BOOK REVIEW: The Maze Runner – by James Dashner

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Title: The Maze Runner
(The Maze Runner #1)
Author: James Dashner
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: October 6th 2009
Finished reading: June 26th 2014
Pages: 375

Rating 3

“Where are we going?” Thomas asked, still feeling the weight of seeing those walls close, thinking about the maze, the confusion, the fear. He hold himself to stop or he’d drive himself crazy. Trying to grasp a sense of normalcy, he made a weak attempt at a joke. “If you’re looking for a goodnight kiss, forget it.”

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Before I start, I have to confess that I started reading this book having very, very high expectations. I even put on hold other books that were next on my TBR list so I could read The Maze Runner first… And that might have influenced my opinion in a negative manner. People have compared this book to The Hunger Games series, and to be honest I cannot see the similarities. The main character Thomas lacked personality and the made-up slang and language used by the teenagers was actually quite annoying. The story itself is interesting enough though. In The Maze Runner, James Dashner presents us to a post apocalyptic world where a bunch of teenagers have to find their way out of a maze. None of them have any idea of how they arrived in the new world called the Glade in the first place, and they all suffer from memory loss. And that part is where I raised my eyebrows: the memory loss and lack of information mostly seemed forced and therefore not credible. I was still able to enjoy the story though, and will probably read the sequel The Scorch Trials somewhere in the future…

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We get to know the post apocalyptic world through ‘Greenbean‘ Thomas, the newest teenager to arrive to the Glade. He wakes up inside the Box (similar to an elevator), and doesn’t remember anything. The other boys welcome him to the Glade, but are being quite mysterious about the new world and evade answering his questions. Thomas is simply told to ‘shuck it‘ and wait until tomorrow. The other new kid Chuck is ordered to take care of him, and they soon start a friendship. Thomas finds himself feeling more at home already, and realizes things around the Glade sound and feel quite familiar…

Soon it becomes clear that Thomas had arrived at the wrong moment. For the last two years the Glade had been populated with boys only, and once a month the Box sent a new member to the Glade. Those days are over now. The next day the Box surprised the community and sends another member, and everybody is shocked to see that it is an unconscious girl.  Before she’s taken away in a coma, she wakes up briefly to let everybody know that “everything is going to change”. And she was right, as she was the last one the Creators sent to help solve the maze. Things are starting to change quite a lot for the Gladers during the next days. They try to maintain order, with everybody doing the jobs they were assigned and the Runners trying to find a way out of the maze. But soon the maze and the horrible creatures called Grievers start taking their victims. Due to circumstances I won’t discuss because of spoilers, Thomas becomes a Runner. Together with the leader of the Runners Minho, they desperately try to solve the puzzle and find a way out before it’s too late…

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The plot itself is definitely interesting, and that is mostly why I’m probably going to read the sequel. That and the fact that I already own the next two books… I do hope the character development gets better though, as well as the prose. I’m not saying to leave out the slang completely, but maybe toning it down a bit will make it less annoying. Recommended for those who enjoy YA post apocalyptic stories and prefer a good plot over well-developed main characters.

BOOK REVIEW: The Road – by Cormac McCarthy

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Title: The Road
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Genre: Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic, Dystopia
First published: September 26th 2006
Finished reading: May 9th 2014
Pages: 284
Rating 4,5

“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”

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I actually confused this book with a different movie (which I detested and apparently don’t remember the name of), so I’m really glad I decided to pick up The Road anyway. Once I started reading, I quickly realized my mistake and recognized it as a whole different movie I saw only a part of and besides a long time ago. But I remember the images were strong and impressive. And so is this book. Although we never get to know where the story is set nor the names of the main characters, Cormac McCarthy is able to make us sympathize with them. The Road is a story about a father and a boy, making there way down south in a post apocalyptic world… A story about determination, survival and the love of a father for his son.

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We follow the father and son on a difficult journey south, where the cold weather, desperation, lack of food and the destruction seen in the post apocalyptic world make it difficult to go on. There is a sense of hopelessness in it all, but nevertheless the father never gives up, and tries to convince his son to do the same. They find all kind of obstacles on their way, and death is never far away… There is hardly any soul left, and most of them are the bad guys. The father wants them to reach the sea, and sees that location as their salvation. But when they finally arrive, he soon finds out he was wrong. That live in the post apocalyptic world is like a neverending circle full of hopelessness… And the only thing that keeps them alive is the bond they share.

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Although I don’t really enjoy the writing style of McCarthy, I cannot deny this is a strong book with a strong story. What made the story worthwhile is the bond between the father and son, and their way of dealing with the situation. Both were born in different worlds, and have accepted the new one in order to survive. An interesting book to read and I will be watching the movie again as well.

BOOK REVIEW: The Mist – by Stephen King

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Title: The Mist
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Science Fiction
First published: 1980
Finished reading: March 3rd 2014
Pages: 230

Rating 3

“Something in the fog!” he screamed, and Billy shrank against me-whether because of the man’s bloody nose or what he was saying, I don’t know. “Something in the fog took John Lee! Something-” He staggered back against a display of lawn food stacked by the window and sat down there.”Something in the fog took John Lee and I heard him screaming!”

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I’m not sure what to think of this one. Normally I enjoy his work, but I felt The Mist was too short, and too many important details were missing. I know Stephen King ment it to be short, but still… It wasn’t completely satisfying. Sure, the overall plot was interesting as well as the various creatures King incorporated into the story. I just wish he would have made it into a larger and more complete novel…

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The Mist is about how people of a small town react to a postapocalyptic crisis situation. One day, a big storm rages over the lake and brings with it a terrible mist. The storm ends suddenly, but the mist doesn’t go away. In fact it only seems to advance more… The people try to ignore the mist, and David leaves his wife at home while he goes to town with his son to shop for groceries. Then all hell breaks loose and the mist turns out to be murderous. A whole bunch of people are stuck inside the supermarket, trapped by the mist and no way of getting out alive…

There are two groups within the supermarket: those who want to find a way out, and those who believe the mist is a sign of Judgement Day. The second group grows larger by the day, especially after the ‘things’ in the mist start to claim victims… All kinds of creatures run loose out there, and more during the night than during the day. Various times small groups try to leave the supermarket, with more deaths as a consequence. But David is determined to save his son from both the creatures of the mist and the people inside the supermarket who now believe human sacrifice is the only answer… Together with a few others he wants to try and get to the car on the parking lot, hoping that inside they will be safe. But when they make it, where will they try to escape to?

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It’s short and definitely intriguing, so if you don’t mind that some important details are missing, you will enjoy it. Ignore the mentioning of numerous brand names and enjoy the creepy creatures that are luring within the mist… And be ready to wonder how the story ends after the open ending Stephen King leaves us with.

BOOK REVIEW: Insurgent – by Veronica Roth

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Title: Insurgent
(Divergent #2)

Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Fantasy
First published: May 1st 2012
Finished reading: February 26th 2014
Pages: 525
Rating 2

“People, I have discovered, are layers and layers of secrets. You believe you know them, that you understand them, but their motives are always hidden from you, buried in their own hearts. You will never know them, but sometimes you decide to trust them.”

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I wasn’t too sure about reading the second part of the Divergent series, but curiosity took over and I decided to get my hands on a copy of Insurgent. Unfortunately, the story didn’t get better than the first novel. No, it got a lot worse… To be honest, I was rather disappointed by lack of action throughout the story combined with the focus on the relationship between Tris (Beatrice) and Four (Tobias). I wasn’t expecting feeling those things after having read Divergent, and I must say I didn’t like it at all. Insurgent isn’t about the problems between the five factions anymore, it is more about the complicated relationship between Tris and Four and about the exaggerated fears Tris faces on a daily basis. And that was exactly what I didn’t sign up for: a romance novel. Such a shame since the series really had a lot of potential.

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In Insurgent things become more tense and Tris and the other Divergents have to rely more and more on their special skills. Everybody suffers from the war and the factionless become more powerful every day. The Erudite still maintain the power and try to control the population by improving their simulation serums. But they need a guinea pig to test if they work on Divergents, and here Tris ‘the suddenly selfless’ shows up to save they day. Later she betrays her boyfriend and the rest of the Dauntless by working together with his father Marcus in trying to recover valuable information from the Erudite. I must say I honestly don’t understand she did that without even knowing for sure Marcus wasn’t lying…  And we are not even talking about the ending.

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 Maybe I my expectations were set too high. Maybe I should have opened myself to Roth‘s new way of writing. But I just couldn’t get myself to like Insurgent I might still read the third and final part, but I doubt it will be any time soon.

BOOK REVIEW: Divergent – by Veronica Roth

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Title: Divergent
(Divergent #1)

Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Fantasy
First published: April 25th 2011
Finished: February 20th 2014
Pages: 487
Rating 3,5

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

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Described as being a mixture between Brave New World and The Hunger Games, I knew this first novel out of a trilogy would be interesting. I must admit I enjoyed it. But still, I couldn’t stop thinking of the many similarities with the Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games trilogy. Even the main heroines are too similar to be a coincidence. Both Tris and Katniss have the same characteristics and act alike. It seems like Veronica Roth copied the basic ideas of Collins and changed the story setting to create a ‘new’ bestseller. I understand her wanting to recreate the previous successful formula, but still I would have liked something more innovating. And although I liked Divergent, I must admit I prefer The Hunger Games. Go Katniss!

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Divergent is set in a world which is separated in five different factions, each with their own characteristics. We have Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peacefulness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (braveness) and Erudite (intelligence). Our heroine Beatrice Prior, later to be called Tris, is born into the Abnegation faction, but feels she doesn’t belong there. There is something special about her, something dangerous: she is Divergent. She actually has traits of three different factions and could belong to any of those three. People who are Divergent are seen as a threat to the delicate balance of the five factions and Tris is forced to keep her true identity secret.

At sixteen, every teenager has to do a test and then choose their faction. Tris chooses to leave her family and join the Dauntless faction. With the other iniciates she struggles to complete the difficult Dauntless training, where not all iniciates are intended to survive the training stage. She manages to adapt quite well, but is in constant danger of exposing her true identity. One of the trainers, Four (or Tobias), tries to help her and they fall in love…  Just as the training programme ends, all hell breaks loose and the Abnegation faction is attacked. The Erudite brainwash the Dauntless with a special serum so they attack, but the serum doesn’t work on Divergents. Together with a few others Tris escapes and the try to stop the simulation the serum causes… With serious consequences.

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This one makes a nice read if you don’t mind reading a lesser version of The Hunger Games and enjoy young adult novels. It is easy to read, and although sometimes a bit tacky and unbelievable, in overall enjoyable.

BOOK REVIEW: The Children Of Men – by P.D. James

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Title: The Children Of Men
Author: P.D. James
Genre: Mystery, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: 1992
Finished reading: January 31st 2014
Pages: 241

Rating 3

“Without the hope of posterity, for our race if not for ourselves, without the assurance that we being dead yet live, all pleasures of the mind and senses sometimes seem to me no more than pathetic and crumbling defences shored up against our ruin.”

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In The Children Of Men, P.D. James introduces us to an infertil world that is slowly coming to an end… A world without hope. It is set in the year 2021, and no babies have been born since the year of Omega in 1995. The whole world is infertil and its inhabitants only become older and older to the point that the world population shrinks drastically to about 40 million. Whole villages disappear and slowly everything is starting to show signs of decay. I loved the imagination James used to put together this book, although the first part was a bit slow. The whole intent of escape made the book that much more interesting and the characters really come to life during the second part. All in all a nice read set in a dystopian infertil world that focuses on the question what will happen when the human race is on the border of extinction.

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Theo Faron is a history professor who only has his job left to live for, when one of his students approaches him. Julian forms part of a small group seeking to rebel against the government, and she will play an essential role in the rest of the story. Theo knows the Warden of England Xan personally, since it is his nephew. Under the spell of Julian, he talks to Xan and tries to convince him to change his politics. Unfortunately it is all in vain. Our history professor then escapes reality by traveling around Europe, and when he comes back after six months a surprise is waiting for him… After a few weeks the group, Five Fishes, send him a cry for help: Julian needs him. He reluctantly agrees but soon comes under her spell. They were hiding a enormous secret that will change everything: in a world where infertility is a norm, Julian has managed to get pregnant again. Together with Theo, the Five Fishes try to get away from the government and keep Julian hidden away safely until the baby is born…

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This dystopian novel is not one of the best ones out there, but it is still an interesting read. It makes you reflect as a reader what would happen if the world actually would become infertil… Something that will mostly likely mean the end of the human race. In short, it’s a nice and relatively short read as long as you don’t set your expectations too high.