Interesting Maze Runner facts: James Dashner’s a-mazing series of dystopian novels
1. Although some fans have made comparisons between The Maze Runner and other recent young adult dystopian novels, the idea for the series came to its author some ten years ago. Many readers and moviegoers have noted the superficial similarities between The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Series) and the most successful dystopian series of the last decade, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy. (We’ve offered some interesting Hunger Games facts in an earlier post.) Dashner has discussed the book’s genesis, which dates back to November 2005: ‘I went to bed, and somehow this idea popped in my head about a bunch of teenagers living inside an unsolvable Maze full of hideous creatures, in the future, in a dark, dystopian world. It would be an experiment, to study their minds. Terrible things would be done to them. Awful things. Completely hopeless. Until the victims turn everything on its head.’ The first novel, which establishes the world in which several further books are also set, is a cleverly plotted page-turner (Dashner is not afraid to draw on the cliffhanger device at the end of his brief, action-packed chapters), and the film adaptation garnered largely positive reviews.
2. James Dashner envisioned The Maze Runner as a sort of update of Lord of the Flies. ‘I thought of it as LORD OF THE FLIES meets ENDER’S GAME meets HOLES.’ Indeed, much like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the book focuses on a group of teenage boys who have had to construct their own society – with designated leaders and other roles – when they find themselves in an alien, dystopian environment, ruled by ‘survival of the fittest’. Unlike Golding, however, Dashner does introduce female characters into this environment, in the form of the mysterious girl, Teresa, who knows the 16 year-old protagonist, Thomas – although Thomas doesn’t remember her. At least, not at first…
3. However, in one respect The Maze Runner invites comparison with another classic twentieth-century dystopian novel. Dashner’s canny and inventive use of slang in the books – e.g. ‘shank’ (friend or fellow), ‘slim it’ (calm down or shut up), ‘shuck’ (an all-purpose expletive), and ‘klunk’ (er … crap) – is similar to Anthony Burgess‘s creative fictional language, Nadsat, in his 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange. It gives the language a vibrant and credible feel, without Dashner having to use existing swear words which might strike some readers as too strong, or else (if toned down) as unbelievable.
4. To date, the Maze Runner series of books has sold millions of copies worldwide. The popularity of the books has been helped along nicely by the film adaptations. So far, well over 7 million copies of the novels in the series have been sold.
5. James Dashner’s favourite fictional character is a figure from another series of dystopian novels. In a Goodreads interview, Dashner has said that his favourite fictional hero is Roland the Gunslinger, from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, which fuses horror, fantasy, dystopian fiction, and the western, in a vast medley. (We’ve offered some of our favourite fascinating facts about Stephen King in an earlier post.) Dashner’s favourite fictional villain is Professor Snape from the Harry Potter series. His favourite film, meanwhile, is the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Dystopian fiction has been around for a lot longer than most people realise, and in a previous post we offered our pick of the best early dystopian novels. For more film-related trivia, check out this list of the best film adaptations of American novels.
Image: James Dashner speaking at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con International, for The Maze Runner, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California; author: Gage Skidmore; Wikimedia Commons.