The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
In this sequel to The Maze Runner, Thomas and his friends are still experimental subjects for WICKED. They have to make their way through a punishing desert and a city full of violent, infected “cranks,” while treachery and betrayal are brewing.
I complained about the weak characterization in the first book, and this book is no better in that regard. I wish a writing workshop teacher had told Dashner to show, not tell. The language was incredibly bland, except for an attempt at making up uninteresting slang words for the boys to use, most of which were just used like substitutes for obscenities.
The characters endure some horrible violence and internal strife, and all throughout they keep wondering what WICKED’s purpose is in putting them through it. It keeps piling on and piling on, and then at the end, there’s still no resolution, no payoff that answers any questions at all. There are hints about how WICKED is “adjusting the variables” to create “patterns” but without more information that doesn’t make any sense. I’m sure this vagueness is what is supposed to get us to read the next book. But at this point I was so frustrated with the senselessness of it all that I’m not sure Dashner can come up with an explanation that will satisfy. The horror seemed to cross some kind of line. I don’t think I want to bother with the next book.