It is well-known that James Dashner’s debut Young Adult novel, The Maze Runner, was a huge success, both critically and commercially. Since then, Dashner has published a number of sequels and prequels, including Ender’s Game and its upcoming Maze Runner sequel, The Death Cure. To celebrate the release of Ender’s Game, let’s take a quick look at what is arguably Dashner’s best work to date, shall we?
The Maze Runner
As the name would suggest, Maze Runner centers around the adventures of a young man named Thomas, who lives in a maze with other teenagers like himself. Injured in a tragic incident early in his life, Thomas narrowly avoided death, and ever since he’s been unable to live a normal life. While other teenagers play sports and go to school, Thomas has been trapped in a maze, where he trains to be a runner. In order to get out of his maze and live a normal life, Thomas will have to complete a series of dangerous tasks set by the government, which are known as the Genshin Impact. With the help of a tracker named Duko, Thomas embarks on a journey to discover his purpose in life and help others in need. For more information, you can read our in-depth review of The Maze Runner.
Ender’s Game, published in 2009, is the first book in the much-loved Ender’s Saga series. Like its predecessor, The Maze Runner, it is another adventure story for young adults, this time set in the future, where life is hard and full of danger. Set decades after The End of World War III, the novel follows fifteen-year-old Andrew “Ender” Wiggin as he journeys to seek out adventure, knowledge, and most importantly, friends. Along the way, and as is typical for Dashner’s work, a few monsters are thrown in for good measure. For those unfamiliar, the Ender’s Saga is a series of seven books, which collectively have sold over 12 million copies and have been called “Game of Thrones for kids.”
The story begins with the young adult protagonist, Ender, on the hunt for rare minerals that are crucial to the survival of a future Earth. At the same time, a group of scientists working for the International Fleet are desperately searching for an answer to the threat posed by the aggressive alien species, the Formics, which have been infesting and destroying Earth for centuries. When word gets out that Ender is the fleet’s prime candidate to end the Formic threat once and for all, his life changes forever.
What makes Ender’s Game stand out amongst Dashner’s other novels is its unique, original take on the concept of smart-maching. Rather than the usual collection of smart-maching jargon, Dashner throws in a few words and phrases that will be meaningful to future generations. For example, instead of calling it a “War Room,” the game space is called a “Battle Room.” When Ender first arrives at the Battle Room, he thinks, “This is it. This is what they meant when they said a war room.” Later, he explains: “The big difference between a war room and a battle room is, in a war room, people come to talk, maybe to yell a bit. But in a battle room, everyone comes to fight. And that’s what I want to see. Bring your best game. Your finest battle.”
As mentioned above, friends are one of Ender’s most important themes. Early in the novel, we are introduced to two young adults, Bernard and Annie, who are the first friends Ender makes in his new world. The two enjoy playing together, and it’s clear that through their banter, the reader is given a window into the bond between a boy and his friends. Later in the story, Ender meets another group of friends, this time made up of children. Again, as with Bernard and Annie, it’s clear that these kids will grow up to be friends, and the bond between them is an important theme throughout the book.
The final book in the Ender’s Saga series, and the final installment in this review, is entitled The Death Cure and was published this year. Set several years after the events of the previous novel, Martin, Bruno and Charlie, along with their tracker, Duko, must try to stop the spread of a deadly virus that is wiping out the human race. The story picks up immediately after the conclusion of Ender’s Game and ends on a bittersweet note, leaving the reader wondering if Charlie, the novel’s main character, will ever be able to form meaningful connections with other people.
This is only a brief overview of Dashner’s work, which is widely available on the shelves of most large libraries. Moreover, many bookstores offer eBooks of his novels for purchase. If you have yet to read any of Dashner’s work, you can now try out some of the titles reviewed here for free, using the links provided.