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“But which was the enemy—the virus or those trying to destroy the world to be rid of it?” Minho. –The Maze Cutter
The Maze Cutter
by James Dashner
Isaac, Sadina, and their friends are living on an isolated island — far from the destruction and terror on the mainland caused by the Flare virus. But when a suspicious ship carrying a woman from the mainland arrives, the friends take this chance to leave the safety of the island for the opportunity to see what life on the mainland holds for them. Isaac and his friends leave their safety and their home behind for a chance at improving the world for future generations. The novel follows Isaac and his friends’ trip to the mainland, as well as two warring groups, both desperate for descendants of a certain bloodline that they hope to use for their respective causes.
Fans of Dashner’s original Maze Runner series (2009) will be thrilled to find a new batch of characters and references to the original series in The Maze Cutter. Though the story is set seventy-three years after the Maze Runner Series, the references to the original series will make it difficult to follow for readers who have not read the original series. The prologue opens with references to the events of the original series and there are interspersed excerpts from the diary of one of the characters in the original series.
The Maze Cutter’s point of view switches between Alexandria, Isaac, and Minho. Alexandria is a goddess with powers stemming from the Flare virus. Isaac is a young man who joins his friends who return to the dystopian mainland. And Minho is a trained soldier for the Remnant Nation. The varying plots can be hard to follow since the different characters start out in completely different places, hundreds of miles from each other. However, by the halfway point of the novel, a trap set by one of the two warring factions brings them together with a battle scene that keeps readers wanting to know more.
Minho and Isaac demonstrate the importance of building relationships and embracing “found family.” Isaac struggles to reckon with the loss of his family, as well as his perceived guilt because his family died when they entered stormy ocean waves to save him from drowning. Isaac’s willingness to push through his fear to protect his friends makes him a likable character, and readers will enjoy seeing his realization that “all the crazy people” that survived the battle with him “had made [the loss of his family] a little more bearable.”
Minho is an orphan who “had no parents, no brothers, no sisters, no friends. Only enemies,” until he meets an older woman named Roxy who offers him food and shelter when he stumbles onto her property. Readers will appreciate how Minho’s mindset changes about having family, as he initially is taught to “follow protocol” and not trust anyone, but eventually, he lets Roxy in and shows his emotional side. During the battle scene at the end of the novel, Roxy saves him. Minho says, “It was kinda cool having a mom.”
Another major theme is humanity, and what happens when humans reach for power. To prevent any spread of the Flare virus, the Remnant Nation trains children, like Minho, to be soldiers that will kill any outsiders in hopes of eradicating the virus. By contrast, the Godhead wants to use the virus to infect all of humanity and cause “The Evolution”—powers they hope to gain from the virus. Minho explains of the Godhead and the Remnant Nation, “You’re talking about two religions here, both in a race to the end. And one won’t rest until the other’s gone.” Readers can take away the message that while sometimes people start out with the intention of protecting and helping people, the opportunity to gain power can cause them to hurt others to achieve their goals.
The conclusion leaves readers wondering what the characters will choose to do—will they stay on the mainland or look for a way to return home? Will Alexandria take complete power over her faction? Readers will be left looking forward to the next book in the series, The Godhead Complex, which shows Alexandria uncovering the most valuable asset in this post-apocalyptic battle—a clue that connects the book back to the original Maze Runner series. Readers who are not put off by violence will enjoy how the end battle brings the characters together and shows the survivors forming tight bonds of friendship.
- After Sadina is kidnapped, she is reunited with her long-time girlfriend, Trish. “Trish and Sadina had yet to let go of each other. . . kissing and hugging in a loop that might last another day or two.”
- Minho is approached by a man who begs for his life. Minho didn’t have the courage to disobey protocol” so he shot the man. The murder is described in detail, “A single shot rang out” and the man Minho shot is described as having “a small wisp of smoke leaking from the new hole in his head, slumped off the horse and fell into the mud with a wet splat. Another shot, and the animal fell as well.”
- Alexandria finds out that another member of the Godhead, Mikhail, has been attacking followers in a vicious process called “hollowing.” During hollowing, “they’d been sliced from aft to stern, their very essence of life removed with violent but precise efficiency.”
- When witnessing a young boy being attacked, Minho grabs the man attacking him and “slammed him against the wall . . . the stranger’s head cracked against the jagged stone.” It is implied that Minho kills him.
- Sadina and Isaac are threatened by Timon, a follower of the Godhead, who attempts to kidnap them and threatens to kill their friends. Timon yells, “MEET ME OR THEY ALL DIE . . . TELL ANYONE, THEY DIE.”
- When Sadina and Isaac are kidnapped, Kletter, a suspicious woman who arrived on a mysterious ship at the beginning of the book, is brutally murdered. “Her neck . . . that was the bad part. The really bad part. It had been slashed with something sharp, from one side to the other like a necklace, and blood poured down the front of her body in gushes.”
- In order to protect his newfound friend Roxy, Minho attacks Letti, one of the kidnappers. Minho “swung the club of wood and smashed it against the side of Letti’s head . . . Letti collapsed to the ground in a heap.” She is not killed as, “Her chest moved up and down, still alive, but her bloody head sure didn’t look so good.”
- While trying to escape the confines of the Remnant Nation’s “Berg,” Minho’s friend, Skinny, is killed. It is brutal; Skinny’s “head was smashed, the arms and legs twisted at weird angles, blood everywhere.” Several people die, but these deaths are not described in detail. This “Berg” battle is described over ten pages.
- During the battle scene, “Minho had barely stepped from the wreckage when he saw a man buried beneath a large chunk of the Berg that had fallen off . . . The chest didn’t move at all, and there was blood in all kinds of bad places.”
- Roxy saves Minho from being stabbed by a Remnant Nation leader during the battle: “Then a long object swung in from the left of his vision, slamming directly into the face of the priestess. The woman screamed, blood spurted, she dropped the knife, collapsed, and went still.”
- Alexandria orders her followers to kill Nicholas and bring her his head. Alexandria “slid the box closer to her, lifted its lid . . . The eyes of Nicholas stared back at her. His eyelids removed so that they could never close again. She smiled at him, half-expecting what was left of the dead man to return the kind gesture. He did not.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- During a meeting of the Congress of the island, Sadina discovers that her mother and two other congresspeople have put something in the wine so that they can leave the island without resistance. They “spiked the wine. But don’t worry, it only puts them to sleep.”
- Alexandria meets with Mannus, a wavering follower of the Godhead, who describes how he ended up with “horns sewed upon his head.” He says, “I was young and drunk and there might’ve been a lady involved. She’s dead now and I still got these damn horns.”
- Many of the younger characters frequently use hell and damn.
- Other profanity is used occasionally. Profanity includes bastard, shit, and bullshit.
- Characters from the Remnant Nation frequently use “thank the Cure” and “for Flare’s sake” as exclamations.
- Within the setting of the Godhead, there are frequent exclamations of “Praise to the Maze,” “Glory to the Gladers,” and other expressions of worship towards Alexandria, “the Evolution,” and powers that come with it.
- Old Man Frypan, one of the original Gladers, often exclaims, “hallelujah” and “amen.”
- Though there are no direct examples of magic in the book, futuristic technology often appears to fill this type of role. For instance, when Isaac and his friends are reunited once more, they are horrified to discover “at least a dozen dark shapes hovered above the horizon as if by magic,” but “Isaac knew it wasn’t magic,” instead it is gigantic “Bergs” coming to take them away.
- Characters with strength and enhanced senses from “The Evolution” are referred to as Gods and Goddesses of “the Godhead.”
- Timon, one of the kidnappers, asks Sadina and Isaac if they have heard of the Godhead, to which Sadina asks, “Like in the Bible. . . Never read it.” But Timon exclaims, “No I’m not talking about the damn Bible.”
- The Remnant Nation forces Minho to go on a forty-day trek. While pretending to be loyal to the Remnant Nation, Minho says, “Long live the Cure . . . May I wander for forty days and nights and return a Bearer of Grief in her service! May the Godhead die, and the Cure rule the earth.”
- Jackie, one of Isaac’s friends, worries about her kidnapped friends, explaining, “We’re wandering the wilderness like freaking Moses from the Bible. Or was that Joseph? Paul? Who the hell knows.”
- Alexandria is part of “the Godhead”, and her goal is to overtake the other two “Gods” and become “their new God.”
by Elana Koehler