In life there will undoubtedly be books that have either too little action, leaving you bored to tears, or books that have too much action and leave you craving some sort of emotional depth. The Kill Order (the prequel to James Dashner’s bestselling The Maze Runner trilogy), falls firmly into the latter category. While it never lacks in excitement, there was just so much crammed in there that I got whiplash trying to keep up…
I’m going to come straight out and say that if I hadn’t been reading this with friends on goodreads then I never would’ve picked it up so soon after finishing the original trilogy. However, as prequels go this isn’t too bad. What it lacked in finesse it certainly made up for in thrills. Some of my favourite sections were the prologue and the epilogue, perhaps because they were more closely linked to the original trilogy, and it also made a nice change to read Dashner’s writing from female points of view.
What was especially good about this novel is that is fills in some of the blanks that were left unanswered in The Death Cure. While I’ve no doubt that there were some inaccuracies, I really enjoyed reading about the survival aspects of the plot and the early days of the disaster. Plus it was nice to see a group of people comprised of different ages working together, rather than just a lot of people of the same age. Lastly, I enjoyed spotting all of the little nods to the Maze Runner trilogy, so picking up on the evolution of some of the terms (e.g. why ‘cranks’ are called ‘cranks’) was a treat.
The characters. Every last one of them was boring, bland and flat, with about as much emotional complexity as a desk lamp. I didn’t hate their personalities because there wasn’t enough there to hate! I forgive the six year old, because you don’t expect character development from a six year old. Everyone else needed to be much more interesting. Nobody changed at all from start to finish and this led to a real problem when it came to the high stakes situations the author placed his characters in. There was zero connection to the protagonists: what I should have been feeling was scared for them, hoping that everyone will be okay even though you know it’s impossible. Instead I couldn’t have cared less who lived or died, which is a real shame because there was so much untapped potential there.
On top of this, the romance appeared forced and unnecessary because I simply didn’t believe that the couples felt anything for each other. It was more a case of ‘they need to love each other because it’s convenient to the plot’, which absolutely didn’t work. This meant that we had stiff and unnatural dialogue between people that could be downright cringe-worthy to read. I think the overarching issue was that Dashner’s writing style is all about telling us everything, not showing us, and a truly engaging novel does the opposite. The best example I can give is Alec. Every time he speaks he’s referred to as ‘the former soldier’ or some variation thereof. Suffice to say that when you read those three words, like, seven times on one page, it starts to get on your nerves. Once is enough James; we get it – he’s ex-military, that’s why he’s not dead yet and knows stuff about stuff. Give us some credit!
The plot itself started desperately slowly, and ended up spiralling into ridiculousness; things just kept happening, but it all seemed pointless! Think about it like watching your favourite TV show: there’s always that one episode in the middle of a series that is basically just filler. That was the whole book. It seemed as though the author had a beginning and an end, and then just sandwiched whatever he could dream up into the middle to fill the pages. And I straight-up laughed out loud at how Mark’s dreams presented us with flashbacks conveniently written in chronological order!
I’d probably award Dashner’s novel two out of five stars. What we got was enjoyable enough to read, but it was all just so repetitive I couldn’t deal with reading more than about two or three chapters at once, because every page was so similar to the last that my brain felt as though it were on a continuous loop; I needed to pause and let it catch up.
I would say that if action, action and more action (and little of pretty much anything else) is what you’re looking for in a book, then The Kill Order is definitely for you. I would recommend it to anyone who’s a diehard fan of the series, but don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll get insights into Thomas or the Maze – this book is set within the world but features (mostly) an entirely new cast of characters.
Be prepared, is all I’m saying!