Thomas wakes up inside a maze, with no memories about his past life or the world outside. There’s a bunch of teenage boys living in a compound in the middle of the maze, and they’ve been trying to solve the mystery of the maze for two years, even though to be honest they aren’t doing that good of a job. Also there’s slug monsters roaming the maze, and the walls shift overnight, and then a girl shows up bearing a cryptic message.
That’s all I can say about the plot without spoiling it, and the plot was just about the only enjoyable thing in this mess of a book. Let’s start with the characters. Thomas, for one, was a complete and utter Gary Stu. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s the male equivalent of a Mary Sue: a character that has no negative traits whatsoever, who is flat and uninteresting and ultimately annoying to read about because they never do anything wrong. Thomas was only tolerable because he was surrounded by characters that were actively worse than him, bullying him around and withholding information for no reason whatsoever. Literally two thirds of the plot are made up of “mysteries” that aren’t really mysteries, the kids know the answer but they haven’t bothered explaining yet. Either because they’re assholes or because the author forgot.
Sidenote. I like numbers, and I like to count things. Early on I was trying to get an idea of how many kids there are in the stupid maze. Alby said: “Two years, I’ve been here. Ain’t none been here longer. The few before me are already dead.”
Yeah, they all speak like that, and also use made-up words like “shuck-face” and “klunk” and “greenbean” all the time. Then we’re told (repeatedly, sometimes twice within five pages) that a new kid shows up in the Box every month. Random nouns like Box and Glade and Grievers are also capitalized, because they are Important Things and pertaining to the Maze’s mystery and we should be impressed. Anyway, Alby has been there two years, one new kid each month, considering that there’s a graveyard with fresh graves I figured there were maybe twenty kids living in the maze and visualized all group scenes accordingly. So I was slightly confused when, a hundred pages later, the book started telling me about “dozens of kids”. Waaay later, right at the end of the book, it turned out that a new kid showed up every month but in the beginning there had been a big group. Really? You’ve told me a hundred times about the one-kid-per-month thing but you couldn’t be bothered to tell me about the group? And doesn’t that contradict what Alby said, anyway?
There are a lot of characters and events that contradict themselves in this book, mostly as a result of the author’s “tell, don’t show” kind of writing. Alby acts like a douche to Thomas in a scene, but in his internal monologue Thomas tells me that Alby is all right after all. In the next chapter, Thomas tells me that he could never stand Alby. This is true for more or less all characters. They have no personality and the only way to tell them apart is by their role: Alby is the leader, Newt is the second in command, Minho is the boss of the runners, Chuck is the one who does the odd jobs… and so on. There are two doctors — pardon, Med-jacks — and as such it’s impossible to tell them apart. That means that I didn’t care when any of those characters died, because they were little more than a name to me.
This is definitely a plot-driven book, not a character-driven book, but even so I’d expect the characters to be a little more than cardboard cutouts. Also, while I said that the plot was enjoyable, that doesn’t mean that the plot was good. I liked the mystery of the maze and I wanted to find out more about it, but unfortunately what I found was largely disappointing. There isn’t much more to the maze than shifting walls and monsters, and I would have liked Thomas to explore more on his own. Almost every scene inside the labyrinth went like this:
Thomas: “What’s that?”
Other Guy With Thomas: “Shut your mouth shuck-face, don’t you know about that Thing, we’ve been here two years, we know all about the Thing, the Thing is useless, do you think you know more than us, nobody can solve the Maze, we know about the Thing and it’s useless.”
Thomas: *proceeds to do something with the Thing that nobody had thought before and will ultimately help them escape the Maze*
To top it off, escaping the Maze mostly involved Thomas getting some of his memories back and then declaring that “the Maze can’t be solved” as he explained to the other kids how to solve the maze. This might be one of the rare cases where it’s better to watch the movie instead of reading the book, because at least in the movie you have Dylan O’Brien’s face and some cool CGI.