Book: The Kill Order
Author: James Dashner
I don’t usually read prequels to series, because they’re never as good as the series itself and they never have any of the characters you loved from the books in them much, if at all so I was a little apprehensive about reading The Kill Order. I was right in some ways, it wasn’t as good as The Maze Runner, and I did miss all my favourite characters from that series. The problem with prequels (or sequels after an original trilogy) is that they are one book only with new characters introduced and you’re not able to get attached to them in the same way that you get attached to characters in a series of books as you don’t follow their journey over time. It gives the background of the flare (the disease that makes people go mad in the maze runner series), the world after the sun flares hit and also how WICKED came to be. It’s meant to be a prequel but I reckon if you’re going to read it, you should read it after The Maze Runner as one of the great things about The Maze Runner is that just like the characters I was always questioning things and not quite knowing what was going on and I enjoyed that, plus it gives spoilers for the main series. This book is good when after finishing The Death Cure, you are frustrated and want answers to your still unanswered questions! Here is a short synopsis of the book:
When sun flares hit the Earth, intense heat, toxic radiation and flooding followed, wiping out much of the human race. Those who survived live in basic communities in the mountains, hunting for food. For Mark and his friends, surviving is difficult, and then an enemy arrives, infecting people with a highly contagious virus. Thousands die, and the virus is spreading. Worse, it’s mutating, and people are going crazy. It’s up to Mark and his friends to find the enemy – and a cure – before the Flare infects them all …
I didn’t hate this book, I just didn’t love it either. I didn’t feel connections to many of the main characters so the ending (not going to spoil anything other than saying it’s sad) didn’t leave me as sad as what happened to Newt in Death Cure and it really should have. The character development in this book is lacking, we don’t really find out much about the main characters, or their families or backgrounds, other than really basic stuff. All the way through, it’s pretty much all action and violence. Now I usually love action and violence in a book because it makes it exciting but this was non-stop. It doesn’t give you time as a reader to catch your breath and too much action gets boring. It loses it’s impact, you’re like, “oh they’re in a fight again” and so you kind of stop caring whether they survive the next fight or not. The action is well written but it’s at the cost of character development, which I would have rather had instead of the endless fight scenes. The action that happens is also pretty similar, it’s usually Mark being pinned down by someone and him throwing them off, Mark ending up hanging out the Berg window during a fight or Mark and Alec fighting a load of cranks, that’s it.
The main characters consist of Mark and Trina (two teenagers), Lana (an army medic), Alec (a former soldier) and DeeDee (a little girl). Out of these characters the only one I truly loved was Alec. If I had known more about him I probably would have loved him even more but he was just so clever, strong, gruff yet caring that I couldn’t help but love him. The scene where he had to vaporise Lana (spoiler alert) was heartbreaking. Mark was okay, so was Trina but they were ultimately quite bland characters who I wasn’t emotionally invested in as I was with the Gladers. There wasn’t much of Lana, she seemed pretty cool I guess but she wasn’t in it enough for me to be invested in her and because DeeDee was so young she didn’t do much. One of the things I loved about The Maze Runner series was that there was always some hope there, but in The Kill Order it is completely depressing, I felt like as soon as the darts were released and the flare started to spread, all hope was lost. That was probably what Dashner wanted us to feel but it just wasn’t for me. I’m all for reading dark books but I like there to be some hope but I can understand why he did it the way he did. Knowing that there is no chance for the characters doesn’t exactly help in getting attached to them either.
Having said all these things, I loved the way this story showed how the Flare progressed in people and the way it mutated in different people, I thought that was really cool and something we didn’t really get to see enough of in the original Maze Runner books. It was really scary watching Mark and the others go mad, there was a particular scene in the Berg (helicopter) where Mark almost crushes a man who is attacking him in the door and it was really horrifying to read particularly when I realised he had the Flare. The way he described these people who were going mad was so vivid (my favourite description was that the Flare was like bugs eating your brain) which I loved. I also liked the way it went between past and present so we could see the initial impact of the sun flares as well as the longer lasting effects we see in the present. I loved the relationship between Mark and Alec too, the banter between them and the way they acted like father and son was nice. I wasn’t sure what to think of the relationship between Mark and Trina, it was nice but I wasn’t emotionally invested in it.
Whilst it did give some answers into the Flare and why it was released, there are still so many questions I want answers to! I would rather have had a prequel where we were told about the Gladers’ lives before the maze and their memories were wiped, how WICKED was formed, the role that Thomas and Teresa played on creating the maze and why out of all of the immune they were special, the names of the gladers before they went into the maze (since they were given their current names by WICKED) etc. There are so many more things that could be explored in this series which is why a prequel showing this would have been preferable to the one we got (although the great news is that Dashner is releasing a sequel to this prequel in 2016, called The Fever Code, which will apparently cover the gladers before the maze and is supposed to link The Kill Order more to The Maze Runner) so I’m looking forward to that and hope it will be really good! There also aren’t really any tie ins with the original trilogy, it reads more as a standalone novel bookended with a prologue and an epilogue about Thomas and Teresa, and I suppose that maybe if I’d read it as a standalone novel rather than prequel to the trilogy I may have enjoyed it more. The only link to The Maze Runner is that the little girl, DeeDee is Teresa when she was younger, before WICKED changed her name. However I got the new edition copy of The Kill Order and so the epilogue in my book doesn’t end with that, it ends with WICKED picking up Thokas from his home and choosing his new name to be Thomas. I think Dashner should have kept the original epilogue in both editions of The Kill Order, as I read it online and the other epilogue makes The Kill Order tie in so much better with the trilogy as it gives some of the details of Teresa’s life before the maze. Without it, DeeDee just seems like some random little girl and you don’t get why it’s so important. Knowing what happened to Teresa when she was younger makes her fate at the end of Death Cure sadder but I still kind of hate her for what she did to Thomas in Scorch Trials.
The actual Kill Order was just what we had heard in Death Cure, we didn’t learn anything new there as we already knew that the Flare had been released as a way to control the population after the flare. It does raise an interesting question though, how far the government could and would go if a disaster like the sun flares of this book actually happened? I would hope they wouldn’t go as far as releasing a deadly virus into the population but desperate times do call for desperate measures and it’s not completely out of the question that something like that could happen in a scenario such as the sun flares. I do admit I find it hard to work out why they decided to use an untried, untested virus that they didn’t have a vaccine for rather than a deadly virus that they did have a vaccine for and so could infect a number of the population and immunise the rest so the population was controlled and so was the spread of the virus. I guess it wouldn’t have made a very good story if that had happened though as Dashner writes the zombie-like Cranks very well.
Sometimes the fight scenarios seemed a little unrealistic, the amount of times Mark and Alec managed to beat large numbers of cranks even when exhausted, starved and sleep deprived was ridiculous. I mean I get that these characters are supposed to be strong and good fighters but there is no way they could really beat that many people, that many times in the state that they were in.
I have to admit the ending of the book, whilst I wasn’t as sad as I could have been had I felt more connected to the characters was beautiful. It was sad obviously but it was written so well and I disagree with those who say they didn’t like the ending. Yes we all love a happy ending but it was clear it wasn’t going to happen in this book and this was the most logical and best way to end the book. It’s also quite a short an easy to read book which I liked because I have quite a lot of long books in my current pile of “books to read” and so being short meant that I got through it a lot quicker and so can get on to the other books I want to read. Dashner isn’t the best at writing women either, the three female characters in this book Trina, DeeDee and Lana are not fully formed characters and they barely do anything but this is similar in The Maze Runner Trilogy, the few girls are not the most memorable characters in the story and it’s the boys who get most of the action scenes. I didn’t find this detracted from my enjoyment of The Maze Runner because the boys were just so cool and I loved them but since no one was very well developed in this book, it kind of did detract that the boys were doing all the action stuff and the girls were doing nothing and had no personality so it seemed as if well why are they there? Dashner really needs to work on writing his female characters, so they are more than just props, only there for the boys to save.
The group camaraderie from the Maze Runner books is missing here too. Mark and Alex have some nice banter between them and I loved their relationship but the dynamic between Minho, Newt and Thomas in the books is so much better, more like a great group of friends than Mark and Alec were. Yes they had a nice father-son like relationship but it felt like something was missing there, that wasn’t missing in the group in The Maze Runner.
Overall this wasn’t a terrible book, it was okay and if reading it not in the context of The Maze Runner series it might actually be even better, however it just doesn’t compare to the original trilogy. There seemed to be no point to writing this book, other than for Dashner to make more money off The Maze Runner series because it wasn’t really a prequel, more of a spin off and we don’t really get any of our burning questions from the trilogy answered. Having said that if you like a completely action driven story then you would probably enjoy this book just on it’s own without the trilogy since you don’t really need to have read the trilogy to understand the majority of the book. For me however it was a let down after a series I enjoyed as much as I enjoyed The Maze Runner trilogy and I wouldn’t recommend it for fans of the series as it doesn’t add anything to it. You’re better off waiting until 2016 (which is way too long away!) for The Fever Code which will actually have the characters from the trilogy in it, and hopefully will finally answer some or all of the burning questions fans are left with after reading the trilogy.
My Rating: 3/5
The next book I will be reviewing is the final book in The Heroes of Olympus Series, The Blood Of Olympus, by Rick Riordan.