Hey, you! Finally back to this book. Yes, I’m still reading it, even though it’s been two years since I got it and if I weren’t doing this blog on it, I’d be able to polish it off in two, three days tops. Now let’s see, where was I?
Moving as fast as he could, Thomas crashed through the heavy foliage, thin branches slapping at his face.
… All the while, his eyes stayed riveted on the beetle blade scuttling across the forest floor.
Oh yeah! At the end of Chapter 9, Thomas found a beetle blade – a buglike robot that, according to Alby, is used by whoever set up the Glade to spy on its residents – and decided to go after it. How long does his chase go on? It doesn’t even last to the end of the page.
He’d lost the sucker.
“Shuck it,” Thomas whispered, almost as a joke. Almost. As strange as it seemed, the word felt natural on his lips, like he was already morphing into a Glader.
I’d make yet another snide comment ridiculing the forced usage of this childish euphemism, but something’s changed. Since I started doing this blog and thinking in-depth about this book …
I’ve caught myself using the word.
Dear god, I’m going native! Quick, book, remind me that you’re silly!
A twig snapped somewhere to his right and he jerked his head in that direction. …
“Who’s there?” Thomas yelled out, a tingle of fear shooting across his shoulders. …
“Anybody there? … It’s me, Thomas. The new guy. Well, second-newest guy.”
There we go, thanks, dear! And before you say anything about me being too critical, even Thomas thinks he, and I quote, “sounded like a complete idiot.”
What’s going on now is that Thomas heard a few sudden sounds and started walking towards the point he believes they came from. Without meaning to, he finds himself at the graveyard.
Thomas is already aware of some of the possible dangers of his new existence, and now he is at the one place where this awful truth can be made truly clear. Our protagonist, the new Glader (well, second-newest), is walking over the graves of teenagers, the poor souls who died well before their time without ever learning the truth of the land that ultimately killed them! If handled right, this scene can be a chilling and emotional turning point. What’s Thomas’s next move?
He leaned closer to the first cross. It looked fresh and bore the name Stephen …
Stephen, Thomas thought, feeling an unexpected but detached sorrow. What’s your story? Chuck annoy you to death?
Have some goddamn respect! Guys, if you’re not reading this book, you don’t understand just how irritating this is. Dashner is actually really competent at description and build-up, and the way he described the graveyard itself before this garbage happened strongly evoked a mood of somberness, silence, and reverence. But when he brings his protagonist face-to-face with a reminder that he can die here – and the grave is fresh – he makes the lad crack a joke at the expense of another character.
Is this meant to be comedy relief? This is the precisely wrong moment for comedy! The kid’s in a cemetery made by other kids for other kids, and you, you just – why?!
So he checks out the other graves and sees one smaller than the rest. Taking a closer look, Thomas finds that it contains only the head-and-torso half of a corpse. Etched on the window is a marker …
Let this half-shank be a warning to all:
You can’t escape through the Box Hole.
Thomas felt the odd urge to snicker – it seemed tpo ridiculous to be true.
What did I just say what did I just say?! Is Thomas just devoid of empathy? Was he not raised with respect for the dead? That’s probably one of the most horrific events in the history of the Glade and he freaking has to resist from laughing – have some decency! “Odd urge” doesn’t begin to describe how out-of-place this is!
Okay, two strikes. I try to be patient and forgiving, and I’m not giving up on this reading session just yet!
… He had stepped aside to read more names of the dead when another twig broke, this time straight in front of him, right behind the trees on the other side of the graveyard.
Then another snap. Then another. Coming closer. And the darkness was thick.
There we go! What follows is an extremely one-sided fight between Thomas and an unknown attacker, brilliantly described as “a relentless jumble of skin and bones cavorting on top of him.” This ambusher even manages to really hurt Thomas, driving him into one of the grave markers and biting his shoulder like a freaking zombie! After all the strikes in this chapter, this is a single-base, maybe even double-base hit. And the attacker?
… You know, the screaming guy from the infirmary!
… The guy who’s really sick and stuff?
Well, even if you can’t remember him, it’s him!
Thank goodness we’re done with that trainwreck of a chapter, and this one’s already off to a good start with our hero getting pounced!
Ben crouched, ready to spring for another attack. At some point a knife had made an appearance, gripped in his right hand.
Excuse me, Dashner, did you just say that a knife manifested from nowhere? Was it too hard to edit the previous chapter so that he was holding one the entire time? Okay, forget it, I just wanna see a fight. Give me the fight!
Thomas looked toward the voice, surprised to see Alby standing at the edge of the graveyard, a mere phantom in the fading light. Relief flooded Thomas’s body – Alby held a large bow, an arrow cocked for the kill, pointed straight at Ben.
“Ben,” Alby repeated. “Stop right now, or you ain’t gonna see tomorrow.”
Aw yeah, the stakes just got raised!
The rest of this scene is just awesome. Ben suddenly tells Alby, “If you kill me, you’ll get the wrong guy,” and goes on to make vague, frightening statements about how Thomas is bad (more accurately, “bad, bad, bad, bad, bad”) and wants “to take us home … out of the Maze” – which is apparently terrible. Ben gets increasingly fidgety, Alby starts counting to three, Thomas is on the verge of flipping out, and then:
There was the sound of snapping wire. The whoosh of an object slicing through the air. The sickening, wet thunk of it finding a home.
Ben’s head snapped violently to the left, twisting is body until he landed on his stomach, his feet pointed toward Thomas. He made no sound.
This story’s reached Lord of the Flies territory, with Ben being the first (I expect more) kid to be killed by other kids – fittingly, in the graveyard. Who knows how many of the other Gladers buried there went through this mysterious “Changing” like he did? How many also died from another Glader’s hand? What was up with the whole “He’ll wanna take us home” thing? Is it a delusion that others before him had? Oh, how nice it is to be critically thinking about this book again instead of sitting there with that 4chan George Costanza face.
Thomas does a little critical thinking of his own: after understandably hurling, he has a realization about all the crap he’s been through.
He’d now been at the Glade for roughly twenty-four hours. One full day. That was it. And look at all the things that had happened. All the terrible things.
Surely it could only get better.
Let’s recap the last 24 hours of Thomas’s life. He:
- Woke up in a dark hole, trapped in a cage with no memories of his life
- Found himself in a freakish weird new world while strange kids poked him
- Got hassled by almost everyone on his first day for no good reason
- Learned that they’re all trapped in the middle of a maze with robot spies watching them and giant monsters lurking within the maze itself
- Got suspiciously denied any answers to any of his questions about their situation
- Was attacked by a psycho with a knife
- Watched said psycho get arrow’d in the face and freaking die
And these are the first eleven chapters of the book … out of 62. Poor guy.
Out of sympathy for our friend here (and because I was able to write so much on these 1.5 chapters alone), I think I’m gonna cut off this post here. I’ll finish the rest of Chapter 11 in the next edition of Writing on the Pages.