So, I love James Dashner! I love being able to recommend a for sure read-alike for the Hunger Games to a boy. The Maze Runner never disappoints anybody. It wheels you in from the first page. And Dashner’s whole series had a way of sucking you in until it was finished. As soon as this appeared on Net Galley, I snagged it. Thank you Delacorte Books for Young Readers.
I was a little disappointed in this prequel. When you have read the whole series and you think prequel, you automatically think, “We finally get to see what Thomas refuses to remember!” You are wrong. The book has nothing really much to do with Thomas; it pre-dates Thomas. And I guess I would have figured that out if I actually had read anything about it before diving in. But, where’s the fun in that…?
The book is about a whole new set of characters. The only bits that mention characters from the loved prior series are the very beginning and the very end. And while I loved the new characters and I loved the whole end of the world story that led to the characters in the series I love, I just kept hoping for more connections. I wanted to know what Thomas refuses to remember! And now I’m fairly certain I will never get to know.
Yes, it does still wheel you in till you get to the point where other people in the real world need to communicate with you, and you just keep saying, “in a moment.” Really. It begins in a village of survivors. Sun flares, tsunamis, and other more natural worldly disasters have already taken place, and after the few survivors finally have wound down a little bit and gotten used to a more rustic (no electricity or email) lifestyle, out comes the virus.
It’s terrifying to witness the virus filled darts raining down on the survivors, especially when the survivors are all under the impression that the giant ships coming up to them are there to bring good things. Mark, the main character who was a lot like Thomas (I kind of kept thinking he would end up being Thomas’ dad, but was wrong), was actually one of the few people who really didn’t think good things were possible and was quick to help protect his village.
Mark, along with Trina, Alec, and Lana had all escaped the natural disasters that happened to New York City together. Mark and Trina, best friends, were riding the subway on her birthday. When the train stopped (which never happens in the future), the whole train of people evacuates. Mark and Trina wait a little longer to see if it will turn on, but it doesn’t. When they do finally exit through the underground tunnels, they witness firsthand how the sun can burn people to death. They thankfully soon meet up with Alec and Lana underground. They both have military training and help Mark and Trina get out of the tunnels before they flood from an increase of water.
Between the people burning to death from the sun and then the subway tunnels overflowing with water (because the heat from outside messes with water levels), to the gangs of violence amongst the terrified survivors, it seems like a miracle that Marks’ group makes it to the top of a sky scraper before all of NYC is lost to water. There’s ship stealing, food foraging, stealing, fighting, and surviving that leads up to the group’s making their way to a village.
And after a little bit of peace comes the arrows. The adventures really begin when Alec and Mark track down the ship that shot the arrows, ambush it, kill the people working it, and discover the boxes of arrows that alerts them to the virus. There’s a lot of rescuing, fighting, killing, ship driving, and surviving. There’s a small sprinkle of romance (as much as there really can be). And through it all the characters experience the full extent and terror that is the longevity of the virus.
We get to watch the first people shot die right off the bat. Then we watch those that help the ones originally shot get sick. Then we watch more and more people get sick and go crazy. And soon there’s crazy fire-starting cults of crazies who blame demons for all that is wrong. There’s a little girl (around four or five), who gets left behind in a village of dying people because she is thought to be demonic. She was one of the first ones shot with a dart, but has yet to show any signs of illness (mental or physical). Poor, little Deedee is abandoned, beat up, starving, and so hopeless when Mark’s crew finds her and rescues her.
Having read the series, I know the crazy people become more and more zombie-like the longer the virus is around. And I knew it was going to happen, yet it was still so upsetting and terrifying when the infected became the way they did. Mark and his crew realize that the good people who were meant to unify people after the sun flares are actually the ones that shot the darts, in effort to lessen the population and prevent an end of all resources. It gets to a point where it becomes more and more about rescuing Deedee, the one person who seems to be immune, and less about Mark, Trina, Alec, and Lana surviving.
There was not a whole lot of new things in this book. I knew this is what happened because of the rest of the series. But, Dashner still managed to keep me on my toes. I read it practically in one sitting. The suspense and action he writes really compares with no one else in its awesomeness. I really wanted the prequel to be about Thomas’s past, and never really got over that. However, for a story that was completely not what I hoped for, it really kept me interested. I love a good “world coming to an end” book, and frankly this book was that.
I’m not 100% sure why there was a tiny bit at the end, well after Mark’s story finishes, that involves Thomas. At first I was pissed that it was there because it was like a little bit of what I wanted sticking its tongue out at me, saying, “Just kidding…” But, the more I think about it now, the more I like it. I like how things flow together. I really did have a blast reading this book. I give it a 9/10 and definitely still recommend it to fans of this series.