The Scorch Trials is James Dashner’s sequel to The Maze Runner – the middle book in a trilogy. And I absolutely loved The Maze Runner, so this may come as a bit of a surprise: I thought The Scorch Trials was completely pointless.
It’s not that it was poorly written. In fact, it was extremely well written. I found myself taking time out of anything else I was doing to get just one more chapter in. I read the whole book in two or three days, tops. The action moved it along quite nicely. But when it really came down to it, I didn’t see the point of the book. It can’t stand alone – you have to have read the first book – and you can’t stop without reading the third book, either. It’s the glue of the series.
Which I wouldn’t mind, if it were useful glue. When Tolkien released the Lord of the Rings series, The Two Towers served as the glue in the middle. And it was important glue. There were battles and characters and serious plot elements that had to be dealt with. It was the meat in the literary sandwich. The Scorch Trials is the mayonnaise in Dashner’s literary sandwich. It doesn’t really add substance. It doesn’t really add flavor. It just kind of sticks the two pieces of bread together.
I don’t feel like I’m being hard on him here. The Maze Runner is great, even as a stand-alone thriller. The Death Cure is great (though you’d have to have read The Maze Runner for it to make sense). But if you skipped straight from book one to book three, the entire trilogy would still make perfect sense. I feel like Dashner’s publisher said, “You know, trilogies sell really well right now,” so Dashner said, “That’s alright – I had all these ideas for horrible things the establishment could do to these kids anyway,” and plugged in all his extra ideas into a second book. But he could have easily skipped the “task” required of the kids in the second book, tacked on an extra ten or twenty pages to the third book, and ended up with a shorter, more coherent story line.
Here’s what you’ll need to know if you decide to take my advice and skip The Scorch Trials:
- These kids are super important. Also, they’re immune to The Flare.
- WICKED promised them a cure.
- Thomas needed to feel betrayed for the research patterns WICKED needed, so they convinced Teresa to pretend to give him up as a human sacrifice. Tensions between Thomas and Teresa are tense. (Terribly tense.)
- The Gladers met some folks named Jorge and Brenda. They’re “good guys.”
- WICKED is cruel and unusual, and Thomas and Teresa probably only helped them in the first place because they grew up brainwashed. Also, Thomas had a mother who loved him.
Yup. That’s about all you need to know. And at least a hundred pages could have been cut out if item 3 had been cut out of the story line (which it easily could have). So as long as you already think WICKED is doing bad things to kids, and you’re willing to accept the names Jorge and Brenda, you’ve already got the information you need. Proceed straight ahead to The Death Cure. ♦
If you want more spoilers, and a more complete book review: