Literature / The Maze Runner

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When Thomas wakes up, all he knows is his name and the fact that he can't see a thing. When he's released, things only get stranger. Thomas finds himself in the Glade, a walled-in sanctuary in a giant maze that rearranges itself every night. Outside are walls without exits, a cliff jump to nowhere, and disgusting creatures called grievers. Inside, there is only a population of boys who remember only their names, who have struggled every day for two years to find a way out.

The next day, a girl arrives in the Glade for the first time. Her name is Theresa and she's in a coma. Who is she? Why is she there? Why does Thomas feel so drawn to her? And more importantly, will any of them ever escape?

The Maze Runner was written by James Dashner. It's followed by a sequel, The Scorch Trials, involving the aftermath of the first book and the introduction of new friends and enemies. The final book, The Death Cure, was released in October 2011, introducing the context and ramifications of the previous books and concluding the story. A prequel to the trilogy has been released as of August 14, 2012, called The Kill Order. Another prequel, set between The Kill Order and The Maze Runner titled The Fever Code, is set to be released on September 27, 2016.

A film franchise started in 2014, with The Film of the Book. For more information on the films, click here.

The Books Provide Examples Of:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: The ending. Out of the entire human race, only a select few are able to resist the influence of the Flare virus. They are thus humanity's last hope to rebuild the Earth. However, that last few actually number several hundreds, which is far more realistic than the usual application of this trope.
  • Amnesiac Hero: Every Glader comes up in the Box with their memories completely wiped by WICKED, save for their name. While they are able to get some of their memories of the outside world back during the Changing after being stung by a Griever, those who go through it forget almost everything soon after, and itís implied that thatís for the best. In The Death Cure, the remaining Gladers are given the choice to have their memories returned; however, Thomas, Minho, and Newt refuse.
  • Anchored Ship: Thomas and Teresa. They both clearly have a strong connection towards each other, and when she arrives Thomas basically acts like they're already in a relationship. However, there was never any confirmation on Teresa's part save for a few kisses here and there, with dubious meanings. Add to that the fact that they're constantly trying to stay alive and being manipulated by WICKED, this ship had problems taking off from the beginning.
  • Anyone Can Die: No one is safe in the series, not even the main characters that the readers would expect have Plot Armor to go with. The first book kills off the Tagalong Kid and the youngest Glader, Chuck, and the third book — The Death Cure kills off one of the main sidekicks, Newt, and a Love Interest, Teresa. Then there's the first prequel, The Kill Order, which sees the deaths of the entire main cast (Mark, Alec, Trina, and Lana), with the only surviving major character (Deedee/Teresa) being only introduced 2/3 way to the novel.
  • Apocalypse How: The series turns out to be set after a Class 2 one of these: A combination of Solar Flares and a virus, collectively known as the Flare, has wiped out civilization outside a few tiny bases, leaving the world a barely-habitable wasteland roamed by the Ax-Crazy Cranks, with some parts having been scoured of all life.
  • Arc Words: WICKED is good.
  • Ax-Crazy: Due to the Flare being a Hate Plague of sorts, those who are infected with it begin to show symptoms of paranoia, hallucination, and extreme, unwarranted violence: as they descend into madness and eventually pass the Gone, they become insane shells of their former selves, gruesomely attacking anything that moves and even resorting to cannibalism.
  • Bash Brothers:
    • Thomas and Minho. As the two really work well with each other during fights.
  • Berserker Rage: In The Scorch Trials, after getting fried by lightning and kick around by Jorge, Minho snaps and mercilessly beats on him till Thomas gets him to stop.
  • Big Bad:
    • Assistant Director Janson, better known as "the Rat-Man", is the primary antagonist of the series.
    • Gally more or less serves as this in the first book, where WICKED is monitoring things off-screen for the majority of the book. It's more explicit in the movie.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • By the end of The Death Cure, many of the characters from the first book are dead (including Chuck, Teresa and Newt), there's no cure for the Flare and the Immunes will inherit the Earth. Thomas, Minho, Brenda, Jorge and the 200 Immunes begin rebuilding civilization in a safe place far from the Scorch.
    • The prequel The Kill Order also ends this way. Mark, Alec, Trina, and Lana, all die over the course of the story, but at least they manage to transfer Deedee to the PFC base in Alaska, where she would be safe. However, the same book also reveals that Deedee really is Teresa, whom we all know bite the dust in the long run, downsiding their achievements a bit.
  • Body Horror: The Changing a.k.a the effects of the Griever sting. Green-ish black veins all over your body, blood shot eyes, blackened lips and gums, along with a distorted voice and general pain so great it makes you pass out.
  • Bungled Suicide: Itís revealed in Death Cure that Newt tried to kill himself by jumping off one of the Walls some time before Thomasís arrival. He survived, but broke his leg, hence his permanent limp.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Lots. Medics are called "Med-Jacks", butchers are called "Slicers", etc.
  • Cassandra Truth: Gally repeatedly tells everyone that Thomas is not to be trusted, and that he probably has something to do with them all being stuck in the maze. Obviously, considering that Gallyís proven himself to be a Jerkass with a mean streak, most of the Gladers ignore him. Itís later revealed that he and Teresa were actually the ones in charge of building and designing the Maze project.
  • The Cavalry: Chancellor Paige is this at the end of The Death Cure. She finally sees that WICKED has gone too far and implements her plan to get the rest of the Immunes away to safety so that the human race can survive, which she begins by rescuing Thomas from an imminent cranioectomy. Notably, Paige herself never appears in person in the series.
  • Central Theme: Running. The protagonists don't get to properly stop and sit down until the end of The Death Cure.
  • Childhood Friends: This is what Thomas, Teresa and Aris are revealed to be, having grown up together under WICKED's care.
  • Closed Circle:
    • The Maze Runner features a place called the Glade. A bunch of teenagers are trapped in it with no memory of their lives before they woke up there. The Doors open at dawn and close at dusk, but only lead to a giant maze with no way out. Better yet, the Maze changes every night while the doors are closed. Oh, and if you're in the Maze at night, giant metal monsters attack you.
  • Crapsack World: The world is crawling with those infected with the Flare and even those not infected have proven themselves to be just as nasty. Nearly everybody is willing to kill the protagonists (and everybody else) and there's nearly nothing in the way of plant life either.
  • Despair Event Horizon: After getting stung by a Griever and recovering some of his memories, Alby completely loses hope, knowing just what the world outside the Maze is like.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Chuck dies in Thomas' arms.
  • Doomed Hometown: The Kill Order opens with Mark living peacefully in a small Appalachian village with the other survivors of the Flare. No guess that it's going to meet a grisly end, if only so Mark can go outside his comfort zone.
  • Double Standard:
    • In-Universe. Group B, made up of a group of girls who had their own maze journey, are quick to flaunt the fact that they rescued more people and killed more Grievers than the stupid ugly boys. The fact of the matter is that they were given much better equipment to do it with, not to mention actual supplies for the Scorch Trials.
    • Teresa's manner makes it obvious that she considers herself smarter than most of the men around her, by default. Although in her case, that's very much in-character.
  • Dwindling Party: Near the end of The Maze Runner the Grievers settle on a pattern of taking someone every day. The Scorch Trials continues the trend with more diverse death-dealing implements.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Grievers are small versions. Half mechanical, half organic killing machines. All mysteriously and frighteningly lethal. They represent the reality-bending phenomena surrounding the maze; their patterns are unknowable and their presence constant. Meeting one will result in the danger of painful death.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Ava Paige's epilogue in The Death Cure shows that she is still devoted to WICKED's cause, even after having turned on most of them. She altered WICKED's mission objectives in a way that put her on the protagonists' side, though, and she was genuinely sorry for some of the things she did. The same epilogue also implies that Brenda and Jorge were following her orders to the end.
  • Fighting from the Inside:
    • At the end of the first book, after they escape the Maze, Gally (who had disappeared quite some time before) ends up shooting Chuck. In The Death Cure, itís revealed that it was all a trial created by WICKED, which had been controlling both Gally and Chuck the entire time. Gally had considered Chuck like a brother to him, and ended up going at least partially insane from grief after the fact.
    • In the third book, Newt is infected with the Flare; due to having been mentally overstimulated by all of the tests over the preceding few years, the diseaseís progression speeds up to the point where heís teetering on the edge of the Gone by five days. While he tries to fight the symptoms (aggression, paranoia, sudden violence) as the disease progresses in an effort to keep his friends safe, he eventually succumbs, and Thomas has to Mercy Kill him.
  • Fun with Acronyms: WICKED, World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department. Where Killzone is a malapropism for the mind-brain construct.
  • Future Slang: The series is riddled with this. "Shanks," "Slinthead," "Greenie," and "Slim it" being prominent examples, with Group B being implied to have their own.
  • Genius Bruiser: The Runners, who are quick thinking cartographers who make maps while running marathons and have to stand a fighting chance against The Grievers. At a point before the main story, Thomas himself counted; he was a child prodigy leading WICKED after the Purge of the first batch of Creators, as well as extraordinarily fit and a decent fighter, as proven throughout the series.
  • Gorn: While the first book isnít all that bad in terms of blood and gore (as a result of, until the very end, the only threat being the occasional Griever), once the second and third book come around and Cranks start showing up, the characters start experiencing loads of straight-out-of-a-horror-movie gore. In particular are some of the rather gruesome deaths and neardeaths: being repeatedly stabbed in the chest, a molten silver thing ripping someoneís face and hair off, someone being shot point-blank in the head and their blood spraying onto their attacker, someone being horribly mangled by falling debris, et ceteraÖ
  • Greater Scope Villain:
    • Chancellor Paige, the head of all the mess that is WICKED. Eventually, though, the cruelty of that position gets to her and she decides to cut their losses and stop torturing people for a cure that might never come. Notable in that she is never seen in the series, barring The Film of the Book.
    • Then there's Katie McVoy, a bit character who is only mentioned in two short letters published in The Maze Runner Files whose not-so-small role involves suggesting the method to kill half of the world population using the V C321xb 47 virus AKA the Flare virus, which mutated unpredictably, as in, setting off all this mess in the first place. By the events of The Maze Runner, however, she is already long dead due to catching the virus and committing suicide to prevent it spreading over as her last act of redemption.
  • HeelĖFace Turn: The Death Cure:
    • Gally turns from being Thomas' adversary into steadfast helper after he escapes from WICKED's custody and joins the Right Arm. It seems that this in part fueled by his regret for being directed to kill Chuck.
    • Ava Paige, who realizes the errors of her ways and the fact that no cure for the Flare virus will ever be found. She decides to become a Big Good and gets Thomas and the Immunes to head for the paradise she has prepared for them, free from the Flare virus.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: At least two characters do this to protect Thomas.
    • The Maze Runner has Chuck Taking the Bullet for Thomas from Gally.
    • The Death Cure has Teresa dying while saving Thomas from falling debris as they try to escape WICKED for the last time.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • Minho and Alby. As the latter puts it, "He's [Minho] the only one who can boss me around like that."
  • I Am Who?: Thomas and Theresa actually helped design the Maze that they're trapped in.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: While some of the Cranks in earlier stages seem horribly miserable and afraid of their impending Fate Worse Than Death, none of them ever commit suicide, and some are mentioned to have been administered a Mercy Kill by their loved ones. In The Death Cure, after Newt finds out he has the Flare, the literal first thing he does is write a note to Thomas begging him to kill him; as the disease progresses, Newt repeatedly asks Thomas to put him out of his misery. Thomas eventually complies.
  • Idiot Ball: According to The Death Cure, the Coalition government that released the Flare didn't seem to realize that sometimes viruses mutate. Weren't these supposed to be the world's top scientists and biologists? Did they just forget that this happens? Especially considering radiation is a prime source of viral mutation, such as the intense solar radiation that the Earth was being subjected to? What did they think was going to happen?
  • The Immune: In The Death Cure, turns out most of the Gladers and Brenda and Jorge, along with a very small percentage of the world's population called "Immunes" are immune to the Flare. Well, most of the Gladers except for Newt. In fact, being this is why most of the Gladers were picked by WICKED in the first place, because they wanted to research their brains to find a cure.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: While Thomas never mentions to Brenda that his group calls themselves Gladers, she ends up mentioning it in casual conversation. This foreshadows the fact that she and Jorge had actually been working for WICKED all along; she most likely knows the term because she heard them call themselves that while she monitored the Maze.
  • Informed Ability: The Gladers are picked for their intelligence from their childhood, though few of them actually show any real genius other than setting up a system of order in the Glade. The best real example is sort of roundabout, but Minho and Thomas coordinate battle tactics and formations on the fly during firefights despite never having used guns before. Otherwise, they're of average outlook and just above-average intelligence.
  • Intergenerational Friendship:
    • Jorge gets along well with many people much younger than him in age, including Brenda and Thomas. In the case of Brenda, he might as well be a father figure, as she already lost hers in a horrific manner.
    • In The Kill Order, Mark and Trina with Alec and Lana turn into a makeshift family after the Flare took away their family.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Every Glader has had all his memories of his life before the Glade erased, save for their names.
  • Love Triangle: While Thomasís original love interest is Teresa, he ends up growing closer to Brenda in the second book after being separated from Teresa for an extended period of time, and finding out that she had betrayed him. He eventually ends up with Brenda, partially due to him never forgiving Teresa for what she had done and partially because of the girlís sudden death at the end of Death Cure.
  • Maybe Ever After: In The Death Cure, Thomas' romantic arc with Brenda has this kind of ending. The series is closed with them Holding Hands while Watching the Sunset in the safe haven, but there's nothing confirming that they're hooking up, although they might. But then, Thomas is still grieving for the loss of his friends, particularly Teresa.
  • Mercy Kill: In The Death Cure, Newt gives a note to Thomas, telling him not to read it until the time was right. The note begs for his death. Finally, Thomas shoots a desperate Newt on his request.
  • Mobile Maze: All the main characters are trapped in a small, protected area called the Glade, which is inside a giant maze that rearranges itself every night.
  • The Mole: At the end of The Scorch Trials, Thomas finds out that Teresa and Aris has been working for WICKED all along. And Brenda. And Jorge. And, uh..., it seems that WICKED can control anyone wherever they like as long as they have the control chips inserted into their brains. Naturally, this makes Thomas suffer from a very serious trust issue for the rest of the series.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: The Gladers' names are not their real names, but names based on scientists and inventors and such that were planted in their memories.
    • Thomas is named after Thomas Edison.
    • Newt is named after Sir Isaac Newton.
    • Gally is named after Galileo Galilei.
    • Alby is named after Albert Einstein.
    • Chuck is named after Charles Darwin.
    • Teresa is named after Mother Teresa.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • W. I. C. K. E. D. It doesn't stand for anything good, either: "World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department."
    • The Right Arm from The Death Cure. It's a rebel organization devoted to fighting WICKED.
  • Oh Crap!: Several moments; the best example is when the wall that protects the Gladers from Grievers doesn't close one night, leaving them easy prey. Another good example is in the final book when Thomas realizes that the Right Arm is going to blow up the WICKED headquarters. While he, his friends, and the rest of the Immunes are still inside it.
  • Ontological Mystery:
    • The Maze Runner has the main protagonists trapped in a maze.
    • The Scorch Trials, is about them trapped in the deserts of a future Earth.
  • The Plague: The disease known as the Flare. It was released by certain governments as a population control virus so that there would be less overflow to deal with in the aftermath of the super-solar flare strike on the Earth. Unfortunately, it targeted everyone.
  • Plague Zombie: Those who contract the Flare eventually turn into insane, animalistic virus carriers called Cranks that donít have many distinguishing traits from regular old zombies.
  • Preemptive Apology: In the Scorch, Teresa apologizes to Thomas in advance for betraying, torturing, and attempting to kill him - we later learn that WICKED had promised that both she and Thomas would be safe if she played along. Needless of her motives, Thomas never fully accepts the apology.
  • The Promised Land: The "Safe Haven", the main goal of the Gladers in The Scorch Trials. Supposedly, they would receive a cure for the Flare there. It seems to be a cop-out when all they find at the end is a flag with "Safe Haven" written on it, but The Death Cure reveals that WICKED does have a safe haven, although it's not a true reward for the Gladers. Chancellor Paige only reveals it when she's really certain that no cure for the Flare virus will ever be found.
  • Psychic Link: Thomas and Teresa can communicate with each other in their heads, even when Teresa is in a coma or unconscious. The Scorch Trials introduces Aris, Teresaís Group B Counterpart who could do the same with a girl called Rachel, and even with Thomas, which makes the latter feel uncomfortable. Brenda momentarily does the same thing to Thomas, warning him that things are gonna get worse. It's revealed in The Death Cure that this is the effect of technology implanted within their heads that can also be hacked into, cut off, or removed entirely.
  • The Reveal: There are a series of reveals throughout the books that, when strung together, give a coherent version of the backstory. Sometime in the past, a solar flare intense enough to make it through our atmosphere caught the earth, frying it between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. The resulting rampant destitution made relief attempts almost impossible, so to lessen the burden some genius came up with the incredibly smart plan to release a population control disease so there would be less people to deal with. The virus, soon to be known as the Flare, mutated into a Hate Plague that almost the entire Earthís population caught. In order to combat it, the world's governments formed WICKED, tasked with finding a cure. WICKEDís approach was to brain-map the immune and try to transfer that immunity to the public. Unfortunately, the brain-mapping required would be ridiculously detailed and ultimately impossible. The first two novels in their entirety were stress tests used to remotely map the protagonistís brain patterns. The Maze, the Grievers, and the Scorch were all governed by WICKEDís ridiculously advanced structural- and bio-engineering, in an attempt to create the blueprint for a cure, that will require the brain of the Final Candidate to (maybe) be made a reality. Meanwhile, the "quarantined" cities are succumbing to infection due to corruption and selfishness.
  • Sacrificial Lion: In contrast to the death of Chuck at the end of the first book, Thomas being forced to Mercy Kill an infected Newt in the third book is this in that it is the first of several deaths at the end of The Death Cure, establishing that if things were already bad, theyíre going to get much worse in the final few chapters. Which they do, although the ending manages to be reasonably happy.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: In The Maze Runner, Thomas, despite everyone telling him that Rule Number One of the Glade is to never go out at night, runs out while the gates are closing to help Minho and Alby.
  • Shoot the Dog: In The Death Cure, after a rather painfully sad amount of buildup, Thomas is forced to shoot Newt, his best friend, to save him from fully becoming a Crank.
  • Solar Flare Disaster: Solar flares and a pandemic that followed led the the demise of civilization, save for a few bases here and there.
  • South of the Border: The Scorch is implied to be located in post-apocalyptic Mexico. The only named native of the region, Jorge, acts as Hispanic as one can be.
  • Spanner in the Works: Everything that happened in the first two books had been planned by WICKED, all as part of their experiment on the protagonists. Come the third book, when Thomas, Minho, Newt, Jorge, and Brenda escape WICKED on a stolen Berg and meet up with the Right Arm to try and take the organization down, they finally get in on some Spanner action and foil their plans.
  • Sunken City: In The Kill Order, Mark often flashes back to living in a skyscraper, because the city was flooded with scorching water after the solar flares melted the ice caps.
  • Technically Living Zombie: While Cranks are not Ďzombiesí in the sense of Ďmonsters that have died and risen againí, the Flare has eaten away so much of their mental capacity that they have been reduced to animalistic creatures with a taste for human flesh - basically, zombies.
  • Teen Genius: While all of the Gladers were selected for the Maze trials partially due to their high intellect, Thomas and Teresa take the cake due to being the ones who quite literally designed the Maze itself. Itís somewhat of an Informed Ability, in that throughout the books the Gladers act like teenagers of fairly normal intellect while making decisions and attempting tasks.
  • Tomato Surprise: The Kill Order has an epic one: Deedee, the little 5-year-old girl who's shunned by her villagers for being an Immune? She's Teresa. This is not a secret to everyone in-universe, as Teresa just kind of tells Thomas about her birth name in passing. This does, however, affect something; namely, the way the readers interpret everything beforehand.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In The Death Cure, it's revealed that the Flare was created by world governments as a method of population control, which begs the question of why they would release a deadly, contagious virus if they didn't have a cure for it first?
  • True Companions: Thomas, Chuck, Newt and Minho. They're always there for each other, even at the worst of times.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: In his introduction/Dynamic Entry in The Scorch Trials, Jorge pulls this off in front of the Gladers, possibly to highlight how insane heís becoming due to being an early-stage Crank. Except that itís all an act, and heís been Immune the whole timeÖ
  • Unusual Euphemism: The Gladers have several of these. "Klunk" means "feces," "shank" means "guy," and "shuck" is just an all-purpose euphemism.
  • Villain Override: Thanks to the chips in all the subject's brains, WICKED can take control of them whenever they please. The subjects do seem to have some ability of resisting, but not for long. Gally gets taken control of at the end of "The Maze Runner" forcing him to kill Chuck. In "The Scorch Trials" Teresa is taken control of for a short time. Itís revealed in "The Death Cure" that WICKED took control of Chuck, casting doubt on whether his heroic sacrifice to save Thomas was genuine or not.
  • Villainous Breakdown: At the end of the third book, A.D. Janson gets a major one during his fight with Thomas, partially because the Gladers have escaped and his plans have been foiled, and partially because he is becoming increasingly more deranged due to having contracted the Flare sometime earlier.
  • Viral Transformation: Cranks, zombielike victims of the Flare, end up becoming more and more undead-like in physical appearance as they spiral into madness. Specifically, their hair and some of their teeth fall out, gashes and patches of blood appear on their skin, and black veins begin to snake down their limbs. Newt gets the symptoms rather severely when he becomes a Crank in The Death Cure.
  • The Virus: The Flare, a Mind Virus that drives one mad and turns those infected into animalistic, raging zombies. It was originally released by world governments after the solar flares as a means of population control, but it mutated and spread uncontrollably...
  • Watching the Sunset: The main trilogy ends this way, featuring Thomas and Brenda Holding Hands. It signifies that after all the running that Thomas has to endure throughout the series, he can finally sit down and get some rest.
  • Welcome Episode: The first several chapters of The Maze Runner start with Thomas having amnesia and being unkindly welcome by the surviving group in the Maze.
  • Wham Episode: Around Chapter 17 of The Maze Runner, when Thomas jumps into the Maze with Alby and Minho. Alby has been stung by a Griever, and the doors to the Glade shut behind them, trapping the three boys for the night. The previous chapters weren't exactly pretty, but things get bad at this point.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: At one point in The Scorch Trials, Teresa psychologically and physically tortures Thomas to a severe extent, because WICKED had requested her to do so, and she believed it was for the best. When Thomas recovers from the ordeal, he is understandably angry at Teresa, especially since she didn't try to find another way to go about things, as Thomas and his friends had on many occasions. Teresa believes she has nothing to apologize for, due to her being ordered to the make the hard choice between letting WICKED murder him, or hurting him emotionally herself. She gets annoyed at Thomas because he resents the way she treated him. Teresa acts like nothing happened and tries to continue their budding young romance, even kissing Thomas to shut him up. Thomas calls her out on her behavior and is completely turned off to her for the rest of the series.

And remember, WICKED is good.

Alternative Title(s): The Death Cure, The Scorch Trials, The Kill Order

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheMazeRunner