Saturday, October 30, 2010
A Real Scorcher
At times a sequel can far surpass the original book. It isn't easy, and rarely does it involve a huge plot shift. In The Scorch Trials, by James Dasher, the sequel to The Maze Runner, the story takes twists and turns that will leave the reader's head spinning. While the first book had the group of boys (Gladers) surviving the terrifying maze that turned out to be a test for scientists to help save the damaged world, this second book takes that horrifying idea even further.
The story begins just after the Gladers were saved from the Maze. They were ushered into a building under the cloak of darkness, fed, and left to sleep away their terrors. When they wake up, the people who brought them there are all dead, hanging in the common room. Thomas goes looking for Teresa, the only girl ever sent to the Glade and the girl he can speak to telepathically, but finds a strange boy in her room and no sign of Teresa. They find out from this boy quickly that there was another Maze- an all girls' maze that ended with Aris arriving as the only boy the same way Teresa arrived in the boys' maze. Stuck in the compound with no way out and bars on the windows (which keeps out the crazy Cranks- people driven to murderous madness by a disease called Flare), the boys spend days starving and wondering if they had been left to die.
Finally, when they are on the brink of starvation induced madness, a Rat-faced man arrives to tell them they are about to begin the next phase of their trials- the Scorch Trials. They will have to exit the compound and make it across the solar-flare ravaged desert, which is teeming with Cranks, in order to get to the safe house where they will be cured of the Flare. If they don't make it to the safe house, they will die by slipping into insanity like so many millions of other people have. The catch? The Scorch trials will make the Maze look paradise.
The Gladers choose to make a run for it, but even the entrance out of the compound and out into the world isn't safe. A weird metallic substance drips from the ceiling and hardens around the heads of the unfortunate, ultimately decapitating them. Once they reach the outside, the sun is so severe it threatens to give third degree burns with only a couple of hours of exposure. After quickly making meager protective shields for the sun, they escape the tunnel and set out across the Scorch. Unfortunately, everything from frighteningly intense electrical storms to cannibalistic Cranks are between them and the cure for their Flare. With the help of a couple of Cranks who aren't too affected by the disease yet, the Gladers who have lasted this far finally have a chance of making it to the safe haven. The last part of the trial, though, may involve more than they had bargained for- especially when they encounter the group of girls from the other maze.
This is a crazy second installment. When you think you have finally figured out the formula for the story, Dashner slaps you in the face with a totally new twist. The characters are put through so much, you can hardly believe any kid could survive long enough to make it to the other side of the trial. The violence is more graphic, the scenarios are more frightening, and the warped government reaches new levels of post-apocalyptic madness. This is a good series for that kid who needs constant action and twists to keep their attention. I think this book is a little like The Maze Runner's juvenile delinquent older brother. It will keep even the most easily distracted reader's attention from cover to cover.