The Scorch Trials
By James Dashner
Published by Delacorte Press in 2010.
Sequel to The Maze Runner.
Warning: Some spoilers below for The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials [nothing that a) you won’t find out in the first 20 pages, and b) would completely ruin the book for you].
For a non-spoilery summary of my thoughts, skip to the end (“Final thoughts”).
When we left Thomas and his friends from the Glade, they had just battled through a pack of Grievers, escaped the Maze, and been rescued by a group claiming to be against WICKED. Then we find out that the “escape” was just another part of WICKED’s plan. Soon they realize that something’s not right – Teresa goes missing and a new boy, Aris, is put in her place. Now Thomas, Newt, Minho, and the rest of the Gladers, along with newcomer Aris, must make their way through the Scorch, a desolate wasteland crawling with plagued humans known as Cranks, and arrive at the designated Safe Haven before time runs out.
The Scorch Trials suffers immensely from “second book syndrome” and I had to force my way through most of it. Unlike The Maze Runner, which had elements of mystery and a puzzle to solve, The Scorch Trials lays out the base of what is going to happen up front. Thomas and his Gladers must get to “open air” and then head due north until they reach the “safe haven”. Putting what needs to be done at the front of the book took away a lot of the elements I liked about The Maze Runner. This book just became a story about kids on the run and trying to survive, which leaves Thomas too much time to whine about just about everything that comes across his path. The result is . . . irritating to say the least.
Because of this, I’d say that the first 60% of this book I really really didn’t like, but it was compelling enough to keep going. Things finally start to pick up when they arrive at a city full of Cranks, and one particular scene in a network of underground tunnels was especially creepy. After that, the pace picks up and doesn’t stop until the end.
Some of the things that happen to Thomas and co. are just plain bizarre, and some kind of make sense. Thomas starts experiencing dream flashbacks to his childhood, and his distrust of WICKED grows into his defining trait. And yet through it all, he still wants to believe that “WICKED is good”, though he’s clearly very conflicted about it.
I could have done without a lot of Thomas’s out-of-place agonizing over Teresa. I just never understood their connection – I felt like it was barely touched upon in the first book, and Thomas just seemed too ready to accept that Teresa was a friend – and Thomas gets really irritating about the whole thing. When we are introduced to Brenda, things get even worse.
I think part of my problem, again, is that Dashner just doesn’t write girls/women very well. Brenda and Teresa seem pretty much like the same person (barring physical attributes), and they both have some weird draw to Thomas. Maybe this has to do with his life before the memory swipe, or maybe it’s just poor characterization, at this point, it’s too early for me to tell, which in itself isn’t a very good sign.
The book ended with a not-very-surprising surprise that, yes, will make you interested in reading the next book in the series, but will also frustrate you. I don’t want to give too much away if you plan on reading it. I would say, if you’ve already invested in The Maze Runner and are willing to devote yourself to two more books, you should keep going. But if you didn’t like The Maze Runner, then you really won’t like The Scorch Trials.
Final thoughts (spoiler free):
A somewhat disappointing sequel to The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials definitely suffers from an acute case of second book syndrome. Many of The Maze Runner’s redeeming qualities are missing in this one, but if you can push through the first 60% or so, it gets better. If, like me, you just really want to find out what the hell is going on, it’s probably worth it to keep going.
Check out my review of The Maze Runner before you start the series!