The Death Cure (The Maze Runner #3)
James Dashner, 2011
Note: This book will really make no sense without reading the first two books in the series. I don't recommend starting this one until reading The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials. The Summary will include small spoilers for these two previous books.
The world is falling apart. Whole sections of the planet are uninhabitable after the sun flares raised the temperature and changed the weather. And a man-made virus, now known as The Flare, was released and quickly infected the planet. The Flare affects the brain, turning those it infects violent and insane. The small number of people not yet infected fled to the livable cities - those far away from the Equator and at high elevation, like Denver, Colorado, and do everything they can to keep the infected out. An even smaller percentage of the population is immune to the virus... and a government group known as WICKED has plans to use those who are immune to find a cure.
Where we pick up in The Death Cure, Thomas and a number of other teenage immunes have survived the first two rounds of trials. They beat the Maze and escaped, and made it through the desert-like land of The Scorch. Now the survivors are told they there is one final test. But first, WICKED is going to give them their memories back. But Thomas doesn't want his memories back, and he certainly doesn't want to go through another test, no matter how close WICKED might be to a cure. His one hope is to escape. But how can he get away and, even if he does, where would he go to be safe?
I really enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy. They weren't perfect, but I thought that they were good stories with a lot of action and drama that would really appeal to teens. They were pretty well-written, had interesting characters, and were - for the most part - very enjoyable books. This one, however, I did not think as highly about. I know that I'm not the only one - a lot of the reviews on other sites are negative as well. It's unfortunate, due to the relative strength of the first two books.
While the first two books had a clear plot and direction - figure out what's going on and get through the Maze, survive the Scorch and make it to the compound - this book felt really disjointed to me. After Thomas decided to run, he had no set direction. He wanted to save his friends and stop WICKED, but had no real idea how to do that, and it showed in the writing. It almost felt like Dashner wasn't really sure himself how to wrap things up. I know a lot of people had issues with the ending... I didn't hate the ending, simply because I felt it was probably the most realistic way to end. I feel he could have ended it better, but I wasn't completely unhappy with it. My issue was with the way he got to that ending.
I agree with big points that others have made about how he left a lot unexplained and how Teresa was terribly underused. While I didn't really like Teresa, and therefore didn't mind that she was absent through a good chunk of the book, I do agree with the point. When Teresa is introduced in The Maze Runner, it's pretty much a given that she's important, based on the way that she was introduced. But it almost feels like Dashner couldn't quite figure out what her final purpose should be, so he instead chose to give her almost no purpose at all. Had Thomas got his memories back, her purpose might have been made clear - since they had a past that we hadn't really explored yet - but Thomas chose not to get his memories back. Which brings me to my biggest issue...
I hated Thomas in this book. Absolutely hated him. I'll concede that Dashner might have chosen to keep Thomas memory-less so that he didn't have to think up all the details about his past (a theory that some have shared in other reviews), but the result (in my opinion) wasn't to make Thomas seem brave and defiant - choosing to remain in the dark because he didn't trust WICKED and didn't want them to do one more thing to him. Yes, it made him look defiant, but it did not make him look brave. It made him look selfish and cowardly. He wouldn't even consider helping WICKED - or even just finding out what the last test was - even if that one last test would have resulted in a cure. That hindsight tells us he made the right decision doesn't help him in my opinion. He left for selfish reasons and chose to ignore the plight of the many for his own happiness. And as for refusing to get his memories back... this wasn't done because he didn't trust WICKED. This was done because he was afraid to find out what he would remember. We know this for a fact. Thomas helped to set up WICKED in the first place, and now felt bad about it. And he knew that getting his memories back would make him remember more of the terrible things he had been responsible for, and he didn't want to remember. This is not me interpreting his choices, this is something that he states outright. So why are we supposed to think him brave and defiant after he refuses the memories? Are we supposed to forget what he did and why he doesn't want to remember? Maybe we were supposed to forget, but I didn't. And it made Thomas so unsympathetic to me that I had trouble with him for the rest of the book after that. Having memories would have made everything that he went through easier on him and on others, but he chose to continue the way he was because he was scared.
In the end, there was still a lot of action and drama in this one, but it just seemed too disjointed and left too much unexplained to really be considered a good conclusion to the series. I'll probably read the prequels - The Kill Order and The Fever Code (being published sometime next year) - to see if I can get a few answers, and just for curiosity sake. But I'm not as excited for them as I was before reading this one.