A boy called Thomas is sent into what's referred to as the Glade, a clearing at the centre of a giant maze. He can't remember anything except for his name, and is surrounded by a large group of other boys who are in his exact situation. The first book follows Thomas as he and the people around him fight to escape from this place and discover the truth of their situation, hoping to regain their memories and return to their normal lives. The first three books in the series follow the main story, and there are two other books which are prequels.
The books fits heavily into the action-adventure and the young-adult genres, so if you are a fan of them, you'll almost definitely enjoy this series, I think. As someone who does like those genres, particularly the action-adventure genre, I was expecting to enjoy these, and I was correct to. I actually read the first three books over the span of two weeks, the second one in less then a day, so I think that it's safe to say that the books do a brilliant job of keeping your attention and keeping you excited with every page. Also, every chapter is fairly short, only around four or five pages on average, which is useful for someone who's constantly busy without much time to sit and read fifteen pages at once (which is where I had the idea to have the chapters in the series which I wrote entitled The Secrecy at a similar, average length.)
By the way, don't watch the films before you read the books. The films are good, I think, but not as adaptations. They stray so far away from the plot of the books during only the second of three films, and, while the way that the films take the story works, it's very different and, in my opinion, worse when compared to the original story. So, I'd say that you should watch the films as they're good, just only after you've read the books, otherwise you'll know the twists of the story without having experienced them in what's widely considered to be the superior way.
I'd give the Maze Runner trilogy (the first three books) an 8/10 as they kept me excited and thoroughly entertained while I was reading them. I'd give the two prequels (books four and five) 7/10 as they didn't keep me quite as entertained, but seeing as they're later in the series and I was still enthralled with the first three books, I was interested in the information which these prequels present, giving me a better understanding of the main trilogy, therefore, I was still captivated with them, just not as much.
Analysis/My thoughts (Spoilers included)
Maze Runner was a fun and exciting read, though I do have a few things to criticise, and I have a few things to praise.
One of the things which I really like about these books is that Thomas is both the hero and the villain in a sense. Because of his and Teresa's previous involvement with the creation of the maze and the following trials, he's done this to himself and to his friends, something which made me feel slightly weird about him as a character. Of course, he's the main character and his views towards Wicked change completely once he's had his memories of them wiped, so he isn't a bad person, but that whole plot point is very interesting, and I'm not sure whether or not something like that has been done before, at least a lot.
One of the things which I hate, though, is the slang. The slang is weird, unnecessary, and cringe-inducing. I understand that these words are substitutes for swearing, or, at least, that's what they seem to be. Because it would make sense for a group of teenagers to be swearing, there would realistically be the occasional word at least, and, I'm guessing, James Dashner wanted these books to be accessible for a wider audience, therefore, I'm assuming, he came to a compromise by making the group create their own swear-words which wouldn't make the books inappropriate for certain ages, but would also keep a sense of realism. But the swearing doesn't have to be there. In my opinion, if it's so important for these characters to be able to swear to some extent, have them swear normally. I'm even fairly sure that the occasional "shit" or "bastard" slips through, and there are references to sex, so what's the point of the slang given that the books aren't entirely family-friendly in the first place? Everytime that I read one of those made-up words, it genuinely made me cringe slightly, something which isn't great in the first place, but worse when considering that this slang continues for the entirety of the first three books.
In The Scorch Trials, Brenda is introduced. Now, she is one of two characters who lead Thomas and the remainder of the group through the Scorch, she's secretly working for WICKED, though later turns against them. That's her purpose in the story. We even learn in The Fever Code that she and Thomas had previously met to plan how she and Jorge would guide the group across the Scorch. So, when the time comes and Thomas and Brenda end up getting separated from the others, things start to change, at least from what i can remember from when I read The Fever Code. Brenda starts to become attracted to Thomas, and I'm fairly sure that it wasn't planned to happen by the two of them as a way to mess with Thomas' mind and to get the variables in his head to produce some results. Though, it's assumed and possibly stated by Brenda herself that this attraction is faked, yet, at the end of The Death Cure, the two of them kiss, probably getting together, so was this attraction faked in The Scorch Trials? It's... weird. The two of them are in the sewers at one point, trying to get to the other side of the city, and Brenda just wants the two of them to stay and to cuddle. Why would she feel like that in reality? The two of them have basically just met at this point, so it doesn't make sense for her to have any attraction towards him if it isn't something to test Thomas, yet, after they've broken away from WICKED, she kisses him. So, she is attracted to him. Whether that attraction flourished over time or whether it began when she met him is vague, therefore, to me, when reading that scene in the sewer, and when even thinking about Brenda's attraction towards Thomas, it just felt like a "the main character's awesome and gets all of the women." It feels like the type of thing which you read in a bad fanfiction, where everyone's attracted to one person for no reason.
A tiny thing which I want to criticise is the pacing of The Death Cure. This book took me a week to read, which by any standard is impressive given that it's between three and four-hundred pages long, but it's still longer than the first two books. I think that it's towards the centre of the book where the pacing seems to slow drastically. It almost became boring to read that segment, a segment which, from what I can recall, lasted for about fifty pages. It didn't feel as if anything was happening because it was so slow, but that's only a tiny criticism as I'm sure that it was just one of the slowest points of the overall story.
One thing which does feel wrong, though, is Teresa's death. Getting randomly crushed by a falling piece of debris makes it feel as if she only dies that way because the plot needs her to die. She isn't killed while fighting, she's killed while escaping. Also, it feels as if it's brushed over. Yeah, Thomas essentially hates her because of what she's previously done, but, at this point, he's forgiven her to the best of his ability, and he's just been working with her to deal with WICKED, at this point, and is beginning to feel better about her. He does acknowledge her death, does note that it hurts, but that's it, really. I feel like there should have been more of a reaction to it given their extensive history, which, as is revealed in The Fever Code, began when they were five. Even though Thomas doesn't know that anymore, he does remember everything since she arrived in the Glade, does remember his previous feelings for her, yet that doesn't invoke much of a reaction from him.
Most of The Kill Order doesn't need to exist, in my opinion. Yes, it gives some extra context to the creation of WICKED, but not a lot. It shows The Flare hitting Earth, the aftermath of it and the beginning of the Flare Virus, but that's presented in, at the very most, twenty chapters. It feels as if the book is too long, like it should have only shown the important things, then ended after one-hundred pages. Showing us Teresa before she arrives at WICKED is unnessecary. She could have simply told the story in a condensed manner in The Fever Code. To be completely honest, the length of The Kill Order just makes me think of the book as a small cash-grab. There are important details which give a lot of context for the rest of the story, but the length feels unnessecary, almost as if it's only that long so that the price can be higher because, let's be honest, who isn't going to buy another book in a series which they love? The book also feels so detached from what we're used to that it almost feels like a book from a different series. When I was reading it, it didn't feel like I was reading a Maze Runner book.
Overall, I really like Maze Runner. Though I do have criticism for the books, I don't think that the criticism is enough for me not to recommend for people to read the series. In fact, I'd suggest for people to read it in a heartbeat. I have incredibly mixed feelings towards The Kill Order, but I think that The Fever Code is a good and worthy prequel. It shows so much of the characters which we haven't been able to see before, so, if I were to tell people to read Maze Runner, I'd say to read everything except for The Kill Order as, honestly, it isn't very important.