Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book Review: The Kill Order

I'm clearly way behind on my posting, because I finished James Dashner's The Kill Order a whole week ago and am just now getting around to reviewing it.  Warning: this review may include some spoilery.

To begin, I need to say that this book was not what I wanted it to be.  When I heard that James Dashner was going to publish a prequel to The Maze Runner, I thought, "Oh good, finally some of those unanswered questions will be cleared up."  Boy, was I wrong.  I wanted to read about the beginnings of WICKED and what Thomas and Teresa truly believed before their memories were wiped.  But The Kill Order takes place 13 years before The Maze Runner.  WICKED doesn't exist yet, and Thomas and Teresa are only mentioned in the preface and epilogue.  This book focuses on life after the sun flares, when the virus that comes to be known as the Flare is first released.  In short, this book raised even more questions for me.... and left me hoping for another book to cover the story between it and the beginning of The Maze Runner.

Well played, James Dashner.  I am hooked.

In The Kill Order, we follow the story of Mark and his friends, including Trina and Alec, as they struggle to survive in a world left ravaged by the sun flares.  Through flashbacks, we hear about the arrival of the flares and their devastating effects on both human life and the earth's climate.  Then, in Mark's present time, we witness a Berg arriving in the village of huts that he and other survivors have cobbled together in the Appalachian Mountains.  The Berg holds armed gunmen, all wearing protective suits, who open fire on Mark's village.  The darts that they shoot contains a deadly virus, later dubbed "the Flare," which mutates as it spreads between hosts.  The virus works by destroying the brain, and victims spiral into insanity.

Before their own sanity runs out, Mark and his friends struggle to find out why they have been attacked and what they might be able to do to reverse the effects of the Flare.  By the end of the book, (spoilery ahead!) they conclude that their only real hope is in the form of Deedee, a 5-year-old girl who seems to be immune to the virus.  (Contemplation: So does Deedee grow up to be Teresa?  Because WICKED changes the names of all the Immune kids they collect....  Or is she a different character entirely?  Only another book will tell....)

My feelings on The Kill Order were very similar to my thoughts on Dashner's other books.  The characters are not very well-developed.  Even Mark, the main character, is mostly one-dimensional.  Alec, his mentor, is a "grizzled old soldier" (described in slight variations of that phrase ad nauseum), and Trina is strong, brave, and beautiful, the ideal girl--yet utterly lacking in personality.  All other characters are developed even less than that.  Likewise, none of the characters have any depth of feeling.  They are "shocked" and "scared," often so much so that they "lack words to describe" any other emotions.  So if you're looking for a character to fall in love with or a book to take you through the emotional wringer, this one is not it.

But if you are looking for an action novel, well then, you've come to the right place.  I can't even count the number of times that Mark found himself hanging out a window or precariously balanced in some other ultra-dangerous situation.  As in the rest of The Maze Runner trilogy, the plot twists just keep on coming, hard and fast.  As I said, I was left with more questions than answers.... but that also left me hoping for another book to be added to the series.  A quick read without great substance, but enjoyable nonetheless.

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