patois, but it is the least successful part of the book, because it does not quite come off.

Otherwise, The Maze Runner is a tour de force.  Brilliant stuff.  Read it. Don't leave it to the kids.


Fiona said...

HI Joan

I just wanted to say a big 'thank you' for your wonderful books. You are our most read author at present! I read Islands of the Lost a couple of months ago via Kindle, (loved it), and then someone on Facebook mentioned Exotic Intruders when discussing rats and stoats (I found a copy on TradeMe) and I'm absolutely loving this insight into early NZ. At the same time my partner got Lady Castaways out of Waiheke library - and I couldn't believe this was also by you! Thank you for many hours of reading enjoyment and insights.

Joan Druett said...

Well, Fiona, you have certainly made my Sunday! Many thanks for your very kind comments, and I am so glad you are enjoying the books.