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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Kill Order (The Maze Runner #0.5) by James Dashner

The prequel to the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series.

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

Released: August 14th 2012         Pages: 327
Publisher: Delacorte Books         Source: Library
At the end of The Death Cure, I was left with a feeling that the whole story had not yet been told.  Apparently I wasn't the only one with this feeling, because soon after I finished TDC, I found out about this prequel.  I wanted to know about Thomas's life before the maze.  I wanted to know what made him do the things he did.  Where WICKED got its start. 
If you are looking for this prequel, you are not alone.  Unfortunately, The Kill Order is not that prequel.  Thomas was mentioned in an emotional and, frankly, quite emotional and well-written prologue.  And he came up in an epilogue. 
But this is not Thomas's story.  This is the story of Mark, a character even flatter than Thomas.  My major complaint with The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure was that I never got a feel for who Thomas was.  I felt no sense of personality from him.  I hardly cared about him.
At least he had a conscience. 
It's always a delicate subject, for authors, when the main character kills another human being.  Sometimes it has to happen (Eragon, anyone?*).  I'm not saying that murder is ever okay.  But some authors deal with the situation well, and others don't.  For example: throughout the entire Inheritance series, Roran, a major character and one of the "good guys", kills quite a few people.  Roran feels a lot of guilt over this.  He may have accomplished something for the greater good, but he still doesn't dismiss the killing as "well, it's okay 'cause the good guys won". 
Mark, on the other hand, does not appear to have any sense of guilt at all.  He gets a fancy weapon that can vaporize people.  His elderly soldier buddy, Alec, ends up zapping a guy "just to see if this thing works".  The guy was insane, but still.  This kind of thing is not okay.  Dashner could have at least made the characters feel some amount of guilt over this.  But no, Mark and Alec just go around zapping anyone who stands in their way.  I can't even pretend to be okay with this.
Also, there were some logic gaps going on here.  1. Alec was supposedly "elderly", but he ran around all the time like he was 20 years old.  2. Apparently the world doesn't have enough resources, so they're going to kill off half the population.  How does this solve anything?  If you have less people, you also have less people to farm, raise livestock, etc.  Also, why would you want to infect basically the entire world?  I don't quite understand this whole aspect.  3. There's a highly contagious, deadly virus going around?  Mark and Trina: "Let's make out!" 
(This picture was also my political statement on November 7th.)
In addition to Mark being unlikable and the logic weirdness, this book also had too many flashbacks.  What kind of person has crystal-clear memory dreams that come in chronological order?  Nobody.  Every single time Mark slept, he had a memory dream/flashback.  This doesn't happen in real life, not like this.  Also, it took away from the rest of the story.  We'd have action, action, action--wait, gotta go back and tell you guys something that happened a year ago! 
As you can probably tell, I'm not impressed with this book.  I didn't like Mark.  I didn't really care about any of the characters or the plot.  All in all, it didn't tell the story I was hoping to hear, and it made me mad while it was at it.  Two stars.
(Also, this is totally random, but when Mark ran into that guy who was covered in oil and threatening to light a fire, my only thought was "DENETHOR LIVES!"  I'm no Denethor fan.  Then again, I think saying "I like Denethor" is like saying "King Joffrey is awesome".  No one says it, ever.  Still, it's hard to forgive Denethor for sitting there, pigging out, while Pippin sings his lovely song.  And for almost killing Faramir, because I rather like Faramir.)
*There's actually a quite interesting article arguing that Eragon is not, in fact, a "good guy".  While I don't really agree, it's an interesting take on it.  
Similar Books: The Always War, Ashes, Unwind  
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