I read The Maze Runner in 2014, and followed up on the remainder of the trilogy by reading The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure towards the end of 2015. Then I learned that James Dashner had come out with the first in a new prequel trilogy to The Maze Runner, called The Kill Order. It’s a cool title right? Right. But it is definitely not a cool book. I had so many expectations, and if I’m honest not one of them was met.
My initial thought before reading up on what this book was actually about, I assumed that The Kill Order would detail life on the sun-destroyed Earth by specifically following Thomas, Theresa and the adults who command WICKED. Besides, we’d just followed these two through three other books, why stop now? I think I would’ve enjoyed this book sooooooo much more if it had been in Thomas’ perspective. The prologue of The Kill Order is in Theresa’s perspective, which was somewhat refreshing to see, but I was excited to hear about familiar characters again. Knowing their place in WICKED and how heavily they contributed to the construction of the Maze is so interesting! I couldn’t wait to read all about it. But that’s not what I got. After I read the blurb of The Kill Order, though I was sad that we wouldn’t be seeing Thomas (or any other character for that matter really), but I got over it because I trusted that James Dashner would be able to establish these new characters in a world we already know has turned to shit.
I was wrong again.
In the Maze Runner trilogy, we learn that Earth has turned to shit. The sun has almost entirely irradiated and eradicated the world. An unstoppable and highly infectious disease has taken what remained of the population. Except those that are immune. We know all of this. We know who WICKED are and what they do to control and manipulate the immune.
So why did we have to re-learn all of this in so much detail? I understand that our protagonist, Mark, is a young boy just trying to navigate himself and his little group through this new world to safety. He’s extremely similar to Thomas in a frightening amount of ways (which raises other questions in itself). There’s so much grey matter in this book about what’s happened to the world, and who’s left in charge now. And the only resource that Mark has to teach him everything he knows is a shell-shocked, aged war veteran named Alec who Mark constantly refers to as an ‘old bear’ or ‘soldier’. We get it Mark. I got it by page 45. Mark relies, dare I say it, too much on Alec. I know he’s scared, and lost and confused but holy Christ, Alec isn’t the world’s plethora of knowledge on natural disasters. If anything, Alec is more of an unreliable narrator than Mark.
Now the romance. This could’ve been pretty well done, but just as it was done in The Maze Runner series, it left me feeling dejected and underwhelmed. Trina herself was a little bit of a flat character. We really don’t know, or learn that much about her, just enough to tease us, and for us to know that Mark has basically loved her since they were children. Also, she played an incredibly insignificant role for such an apparently significant character.
The other characters, namely Deedee, Lana, The Toad and Misty were also pretty unforgettable. Not one of them really contributed anything to the storyline, and one character in particular had a pretty un-spectacular death. I didn’t care about anything that happened to any of the characters, and towards the end of the book I felt entirely disconnected from them and their respective storylines. Mark, being the protagonist, was the only character I felt slightly (and I mean slightly) toward, and man oh man can this boy sleep a lot.
The characters themselves were also pretty unrealistic, even for a dystopian story. Mark is almost 17 years old, and the end of the world suddenly makes him an expert karate, kung fu, jujitsu, judo (etc.) expert? Also, just the general amount of fight scenes that occurred in this book is unrealistic. There’s literally an epic battle happening on every other page, and I lost track of the amount of times that Mark gets strangled, choked or knocked on his ass unsuspectingly. I’m quite sure just how much of this book is made up of unnecessarily detailed fight scenes, but if I had to venture a guess it would be somewhere around 75%. On top of that, Mark’s internal dialogue has to be the most boring and cliche sentiment I’ve ever read. There’s not much that makes him stand out from the crowd, and to be quite frank, I’m not sure how he’s survived in this world for so long. In reality, he’d be long gone.
Overall, I’m just really disappointed. This book had so much potential and I feel like none of the hopes I had for it were met. The characters were one dimensional and dry, the plot line was confusing and clouded by the narration of an unreliable narrator, and the pacing was really disjointed. I’m not sure what length of time this book covers (maybe a week or two?) but the events that are currently occurring, tied in with countless flashback sequences and dream sequences, combined to create a really fragmented timeline. The worst part is, I’m not sure which I liked more: the events of the past, the entirely made up dreams, or the events happening in the present.
I didn’t want to hate this book, but I think I did. I haven’t said that in a long time.
This gets a 1.5 out of 5 stars from me.