Writing on the Pages – The Maze Runner #03: Chapters 6-9

Hey, you! Before I go on with The Maze Runner, I’d first like to thank The Chosen One for letting me write something for his aptly-named blog Total Time Waste. Hopefully I’ll get to do more collaborations, both with my new friend here and with other people, and hopefully those collaborations won’t have to do with dreams about Jaden Smith screaming.

On that note, I’d also like to advertise a new blog by my friend sf1nley, Reading Disorder, which will also feature reviews of literature and anime. Welcome to the club, Sam! Can’t wait to read your stuff and do some posts together!

But enough about other people, let’s go back to me and my opinions.

CHAPTER 6

It was Newt – the guy who seemed to be second in command; the air reeked of his morning breath.

Wait a sec. Each time this guy’s name came up in the text I kept thinking of the kid from Aliens, but … wasn’t this that cute British kid in the movie?

Well, he is!

Well, he is!

Yes! I remember you now! You were cool in the film, stay cool in the book!

“When you bloody need to know, you’ll know, Greenie.”

I recently learned that “bloody” is apparently the British English equivalent of “goddamn,” which makes it a bit odd that British characters in American productions casually throw the word around. In Hollywood movies it’s a little rude to ask someone to pass the goddamn mustard, but if you ask them to pass the bloody mustard while effecting an English accent, it’s okay. I get that it emphasizes Newt’s seriousness while he shows Thomas, from the safety of some watchtower, what comes out at night in the Maze. I just wonder if our born-and-raised-in-Georgia author is aware of this linguistic fact.

Funny, he finally uses an actual swear word in the text and he probably didn’t know it. Gotcha!

A large, bulbous creature the size of a cow but with no distinct shape twisted and seethed along the ground in the corridor outside. … It was too dark to make out clearly, but odd lights flashed … revealing blurs of silver spikes and glistening flesh. Wicked instrument-tipped appendages protruded from its body like arms: a saw blade, a set of shears, long rods whose purpose could only be guessed.

This description of the Grievers does not seem to precisely match its portrayal in the films, where it was just some giant metal spider thing.

griever film

I can only wonder how people who read the book imagined them … or I can just look up fanart!

griever fanart

No offense to Ben’s Blog, where this original fanart comes from, but I prefer the spider.

His desire to become a Runner had taken a major blow. But he had to do it. Somehow he knew he had to do it.

The narrative requires it!

How could a maze, with walls so massive and tall, be so big that dozens of kids hadn’t been able to solve it after who knew how long trying? How could such a structure exist? And more importantly, why? What could possibly be the purpose of such a thing? Why were they all there? How long had they been there?

Regardless of what one thinks of the book, it must be said that this is an awesome premise and a fascinating mystery. All that remains to be seen, after the set-up convinces us to open the book, is if the writing and characters are compelling enough that we want to find out, and that we want them to find out with us. So far, I believe so.

“Ain’t you lookin’ fresh?” Alby said. “Get a nice view out the window this morning?

… “Enough to make me want to learn about this place,” he said …

My thoughts exactly.

CHAPTER 7

Alby is showing Thomas around the Glade, starting with the first thing Thomas ever saw there.

“This here’s the Box. Once a month, we get a Newbie like you, never fails.”

Wait a sec, let me check something real quick. In Chapter 2, Dashner writes, “There had to be at least fifty of them …” If new people come once a month, that means the Glade gets twelve Greenbeans a year, and if there are at the bare minimum fifty, then this maze thing has been going on for more than four years by the time Thomas came in. And considering that there’s a graveyard, meaning quite a few people have died here, then the number increases to six, maybe seven, and who knows, maybe even longer! There weren’t nearly that many boys in the Glade in the movie, probably for the sake of convenient story streamlining. So what the heck is going on?

He pointed at the pitiful living quarters. “Homestead – stupid place is twice as big than when the first of us got here because we keep addin’ to it when they send us wood and klunk.”

Heh, they send you wood and what? Or is “and klunk” some silly PG-13 equivalent of the term “and shit” as emphasis, as in, “Yes, my mix tape has music and shit”? Nah, he could’ve easily used the phrase “and stuff” if he meant that, so I’ll just assume they live in a literal craphouse.

So Alby’s just aggressively showing him around their community’s four sections: the Gardens, where they farm crops and raise livestock; the Blood House, where they slaughter said livestock (and possibly people? Must keep that question in mind); the Homestead, the aforementioned dung building; and the Deadheads, the graveyard, of which Alby significantly says little until Thomas presses him.

“Two years, I’ve been here. Ain’t none been here longer. The few before me are already dead.”

Oh man, that “seven years” hypothesis just got a whole lot darker …

Or maybe they started out with thirty people or something and it’s only been about a few years? Yeah, didn’t think of that until now.

[Alby] was cut off by a booming, ringing alarm …

“Alby! What’s going on?”

“The Box, shuck-face, the Box!” was all Alby said before he set off for the middle of the Glade at a brisk pace that almost looked to Thomas like panic.

Man, this book moves at a brisk pace. In the movie it took several days for this to happen, and Thomas and the audience were given time to take in everything. At this point in the book, Thomas just came in yesterday!

CHAPTER 8

… Thomas was startled to realize he’d arrived just yesterday. Yesterday? he thought. Was that really just yesterday?

Yes, I just said that! Stop being more clever than me, book!

So the entire Glade is gathered around the box, waiting for the imminent and utterly unexpected arrival of a new Greenbean. How is Thomas handling this high-stress situation?

“Chuck, never wink at me again.”

He meets up with Chuck, who makes it a point to explicitly tell the audience that they are “buddies now.” Who needs to take time organically developing a relationship between characters when they can just nudge each other and have Thomas ponder about the usefulness of a friend in the Glade?

“Hey, look.” Chuck stopped and pointed to someone in the crowd. It was Gally, staring dead at them.

“Shuck it,” Chuck said. “He does not like you, man.”

“Yeah,” Thomas muttered. “Figured it out already.”

Yeah, figured it o- Darn it, book! Anyway, on the note of making character relationships obvious, here comes Gally, serving as filler while the Box takes a whole thirty minutes to come up.

Once the box finally comes up, Alby and Newt investigate and fall into bewilderment. At first it was only crazy because there were two Newbies in two days, but this surprise is almost too much for the seasoned leaders to comprehend at first. What could be so stunning and confusing?

“It’s a girl.”

AH! FEMALE REPRESENTATION!

And the boys react exactly as you’d expect:

“A girl?”

“I got dibs!”

“What’s she look like?”

Ah, teenage boys. You’re so predictable.

“You know what’s predictable? Deez nuts.” “OOOOOH!”

Newt silences the bunch by telling them he thinks she’s dead, and they drag the unmoving body out of the box. Everyone looks at Thomas, suspecting he killed her or something, and Alby, who reasonably finds the entire affair suspicious, rather unreasonably accuses Thomas of knowing her. Meanwhile, Dashner lovingly describes how pretty – pardon, “beautiful” – this sixteen-year-old girl is, taking care to point out her number one feature is her skin color: “pale, white as pearls.”

… The girl shot up into a sitting position. … Alby cried out and fell backward. Newt gasped and jumped up, stumbling away from her. …

Burning blue eyes darted back and forth as she took deep breaths. Her pink lips trembled as she mumbled something over and over, indecipherable. Then she spoke one sentence – her voice hollow and haunted, but clear.

Oh man, now that that ridiculous crap is over, I am stressed and hyped. She’s not dead, the freaking leaders of the club are spooked, Dashner’s writing gets vivid again, and all after so much has already happened in the past five pages, what could she possibly say?!

Everything is going to change.”

Come on, book, we talked about this already! This cliche is the important thing she had to scream to the world? This “dark and stormy night”-level overused trope is the five-word mantra that’s gonna shake up the whole thing?! With this and the silliness with Chuck and Alby in this chapter, can’t the author realize that show is always more effective than tell and –

Clutched in her hand was a wadded piece of paper.

… Scrawled across the paper in thick black letters were five words:

She’s the last one.

Ever.

Oh.

Um.

kermit panic

CHAPTER 9

So recap: the day after Thomas arrived, another person comes in the Box, which is highly unusual and, to some, even suspicious. It gets even stranger when it turns out to be a girl, and it gets scarier when a note in her hand reveals that she is the last person they’ll ever get in the Glade. After a moment of shocked silence from the boys (and Alby calling for “med-jacks,” meaning doctors), what’s the first thing they say?

“Who said Clint had first shot at her?” someone yelled from the crowd. There were several barks of laughter. “I’m next!”

As uneasy as I am, this is probably realistic.

“You know what’s realistic? Deez nuts!” “HOHO, IT MAKES A COMEBACK!”

At least Thomas feels “sick” from their reaction and Alby threatens banishment to anyone who touches her (other than the med-jacks hauling her away, of course).

Thomas’s gut clenched. He knew that he and the girl were connected somehow. They’d come a day apart, she seemed familiar, he had a consuming urge to become a Runner despite learning so many terrible things. … What did it all mean?

Wait, what does wanting to be a Runner have to do with the girl? Is he the only boy in the gang who wants to run away from her?

Alright, let’s conclude this with some brief initial thoughts on Chuck. In Chapter 8 he meets up with Thomas and lightens the mood with some comedy, and in Chapter 9 he playfully calls Thomas a psycho and takes him to get some food. He’s all jokes, which even includes scaring people in the john, and Thomas sees him as the one friend he’s made so far.

Thing is, he’s still really sketchy.

“This is crazy. How can this be for real? Somebody sent us here. Somebody evil.”

Chuck paused. “Quit complaining. Just accept it and don’t think about it.”

Note the pause. Thomas asks the really big questions and even dares to say their placement there was by someone “evil,” and Chuck had to stop to think before using the ol’ “don’t think about it” misdirection. You know, because it always shuts up people who ask a lot of questions.

Shockingly, Thomas asks something else, “one of the million questions bouncing through his brain.”

“So where does the electricity come from?”

“Who cares? I’ll take it.”

What a surprise, Thomas thought. No answer.

This goes on for almost three pages. Thomas asks how he can become a Runner, and Chuck says, “Not that again” and even “roll[s] his eyes dramatically, leaving no doubt as to how stupid an idea he thought that would be.” Thomas ponders if they’re criminals with wiped memories and they’ve been placed in the maze as punishment, and Chuck says, “Huh? … Where did that happy thought come from?” He then dismisses it by pointing out that he’s only 12 or 13 … which is fair, but then he dismisses any line of questioning about their lot in life.

“It’s better than -“

“Yeah, I know, living in a pile of klunk.” Thomas stood up and pushed his chair back under the table. He liked Chuck, but trying to have an intelligent conversation with him is impossible.

Chuck is a suspicious character who is deliberately dodging all questions and trying to persuade Thomas that there is nothing wrong with being entrapped in a maze, surrounded by cyborg slug monsters, and monitored by an unknown party’s cybernetic insect sentinels. It’s so jarring because this is not at all how they characterize him in the movie, and it makes even less sense because he’s the Greenie before him. Chuck has only been here for a month, and he’s already desensitized? He doesn’t care that he can’t remember his age, his last name, his anything, and that he knows even less? How did Mr. Nice Guy get like this so quickly?

Of course, maybe he doesn’t care and has just adjusted his mind to be used to this new life. Maybe I just can’t understand why because I feel I’d be more like Thomas. But it’s still weird to me.

So, before anyone gets confused by the mention of cybernetic insect sentinels, one appears at the end of the chapter. It’s called a “beetle blade.” Check out this detail that closes the chapter and today’s post:

He caught a gleam of red light sweeping the ground in front of the creature as if it came from its eyes. Logic told him it had to be his mind playing tricks on him, but he swore he saw the word WICKED scrawled down its rounded back in large green letters. Something strange had to be investigated.

“WICKED”? Really? And in case it was too subtle, Dashner made sure to go all-caps on it (all reasonable people use all-caps!). This …

Fine, I’ll do it.

I couldn't put into words my disbelief at how ridiculous this is, so I just copped out and put this.

I couldn’t put into words my disbelief at how ridiculous this is, so I just copped out and put this.

That’s all for now! And I don’t just mean that about the post, I mean that the next post won’t be about The Maze Runner! Yep, finally doing something other than Writing on the Pages. Here’s a hint for what’s next: it is one big pile of shit.

… Wait, I don’t mean that the post will be shit, it’s a quote, a reference, please …

Darn it, it’s a tribute to Jurassic Park, happy now?

RADDman

And that’s what I was referencing!

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