Thursday, October 20, 2011

"The Death Cure" by James Dashner

I had been looking forward to reading The Death Cure. Though Dashner's previous books in the series, The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials, weren't especially memorable, they were a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the mix of mystery, adventure, and dystopian elements, and the fast-paced cliffhanger style helped make the books especially engaging. Unfortunately, The Death Cure did not live up to my expectations.

In a series built on unanswered questions, it can be difficult to wrap-up the storyline in an effective way. Going in, the reader knows Thomas and the other Gladers must learn the truth about WICKED and determine their role in protecting the earth from the disease called the Flare. Nevertheless, Dashner just didn't seem to know where he was going. First, unlike previous novels, it felt like little was happening, and when something did, it was almost always centered around guns, fistfights, and bravado-laced hostage taking. The inordinate amount of fighting and death seemed out of place, like it should have belonged in a mass market crime thriller. Hundreds of (mostly unnamed) people die, but there's really no empathy.

Thomas' relationship with and conflicting feelings about Theresa were at the center of the previous novels, but Theresa is almost completely forgotten here. There's no character development on her part, and it's never clear what her motivations are. Thomas mostly ignores her, and I was surprised to see so little resolution between them.

The book seemed like it was trying to raise ethical questions by setting up the conflict between WICKED, which is willing to sacrifice human subjects at any cost in order to find a cure to for the Flare, and the Right Arm, a resistance movement focused on survival rather than a cure. The question of whether it's morally permissible to sacrifice a few to potentially save many is an important and challenging issue. However, Thomas and his friends' insistence on the evil of WICKED, combined with the cartoonish nastiness of WICKED's leader, distorted any moralistic exploration.

I found myself bored through much of the novel, and the ending was a cop-out that avoided answering the hard questions. It was a disappointing end to a promising series.

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