The Maze Runner by James Dashner, readalong week 1

This week sees the start of the Maze Runner (James Dashner) readalong.  The schedule is very easy going so if you fancy joining in just jump on board (send an email to SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com).  Details of schedule and participants at the end of the post.  Basically we all read the allocated chapters and then come up with questions which we all throw into the mixing pot and see what the results are.  My Q&A as follows (I’ve chosen roughly one question per participant (although I think I may have missed somebody??)  The usual obligatory spoiler declaration – if you haven’t read this and intend to do so then you might want to stop here:

1. There is a lot of ‘Glader’ language. Language is part of what makes a culture. How have the Gladers created their own culture? What other elements of culture do the Gladers have that are different from modern culture? (The others are social organization, customs/traditions, arts/literature, religion, government structure, and economic system.)  The Gladers way of life is a reflection of their need to survive.  I suppose the language has adapted over time.  I can’t really say I enjoy some of the phrases and it almost feels like it pulls me out of the story but I’m not surprised the author has used this, these boys are on their own here with no adults so it’s not really surprising that they’ve developed this language for themselves.  I suppose they’ve organised themselves into certain groupings based on weaker and stronger characters.  This reminds me a bit of a playground culture where you have bullies and popular kids.  As to the other social cultures its probably a bit early to determine but it will be interesting to think of those aspects as the story develops.

2. Do “normal” things like mayonnaise and tennis shoes take you out of the story, or ground you in it? Is “ordinary stuff” distracting or intriguing? That’s a really interesting question.  In a story set in a regular everyday world those things wouldn’t appear distracting.  What I find intriguing is the author has gone to such lengths to include those elements – such as mayonnaise on a sandwich.  It makes me wonder where the boys would get mayonnaise from??  On the face of it they appear to keep livestock and grow vegetables, etc, and be self sufficient.  This makes me wonder if they are being assisted in some ways?  I just can’t imagine them going to the trouble of making their own mayo – it’s probably a small query but it has made me wonder if they’re as self sufficient as they’re making out?

3. How do you think the leaders keep things so orderly, with the boys doing different jobs and figuring out where they fit best?  A little of this was already explained to Thomas in that the boys are given certain tasks and from there they’re chosen for whatever they seem to excel at.  How ‘order’ is maintained is another matter.  There seems to be a general rule of if you mess up you’ll be treated harshly – being thrown out or left for the grievers.  I guess that would keep people in their places.  It seems that in order to survive they all have to follow the rules and also I think others have learnt the hard way in the past and this has served as a lesson for the ones who now remain.

4. Why do you think the boys are there?  What are your guesses about what the place really is?  I haven’t read any reviews of this book so I have no other knowledge about what the Maze really is.  I was thinking two things.  Either the boys have all been put there as some sort of punishment and to survive as best they can – the Maze serves to keep them there as it clearly is a difficult to solve puzzle and is also dangerous with elements such as the grievers.  Or, maybe they’re in their as some sort of either entertainment or social experiment.  They are clearly being watched for example by these bug like insects.  Kind of puts me in mind of the Truman Show, crossed with Lord of the Flies and Saw!

5. Is the amnesia which Thomas is experiencing the result of a “mind wipe” or is it an on-going effect of the Glade?  Thomas has intermittent memory flashes in the first day he’s in Glade.  He has general impressions of a past life but no concrete memories.  I have experienced traumatic amnesia and there is no middle ground to remembering; it was a complete blank.  The symptoms which Thomas experiences seem to be a temporary condition which allows him to begin assimilation into the Glade.  As he falls asleep the first night he feels an unexpected calm which Chuck foreshadows in some of his statements about things getting easier.  It seems as though the boy’s memories have been tampered with – they don’t seem to have any recollection of pasts or families, etc.  I think this could be to allow a gradual ease into the Glade.  However, with Thomas he seems to be experiencing something that I think is more singular to him.  He comes across as though he’s been there before and has escaped??  Or could that also be a condition of his memory being tampered with?  It’s strange that he has a longing to go out with the runners already.  I suppose he could have been placed there to mix things up a bit.

6. Alby is speaking again, about rule number one. “…and if you ain’t killed by the Grievers, we’ll kill you ourselves, you get me?” This line further speculates (for me) that this situation, the maze, their living condtions, etc… they all suggest that Alby knows of something or is protecting something. Why? If he’s ultimately behind this or in charge, why did he bring himself down to their level?  I think that Alby is simply protecting the boys.  I suppose in this situation if you make an error of judgement you could place them all in danger and I get the feelings he’s trying to prevent that.  Although there is a general sense of secrecy and paranoia – the way nobody is telling Thomas anything?  It’s very curious – why not give him more information so that he knows what to expect.  Maybe he’s going to be chucked in at the deep end to see if he’ll survive. Very intriguing.

7. Do you think the narrator should have only focus on Thomas because I would have love to know what Chuck, Alby, Gally and Newt felt.  I’m quite enjoying the focus on Thomas at the moment and might find it a bit more distracting if we threw too many voices in the mix although I do like a multi POV story (such as Game of Thrones).  I would probably enjoy an alternate voice as the story progresses but I suppose keeping it to one voice we learn everything at the same time as the protagonist which increases the tension for us.

8.Environment plays a huge role in shaping a person. By removing the boys from their past environments (family, friends, society, etc.) and by removing their memories, does this fundamentally change the boys? If so, how? If not, do you think that the nature of who they are is innate and wins out over environmental factors? By having these boys “start fresh” in the Maze, is Dashner exploring how a person becomes who he/she is? Nature vs nurture. I was wondering if they had been put into the Maze as some sort of experiment or entertainment factor.  It will be interesting to see exactly why they are in there although if it is a social experiment it won’t have a big impact on us, the readers, because we won’t see the change in the boys as they’ve already had their minds wiped and so any changes would probably be a bit lost.

Schedule

Chapters 1-9     Read 27-April through 10-May. Submit Questions by 10-May. Post by 17-May
Chapters 10-19     Read 11-May through 24-May. Submit Questions by 24-May. Post by 31-May
Chapters 20-29     Read 25-May through 7-Jun. Submit Questions by 7-Jun. Post by 14-Jun
Chapters 30-38     Read 8-June through 21-Jun. Submit questions by 21-Jun. Post by 28-Jun
Chapters 39-51     Read 22-Jun through 5-Jul. Submit questions by 5-Jul. Post by 12-Jul
Chapters 52-End     Read 6-Jul through 19-Jul. Submit questions by 19 Jul. Post by 26 Jul

Other Participants to check out:

7 Responses to “The Maze Runner by James Dashner, readalong week 1”

  1. Sam

    So excited to read your post, Lynn! The book reminded me of ‘Lord of the Flies’ at points as well. I’ll put a link to your post up on the Read-Along homepage soon. Thanks for participating!

    • lynnsbooks

      I’ve updated now to include one each of the questions from Sultana and Ashalee.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Read Along: The Maze Runner #1 | Life { Faith } Tea

    […] Nicole – Hey Skip the Conversation Lynn – Lynn’s Book Blog […]

  3. Ashlee

    I love your assessment that the Glade is like the “Truman Show, crossed with Lord of the Flies and Saw”! I think that’s spot on. Very strange place and I’m looking forward to the next set of chapters.

    • lynnsbooks

      I’m also looking forward to the next chapters and the next round of discussion.
      Lynn 😀

  4. heartofsultana

    I like the mayo query! It will be interesting to see how much the outsiders / controllers of the Maze actually provide the boys.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, to be honest, it hadn’t occurred to me that they were receiving outside help but it does make sense now! That’s another reason for suspecting it’s an experiment of some kind. I keep thinking that Thomas has already been in the Maze and figured out how to escape and has been put back in to see if he can do it again – however, I’m usually quite wrong with my guesses.
      Lynn 😀

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