#20 “The Scorch Trials” by James Dashner

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  1. Goose – Dawn O’Porter
  2. Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
  3. Elianne – Judy Nunn
  4. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  5. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  6. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  7. The Messenger – Markus Zusak
  8. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
  9. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  10. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  11. Hades – Candice Fox
  12. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  13. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  14. The Maze Runner – James Dashner
  15. The Scorch Trials – James Dashner
  16. The Death Cure – James Dashner
  17. A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby

So I did it, I trimmed the list. Doesn’t look quite as scary now, does it? Not to mention, it doesn’t take up as much room anymore! I’m actually a little excited about it. But enough about my TBR list. Let’s try something different today. Let’s jump straight into the review.

The Scorch Trials suffers from something I have decided to call “Second Book Syndrome” or SBS. SBS is a condition exclusive to trilogies. Not all trilogies, but some. See, a trilogy is a specific type of story-telling. The story is too big, or too detailed, for one book but has to be longer than two books because, well, how do you market a series of only two books? It doesn’t even have a name! In these cases, the second book has a distinctive “filler” feel to it. Nothing of importance happens, and yet there is still a lot going on. Kind of like really, really bad reality TV. The Scorch Trials is definitely a “filler”.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot happens in the book. The boys wake up in the safety of the dorm they were taken to at the end of the first book, only to discover that the dorm wasn’t as safe as everyone first thought. This then leads to a second trial, courtesy of WICKED, in which the boys learn that they have been infected with a brain degenerative – not to mention terminal – disease called The Flare and have two weeks to make it to a “safe haven” where they will receive the cure. If they take longer than the allocated two weeks then the boys will be left to die, just like the rest of the Cranks (sufferers of the Flare) outside of the dormitory. The rest of the book follows what happens as the boys cross the Scorch (huge desert wasteland) to get to “safety”.

The boys encounter dangerous creatures, come face-to-face with people almost dead from the Flare, horrendous storms, get betrayed, and find their [SPOILER] Maze counterparts (there was a parallel experiment in which there were all girls and one boy, the mirror image of Thomas’ experiment). But we don’t actually learn anything. Part of the reason I kept reading was because I wanted answers. All of these questions kept popping up but there were no answers provided. Except one. And that wasn’t until the epilogue. It was this that made me diagnose The Scorch Trials with SBS. Because I am convinced that we will get the rest of the answers in The Death Cure. If not, then I will never ever read the series again, in the same way I have never re-read A Series of Unfortunate Events after that terrible finale.

I’m of the opinion that there should have been one over-arching mystery that tied The Scorch Trials to the final book, instead of the many we are left with. Here, have a list:

  1. The man in white, who gives the boys the details of their next trial, says that the boys can’t trust their senses. That WICKED can manipulate what they see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. However, not once does Thomas ever question what happens to him through the course of the story. In fact none of the boys do, and that huge detail is never mentioned in any way, shape, or form ever again.
  2. Thomas’ memories just seem to be …there. We get glimpses into his past but there’s no link, no nothing. Just vague memories that tell us something more is happening, but that “more” is never explained.
  3. [SPOILER] Why was Thomas healed after getting shot? The people who did it said they were breaking the rules doing so, but we never learn what the rules are. Or who the people were.
  4. The boys from the first book all got their names from famous scientists (any idea who Minho was?), but where do the girls get their names from?
  5. Why do the boys wake up with tattoos? Why do some of them have “roles”? This doesn’t seem to have any impact on the story at all. I mean, were the boys given the roles before they went into the Maze and messed them all up? Did WICKED want to mess with their heads? What?
  6. The Gone is never explained. I assume it refers to the point when sufferers of the Flare are too far Gone and have stopped making sense. The disease has eaten so much of their brain that they’ve gone ‘round the bend. But Dashner never explains this.

And these are just a few, there were heaps more. I feel like at least half of these should have been answered. Dashner could have given us answers to the little mysteries and built up a bigger one to keep us going, but no. He left us with all of these untied strings that just leave you feeling…disappointed.

Despite the gaping holes in the story, Dashner improved greatly with his overwriting of emotion. I mean, there were a few descriptions that were similar to each other and a there was still a bit of the ol’ melodrama, but he’s gotten so much better. I have my fingers crossed for a whole lot more showing not telling in The Death Cure.
But Dashner’s most impressive linguistic accomplishment in The Scorch Trials was his command of the grotesque. A lot of YA books try, and fail, to freak out the readers with despicable  characters, scenarios, etc. I can usually read through those descriptions with nary a flip of the stomach. But Dashner nailed it. I felt physically ill when he was describing sufferers of the Flare past the Gone (well, my definition of the mysterious “Gone”). I actually gagged a little:

Thomas couldn’t help but stare, mesmerised. It looked like the hair had been ripped from his scalp, leaving bloody scabs in its place. His face was pallid and wet, with scars and sores everywhere. One eye was gone, a gummy red mass where it should have been. He also had no nose, and Thomas could actually see traces of the nasal passages in his skull underneath the terribly mangled skin.
And his mouth. Lips drawn back in a snarl, gleaming white teeth exposed, clenched tightly together.

Then the man said something in a wet and gurgle voice that made Thomas shiver. He spoke only a few words, but they were so absurd and out of place that it just made the whole thing that much more horrifying.
“Rose took my nose, I suppose.”

The man took a lumbering step towards them, having to wave his one good arm to keep his balance on the one good leg.
“Rose took my nose, I suppose,” he repeated; the bubble of phlegm in his throat made a disgusting crackle. “And it really blows…Get it?” the man said, his snarl trying to morph into a grin. He looked like an animal about to pounce on its prey. “It really blows. My nose. Taken by Rose. I suppose.” He laughed then, a wet chortle that made Thomas worry he might never sleep in peace again.

Did you not just get chills? Need to reach for a bucket? Because that may just be the worst, most disgusting thing I’ve ever read. I mean, I’ve definitely read worse things, but no one made me feel the grotesqueness like Dashner did.

★★★

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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One Response to #20 “The Scorch Trials” by James Dashner

  1. Pingback: #21 “The Death Cure” by James Dashner | My Infernal Imagination

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