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Sometimes it seems like a shame that age designations are attached to fiction, because good stories are just good stories.
Case in point: The Maze Runner series, by James Dashner. A Lord of the Flies for modern sci-fi fans, these books are inventive, pulse-pounding, and plain old fun for anyone who likes adventure stories with well-drawn characters you’ll care about.
Book one in the series, The Maze Runner, was adapted into a hit movie last year, and the adaptation of book two, The Scorch Trials, hits theaters September 18. While it promises to be great, you should always read the book before seeing the movie. Here’s why The Scorch Trials needs to be on your read-right-now list:
To Know What You’re Missing
Films made from books are called adaptations for a reason: they’re not always 100% faithful to the source material. The Maze Runner film made some changes to the story—especially the ending—that we won’t spoil here, and it’s very likely the film adaptation of The Scorch Trials will make similar tweaks. These changes are usually necessary for the transition from the written word to a visual medium, but if you don’t read the book you’ll never know what you’re missing in the original.
To See Your Favorite Parts Come to Life
There’s something magical about reading an exciting sequence in a novel and then seeing the incredible visuals you imagined come to life. When you read The Maze Runner you had a mental image of the characters, the glade, the maze itself, and, of course, the horrific Grievers, and seeing those elements brought to life was amazing. After reading the sequel, who doesn’t have an idea about what The Scorch—the equatorial area of the Earth transformed by solar flares into a barren desert spotted with the remnants of cities—looks like? The first reveal of this incredible setting alone will be worth the price of a ticket, and sequences like the climactic battle with WICKED-created monsters and Thomas’s ploy to save his allies will be more thrilling when you know what’s coming—but have no idea what it will look like.
Because It’s Complicated
The Maze Runner Saga isn’t a simplistic story—there is a lot going on. The first book ended with one of the great twists of modern science fiction, a twist that not only changed your perception of everything that went before but opened up an incredible universe readers couldn’t wait to dive back into. The Scorch Trials picks up the sense of paranoia and complexity and delves even deeper, exploring the truth about whether WICKED is truly good, about the Flare, the Cranks, and where the experiment begins and ends—if it ever does end. Trust us: movies are always forced to take some shortcuts when telling a complex story, and your best bet for truly understanding what’s going on—and appreciating some of the foreshadowing—is to read the book first.
To Know Which Side You’re On
This story goes deeper than telling a postapocalyptic tale about human experimentation. If the world was devastated in a way that might actually spell the end of humanity itself, would that justify any horrific acts, any crimes committed by a group seeking to save the world? Or are our individual rights as human beings more important? The books ultimately ask you which side you’d be on: WICKED’s, or that of the rebels who seek to disrupt their plans—and who fear and resent those who are immune to the plague that’s ripping through the rest of the population.
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Because It’s a Great Book
There have been great movies made from so-so books, but in this case reading the book is definitely worth it—and so is reading the other books in the saga, The Death Cure and The Kill Order. This is a science fiction story that explores some crazy ideas as well as the darker side of human nature, and explores what lengths people will go to in order not only to survive, but to save what’s left of the human race and our civilization. The Scorch Trials will undoubtedly be a great movie and one of the big hits of the summer, but do yourself a favor and read the books first—you’ll be glad you did.