*So Many Spoilers*
This, then, brings us to the young adult novel I didn't like. In fact, this is one of the rare books in which I was hard-pressed to find any redeeming features. I feel bad about this, because I know I have friends who loved it. I'm very sorry. I hated this one. You may want to skip this review.
Where do I start? The ludicrous plotline? Well, maybe. I don't actually have huge problems with the plot, such as it is, until the end, and then I start to have some major concerns. This book fails at one of the basic tasks of young adult dystopiana - there has to be a good reason why whatever is going on is affecting teenagers instead of adults. In fact, this is a basic task of all children's and young adult literature, period. Often the reasons are a little sparse.
But here, they are frankly ludicrous. If, at the end of all this, what you want is a cadre of smart, resourceful people to trek across a desert and survive, what you don't need is a bunch of ignorant teenagers that have no idea what they're getting into. What you need is well-trained, well-prepared adults. There's no reason for secrecy. There's no reason for elaborate plots. You don't have to have a maze to convince people not to give up in the name of survival. This giant scientific "experiment" makes literally No. Sense.
Plus, if you're going for smart and resourceful, why would you throw your final group untrained into combat against machines at the end. I don't know what you think about unarmed, untrained kids being thrown into combat, James Dashner, but I can tell you that what you're likely to get at the end is not necessarily the best and the most resourceful. You're as or more likely to get the simply lucky. The kid who was your best chance at survival? You probably just killed him with a robot. And proved nothing.
ALSO, NO SELF-RESPECTING SCIENTIST WOULD GIVE THEMSELVES THE ACRONYM "WICKED" AND THEN RUN AROUND TELLING EVERYONE "WICKED IS GOOD!"
Also also (am I in Monty Python and the Holy Grail?), why would I believe that Thomas is the first kid in years to see "WICKED" written on all the machines and the omnipresent "World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department" plaques all through the maze and make the connection. If these are your best and brightest, Thomas could be pretty damn dull and still look like a diamond.
I am also skeptical about funding for anything labelled "Killzone Department."
So that's the plot. Oh, hey, how about the characters? I feel the ranting bile rising up again, ladies and gentlemen. The characters are terrible. Fucking terrible. They're all erratic as hell, and rarely if ever have a logical reaction to anything. They'll be happy one line, angry and resentful two lines later, sympathetic three lines later, and it gives me emotional whiplash! What's worse, these reactions never make sense! They're irritated at things that aren't irritating. Touched by things that aren't touching. Has the author ever met a human being? Spent time around them? Rarely a page went by that I didn't stop and think "why the hell did that character just say that?"
Oh, and of course, the one female character. (Seriously. You are in desperate need of the best and brightest kids around - despite my skepticism of that premise - and only one of them is female?) She doesn't get to do anything. Not really. She gets to be unconscious and cryptic. And supposedly smart, but locked up. Oh, and wait. Inexplicably telepathic with the main character.
That's right, inexplicable telepathy! I'll chalk that up right next to the Flare, which apparently was a solar flare bad enough to scorch the earth and destroy vegetation, but not necessarily electronics, and thus made the earth largely barren. And infested with a new disease? These are the categories of "what the hell kind of science are you using anyway?" that this book falls into.
I am sure there are other things I could rant about. I am absolutely positive there are. Instead, I'll just sum it up with I couldn't think of a single redeeming feature. This is a terrible book. The characters are awful. The plot is ludicrous. No book should make me this angry reading it or writing a review about it. About the only thing good about it is that it was such a fast read that I was done before I realized how angry I was.