Can you believe it? I finally finished a book and I’ve got a review for it! So The Kill Order is a prequel to The Maze Runner Series (yes I know I probably the only person still reading this series). I went into this book without high expectations and I didn’t know it contained a different set of characters to The Maze Runner Trilogy so that was a surprise. In terms of the trilogy, I really enjoyed the first book but it kind of went downhill from there… I guess I was hoping for a redemption in this prequel and hopefully understand the origins of the flare. Anyway, this is going to be a spoiler free review, and I hope you enjoy it!!!
The Kill Order by James Dashner
Series: The Maze Runner (#0.5)
Genres: Science fiction, Dystopian
Publication: August 14th 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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.
I really wanted to enjoy this book and I was hoping it would get better and more exciting, but I consistently found myself getting bored and confused throughout reading. This led to much skipping or skimming of sentences as I found myself wanting it to end. I didn’t DNF it because as I said, I wished it would get better and what really frustrates we was that many of the scenes had such potential, but Dashner kept applying the same formula in creating tension and the setting which was convoluted and disjointed. Also, I don’t tend to not finish books unless I really hate it or where it’s heading towards, and I say this once more, IT LET ME DOWN!!! Too messy (in terms of the ceaseless mini conflicts scattered throughout the book), and these “plot twists” were solved too easily and quickly. If the author just slowed the pace down a bit and focused on developing less scenes, I think the premise is good enough to turn it into a solid, decent book.
Generally, it didn’t work for me *shakes head in disappointed puzzlement*. I liked the overall premise storyline of the book, starting the characters without a piece of knowledge about this new “virus” and the journey to discover the cause of it and reasoning. But… the chain of events and filler scenes in the actual book were just too much to take it. SO. MUCH. ACTION. It was unbelievable the amount of action Dashner could fit in this kind of short book, yet I was bored and my interest didn’t peak until after the first 100 pages. I read the words but they just flew out of my head.
I was sad at first when I realised I wasn’t going to read about when the sun flare ACTUALLY hit earth and the catastrophe that surrounded it.
1. It would be soooo graphic
2. There would be lots of betrayal in order to survive
3. The desperation would be real. Legit. Emotions super high
Instead, we started after this calamity with a group of teenagers and Alec (bit of an older man) who are doing pretty well in terms of surviving. And then, *gasp* their lives are interrupted by darts being shot at literally everyone from a berg and people are dropping fast. The rest of the book is Mark (the protagonist), Alec and couple of survivors attempting to find answers to why people are killing after the world kind of fell into a crisis that already killed many. In this journey, they meet an influx of nameless people the show the stages of the virus and different effects they have on each person (in attempts to confuse the characters and reader even more). If you have already read The Maze Runner Trilogy, then you’ll know their inevitable fate, but I didn’t feel the book was pointless, only excessive. There were also random chapters of Mark’s dreams and flashbacks that were interesting (sometimes better than the present story – prequel for a prequel hahaha), but I couldn’t differentiate between them and present reality until several paragraphs in. I did like the fact that we were introduced to the characters’ backstories (meeting each other) through memories.
I felt as fast the conflicts were introduced, they were resolved and it become ridiculous at some stages I was like, “seriously?!? You nearly got knocked out several times, there is a huge number of relentless crazy infected people surrounding you AND every exit, yet suddenly you have the strength to thrown people around? No”. I mean, I’m glad that the author is not suggesting that everything is going to rainbows and unicorns again (it is a post-apocalyptic world), so yes, it is going to be difficult to survive in this world, but Mark is such an idiot sometimes he should not have survived in MANY scenarios. What I think Dashner did well was creating a desperate and losing battle with a smidgen of hope to compel readers to continue reading (was it worth it though? questionable). I actually really enjoyed the prologue and epilogue and the way they were written BUT I didn’t understand their purpose in contributing to the story. There is some romance. I did not approve of it.
The author could have done so so well on this. Post-apocalyptic worlds are so fun to explore (and depressing of course) because you get to create new settings and the imagery can be phenomenal. Also as the prequel of the trilogy, not set in the maze, the author has a clean slate to illustrate to readers how bad it was that forced WICKED to build the maze. And it was poorly executed. Way too many settings for the reader to absorb and the descriptions were also quite weird. He would have some amazing imagery about aspects of the setting, but I could never truly grasp their whereabouts, so if you asked me for a 360˚ description of the places visited, I would probably only be able to point out 3 things. There were times where I could fully immerse myself into the world, and those were the times I felt engaged with the storyline. The thing Dashner does well is describing machinery (random, I know), literally all the senses. Other times, he would state a generic setting like the forest and focus on 1 tree. I think this might be one of the reasons I this novel couldn’t captivate and hold my attention.
Another one of my pet peeves; the lack of character development (no emotions present) so let me introduce some of them to you:
Mark: a teenage boy (I actually couldn’t pinpoint his age range at first because he switched so much between adult and young boy activities) that probably annoyed me the most out of the whole novel. He’s irrational yet hesitant. Doubtful of others’ decisions yet impulsively makes decisions he thinks are helpful in the spur of the moment. Constantly seeking instructions but his own decisions are “inarguable” and reckless. So shocked in every situation that he can’t even move an inch in life or DEATH moments. Always speechless. Always freezing. Always contemplating. So stupid sometimes that in a world with a high threat of catching a virus, he still yearns and ignores commands to not touch anyone (even for affection. shocker. sarcasm). That’s a bit harsh but hello? Survival skills? Honestly, I was constantly questioning how he survived for so long in this world.
Alec: not a teenager (rather an old man). History in the military. Mark’s travelling buddy (without Alec, Mark would be dead many many times). Harsh yet logical. I think I would breakdown if it weren’t for Alec’s constant rationality and realism (someone’s got to balance Mark, right?). Probably my favourite character, although he did fit in too nicely into the harsh, realistic survivor, grumpy old man stereotype. Too many nicknames that sometimes I thought there was a new character (Mark’s fault).
Trina: teenage girl. She enjoys reading. Was my favourite character originally before she didn’t think survival wasn’t important enough and hugging was (and several other things of course, I promise I’m not that mean). Began as a person who was sad at appropriate times, understandable and able to think logically with reason in situations, not allowing grief to completely engulf her. I did enjoy the idea of a teenage couple already together and not in the stages of “love at first sight” or “total infatuation before meeting” but as I said before I was not fan of this romance (so many cringy moments e.g. gazing into each other’s eyes). I think it was unnecessary and a strong friendship would have been more effective. I felt no chemistry at all between this couple.
Lana: another rational teenage girl – I appreciated that. As a minor character, she didn’t appear too often in the book but I liked when she was around. I wished she was around more than… you know *cough* Mark.
The Toad: teenage boy. I only put him in to say who let’s anyone give them the nickname “The Toad” and go along with it? Is it not degrading in any way? He wasn’t much in the story either. Impulsive too.
There are so many characters in such a short novel that were so useless and dying that I didn’t care for them. Also there was no appearance description – all I got was that Trina was pretty and had green eyes. Characterisation. Severely lacking. E.g. woman with crazy hair, woman with evil smile, man that whines a lot, man that is insane, man with a blade, Bruce. As I said, useless, complicating the story and making it more unrealistic.
I do think the whole concept with the sun flares is original because I haven’t read it anywhere. So thumbs up for that (or I’m just not widely read). And that thing, you know if you’ve read it – “that group” *wink wink* was creepy and I liked it. It was unexpected and I appreciated it amongst all the running and hiding predominant throughout the book. I found the introduction to new devices confusing in trying to comprehend the “science” or workings of them, and just couldn’t – was confused. I did feel some of the lines in the book were a bit cliché and could have been done with different words to express emotions and atmosphere better;
“An almost eerie silence.”
“Hiss of a snake.”
You see, I’ve only noticed in The Death Cure and his book that Dashner has a unique way of writing. In his writing, scenes are mainly action driven, and conflicts and resolutions are always quick. This makes them anticlimactic because the problems are always fixed so early. I also like Dasher’s imagery most times and he has an ability to create really chilling and gorey images. I also feel his describes pain pretty well and reactions well, using all senses. The pain and fights are sometimes really realistic and other times not so much – and I just want to say that he includes vomiting, yay (not really but yay of realistic scenes). Often his sentences can be choppy as his way to increase tension and anticipation which doesn’t work that well for me. It’s one of those it’s me not you cases because I just can’t feel the stress I think the author wants me to feel. Also chapters are quite short and often 1-2 scenes only with a very specific ending. The last sentence is usually a short and observant action to create anticipation and urgency to read the next chapter but didn’t work for me. However, the end of chapter 12 was done really well in my opinion (it makes more sense in context) and it shocked me;
“My… head hurts,” she whispered.
Surprisingly, I didn’t hate the book (I just struggled to read it over a course of 3 weeks). It’s so much easier to identify things you don’t like about a book than the good stuff so I didn’t dread my time reading this book. It was a rollercoaster in terms of my interest levels – I was not fully satisfied with the story or ending. Unless you are a die-hard James Dashner fan and enjoy his style of writing, I don’t recommend picking this book up. If you’re like me and just want to finish the series, it is quite easy and fast to finish (don’t judge – I was in a reading slump). I think there is another prequel of The Maze Runner Trilogy, but sequel to this prequel coming out this year which I will be reading. WHY if I disliked this book so much?!? Well, from the synopsis, it’s about Thomas and the gang and the maze which was what I hoping for in this prequel. I am also very intrigued about WICKED’s reasoning behind the maze and uncovering secrets, so pretty pumped for that. Once again, I’m sorry for the rambling and long blog post but I haven’t written many book reviews, so does this make up for all the books I could review if I actually finished some? Have some fun this weekend!
Not the most positive review, but let’s chat anyway. Have there been any series you’ve continued to read even if you didn’t enjoy or hated the previous book in the series? Comment below!
* I am a Book Depository affiliate – for more details, you can read my Disclosure HERE.