The Maze Runner is a 2009 dystopian novel by American author James Dashner. It takes place in a world suffering from a coronal mass ejection and whose surviving civilians fight to avoid an apocalyptic illness called the Flare. It is written from the perspective of Thomas, a 16-year-old boy who wakes up with no memories inside an artificially produced maze but who is also the key to his friends’ salvation. An organization called WICKED controls the world politically, seeks a cure to the Flare, and uses the youngest generation of civilians who are immune as test subjects.

The Maze Runner
2009 edition cover
AuthorJames Dashner
Cover artistPhilip Straub
SeriesThe Maze Runner series
GenreYoung adult, science fiction, post-apocalyptic
PublishedOctober 6, 2009
PublisherDelacorte Press
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback), audiobook, e-book
Pages375 pp.[1]
ISBN978-0-385-73794-4 (first edition, hardcover)
LC ClassPZ7.D2587Maz 2009[1]
Preceded byThe Fever Code (in narrative order) 
Followed byThe Scorch Trials[2] 

The book received critical acclaim from major reviewers and authors. It won the All Library Association Young Adult Library Services Association Best Fiction for Young Adults Book award in 2011,[3] is a #1 NYT Bestselling series and was on the #1 NYT Bestseller list for 148 weeks,[4] and a Kirkus Reviews Teen Book of the Year. Moreover, The Maze Runner is a popular pick of educators teaching middle-age readers in schools.

The novel was published in 2009 by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House with cover art by Philip Straub. The Maze Runner is the first novel in The Maze Runner series, followed by The Scorch Trials (2010), and The Death Cure (2011). A film adaptation, directed by Wes Ball, was released in 2014 by 20th Century Fox and stars Dylan O’Brien as Thomas.



Thomas wakes up in a metal elevator that brings him to the Glade. He has no memory of who he is or how he got there, except for his name. He gradually discovers that the Glade is run by two boys: Alby, the leader, and Newt, the second-in-charge, who maintain order by enforcing simple but effective rules. The elevator box surfaces from under the ground once every week and brings supplies of food, tools, clothes, medicine, and sometimes weapons. Every month, a new boy with no memory of anything but his first name also appears in the box.

The Glade is enclosed by a square of concrete walls several hundred feet high. The walls have openings in them, which slide shut every night. Outside the walls is the Maze, a labyrinth of high concrete walls covered in ivy that changes every night. The Maze houses strange, lethal creatures known as Grievers. All that is known about Grievers is that they are a combination of metal and flesh. The Gladers try to stay alive as well as "solve" the Maze by appointing "Runners" to run through it as fast as they can while they track the movements of the walls and try to find an exit to escape.

One day after Thomas' arrival, a girl, Teresa, is delivered through the elevator into the Glade. She is the first girl to arrive at the Glade and has a note clutched in her hand that says, "She's the last one. Ever." She says Thomas' name when she's in a week-long coma. Later that day a boy named Ben, who was stung by a Griever and went through the "Changing," tries to kill Thomas. Alby saves Thomas and Ben is banished that night.

Minho, the Keeper of the Runners, goes into the Maze with Alby to see what they think is the first dead Griever. Alby is stung by the creature, which causes him to attack Minho who knocks Alby out. Minho carries Alby back to the Glade but, by the time they arrive, the doors to the Glade are already closing. Thomas runs into the maze to help without hesitation, becoming stranded with Minho and Alby. When they hear the sounds of Grievers approaching, Minho runs away, knowing they don't have a chance of survival, while Thomas uses ivy on the maze walls to pull Alby up. Thomas does his best to survive on his own and keep Alby alive. Minho later comes back to help Thomas, and by morning they have killed four of the Grievers by leading them off a cliff.

After returning to the Glade the next morning, Newt calls a Gathering of the Keepers to discuss what to do with Thomas. Some of the Keepers vote to relieve him of punishment, but others, especially Gally, vote to lock him up as a punishment. Minho, however, nominates Thomas to become the Keeper of the Runners, to which Gally disagrees. Gally and Minho threaten each other, and the discussion ends with Gally storming off. Newt, as interim head of the Gathering due to Alby going through the Changing, proposes sending Thomas to the Slammer (their version of prison) for a day, and then having him start training to become a Runner. Without an official vote, the Keepers decide to go with Newt's plan.

Alby asks to see Thomas alone, without Newt and tries to tell him something he has seen during the Changing that had to do with Thomas. Before he can give Thomas any real information, Alby starts trying to choke himself. With Newt's help, Thomas manages to stop him. Alby then says it "wasn't really him" and that someone was controlling his actions.

Teresa wakes from her coma, and tells Thomas telepathically that she triggered the Ending. The food is running low, the sky is permanently gray, the box is not coming up, and that same night the maze doors stay open. Alby decides that, to be useful, he'll go into the Map Room and analyze the maps to see if he can find any patterns. Gally comes back that night and says that the Grievers will come every night now, killing them all off one by one. When the Grievers enter the Homestead, where the Gladers had all been hiding, Gally throws himself at them and they leave.

The next morning, they find out that Alby, weighed down by the reality of the world outside the Maze, had burned all the Maps, effectively destroying any possibility of finding a clue. Thomas later discovers that Minho and Newt secured the Maps in the Weapons Room a couple of hours earlier, saving the Maps from Alby. Thomas then gets the idea to compare each Map to the Maps of other sections as opposed to other days, and, after copying a few maps onto wax paper and layering them by day, they find that the first combination spells FLOATCAT. After copying more maps and layering them, they find that the complete code spelled out by the Maze is: "FLOAT CATCH BLEED DEATH STIFF PUSH".

During the following nights, the Grievers come back, and, as Gally had said, they only take one Glader a night.

Realizing that they won't get anywhere without him getting his memories back, Thomas voluntarily gets stung by a Griever and spends a couple of days unconscious as he goes through the Changing to get his memories back. When he wakes up, he knows they have to go down the Griever Hole [clarification needed] to escape the Maze and insert the code into a machine they will find. He also remembers part of the world they came from, knowing a bit about WICKED (World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department) and his participation in the creation of the Maze.

Using this new information, most of the Gladers leave to try and jump down the Griever Hole. Almost half of them die in the fight against the Grievers, but Thomas and Teresa manage to insert the code, with last-minute help from Chuck to realize that "PUSH" meant to push a button, and it was not the last word of the code.

After exploring the facility they are now in, the remaining Gladers find themselves in a room with scientists watching them. One of them walks out, Gally walking with her. He throws a knife at Thomas, but Chuck dives in, saving Thomas' life though he loses his own.

A rescue team comes crashing in seconds later, killing all the scientists that were watching the Gladers, and taking them with them to another facility where they have dinner and go to sleep, sure that they are safe now.

The epilogue is written in the voice of Chancellor Ava Paige, a feature of all the trilogy's novels. She reveals that the group that rescued the Gladers is just another variable in the experiment and that the Gladers were not the only group being evaluated. She reveals that the next day, the second phase of their trials will begin. This leads directly to the events of the next book.


The main protagonist of the novel. He is the last boy but not the last person to enter the Glade. The only thing he can remember when he comes into the Glade is his name, a common pattern amongst the Gladers. Chuck describes him as about 16 years old, of average height, and brown-haired. He is called "Greenie", a nickname given to new arrivals. He becomes a Runner with Minho after being the first person to spend a whole night (along with Minho) in the Maze and saves Alby when he is about to die.
One of the main protagonists. The first girl and last person to enter the Glade. When she entered the Glade she was in a coma and Newt thought she was dead. She also calls Thomas "Tom". She is also known to help Thomas out of the maze and fight the Grievers in the Griever Hole. She is thin, has black hair and blue eyes, and relatively pale skin.
The eldest and the leader of the Gladers. He is described as a 'dark-skinned boy with short-cropped hair, his face clean-shaven'. He tries to keep order within the group by having all the boys follow the rules they've set down to survive. He has a very close relationship with Newt, his second-in-command. He was in the group of 30 people who first arrived in the Glade. Alby commits suicide by walking into a group of Grievers, thinking that he should die there than outside the Maze.
One of the main protagonists and is good friends with Thomas and Minho. He used to be a Runner but is no longer able-footed since he was nearly attacked by a Griever. He is very kind, friendly, and welcoming to Thomas. He is Alby's closest friend and second-in-command and takes over as leader when Alby no longer feels capable. Newt was described as being rather 'tall and muscular', with blond hair that came down over his shoulders and a square jaw. He has a limp that he says is from running from a Griever, but the real reason is revealed to be an attempted suicide in the third book. In the books, Newt is often referred to as "the older boy", indicating that he is at least older than Thomas.
One of the main protagonists and is the Keeper of the Runners. He is in charge of navigating and mapping out the Maze. As a Runner, he is in very good shape and is described as "an Asian kid with strong, heavily muscled arms and short black hair." He is sarcastic and a jokester. He tends to react without thinking, which leads him into trouble. He and Thomas quickly become good friends. He also has a girlfriend named Emily.
A young and chubby boy with curly hair who was the newest Glader until Thomas arrived. He immediately becomes friends with Thomas and acts like a little brother towards him. Chuck is a "Slopper", one of the Gladers who handle all the dirty, distasteful jobs the others do not want. He is around 13 years old. He is killed by Gally after a dagger is thrown at Thomas and he saves him.
The main antagonist, Gally is a Glader who lives by the rules Alby put in place. He does not trust Thomas and shows an immense dislike for him. He is also the Keeper of the Builders. He runs away from the Glade in a fit of rage after exclaiming that he thought Thomas was not to be trusted in the Gathering. At the end of the book, he kills Chuck when he tries to save Thomas from being hit with a dagger.
A Builder. After undergoing the Changing and attempting to kill Thomas, he is banished to the Maze while still psychotic and dies overnight.
Ava Paige
The Chancellor of WICKED and the person responsible for sending teenagers into the Maze. She appears in the Epilogue in an e-mail.
Biomechanical creatures that hunt and kill the Gladers in the maze. They are described as "large, bulbous creature[s] the size of a cow but with no distinct shape". In "The Ending", they are let into the Glade to kill one person every day.



In late 2005 mid-June, Dashner had published four books to complete The Jimmy Fincher Saga, which had been with a small regional publisher. His publisher wanted him to write another book, but he decided he would try for a national book market instead. In November of that year, he had an idea for a book "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." During his writing process, he envisions his novels as movies interpreting his thoughts into visuals. [5] One of the many influences for the book came from another novel called Lord of the Flies. [6] He says he has taken his own interpretation of the novel and added his own ideas. [6] The book was later published in 2008.[7] Dashner wrote the book from December 2005 to March 2006.[7]



The Maze Runner is critically acclaimed. Kirkus Reviews wrote: "Hard to put down, this is clearly just a first installment, and it will leave readers dying to find out what comes next."[8] Jessica Harrison of the Deseret Morning News labeled The Maze Runner as "a thrilling adventurous book for kids ages 13+ that will get readers' hearts pumping and leave them asking for more." While she noted that it "starts out a bit slow", she wrote the pace ultimately matches Thomas' confusion, writing that "it's almost as if Dashner is easing the reader into what becomes a fast-paced, nonstop action." However, she thought a "drawback" was the "fictionalized slang", writing, "While it feels realistic and fits with his characters, it gets old pretty fast. On the plus side, however, it's used so often that the reader almost becomes desensitized and learns to ignore it."[9]

The novel received awards for its excellence in the young adult literature category. It won the 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults Award presented by the Young Adult Library Services Association.[10] It won the Charlotte Award in 2012, an award named after Charlotte in E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, that is given to outstanding literature that encourages children to become life-long readers as voted on by students in New York State.[11] It also won the Lincoln Award in 2012, sponsored by the Illinois School Library Educators, and for its notable encouragement of high school readers to read for personal enjoyment.[12] Similarly, The Maze Runner won the Truman Readers Award in 2012 which encourages young readers between the sixth and eighth grades to express their voices through literary genres, collaborate with peers over young adult literature, and celebrates authors writing for young adults.[13] The book received other awards as well, including the Evergreen Teen Book Award in 2012 and Georgia Peach Book Award in 2009. It was also nominated for Utah Book Award for Young Adults in 2009 and Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award in 2011, to name a few.[11]

The Maze Runner is also a popular educational tool in schools. Dr. Christy Goldsmith from the University of Missouri notes that she used The Maze Runner in her secondary classroom to teach independent reading, how to interact with fiction, and that “reading doesn’t have to be painful.”[14] In the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literary Review, Dr. Sara Abrams from Arizona State University recommends The Maze Runner to middle school students, writing, "readers who seek adventure and are curious about living on their own will find The Maze Runner an engaging read” and compares it to Lord of the Flies, writing that it is easier to read but just as entertaining.[15] Sandra Bennet wrote in The School Librarian that the book is "an absorbing and tense novel which mid to older teens will devour".[16]

Film adaptation


Fox released a film adaptation of the book, titled The Maze Runner, on September 19, 2014. Wes Ball signed on as director and T.S. Nowlin wrote the screenplay.[17] Dylan O'Brien played the lead role of Thomas,[18] Thomas Brodie-Sangster portrayed Newt[19] and Kaya Scodelario portrayed Teresa.[20] Ki Hong Lee as Minho, Blake Cooper, Will Poulter and Aml Ameen were added to the cast as Chuck, Gally and Alby, respectively. Patricia Clarkson played the role of the main antagonist Ava Paige. Dexter Darden portrayed Frypan, Alexander Flores portrayed Winston, Jacob Latimore played Jeff, Randal Cunningham portrayed Clint, Chris Sheffield portrayed Ben, and Joe Adler played Zart.

Wayne Haag served as an artist on the film, and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Lindsay Williams with Lee Stollman as producers.[21]

Creature designer Ken Barthelmey designed the Grievers for the film.[22]

Filming started on May 13, 2013,[23] and ended July 12, 2013.

Following the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney in March 2019, Disney confirmed in April 2019 at their CinemaCon presentation that new Maze Runner films were in development.[24]

In May 2024, it was announced that a reboot was in development, with Wes Ball returning as a producer and Jack Paglen hired as writer. The new installment was described as "not a redo of the story nor ... a direct sequel to the original trilogy" but "a sort of continuation ... yet also return to the elements that made the first movie connect with its audience".[25]


  1. ^ a b "The maze runner" (first edition). LC Online Catalog. Library of Congress ( Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  2. ^ Shill, Aaron (25 November 2009). "'Maze Runner' on 'right track'". Deseret Morning News. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  3. ^ 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults. December 27, 2010.The Young Adult Library Services Association. Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  4. ^ Children's Series. August 23, 2015. The New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  5. ^ "James Dashner: A Brilliant Mind". HuffPost. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2024.
  6. ^ a b babrams (17 September 2015). "Talking to Author James Dashner about Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials". Motion Picture Association. Retrieved 25 April 2024.
  7. ^ a b Dashner, James (16 July 2008). "The Tale of The Maze Runner". The Dashner Dude. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  8. ^ "The Maze Runner". Kirkus Reviews. 15 September 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  9. ^ Harrison, Jessica (3 October 2009). "Maze Runner provides a thrilling adventure". Deseret Morning News. Archived from the original on 11 December 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  10. ^ 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults. December 27, 2010.The Young Adult Library Services Association. Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  11. ^ a b The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner, Book One). Penguin Random House. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  12. ^ Lincoln Award: Illinois Teen Readers' Choice Award. 2023. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  13. ^ Truman Readers Award. LibraryThing. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  14. ^ Goldsmith, Christy. "Why All Students Need Literature More Than Ever." The English Journal, vol. 106, no. 2, 2016, pp. 111-113. Research Library Prep. Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  15. ^ Abrams, Sara. "The Maze Runner." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 54, no. 2, 2010. ProQuest Central, Research Library. Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  16. ^ Bennett, Sandra. "Dashner, James: The Maze Runner." The School Librarian, vol. 58, no. 3, 2010. ProQuest Central. Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  17. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (4 January 2011). "Young-adult sensation The Maze Runner gets ready to run the movie gantlet (updated)". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  18. ^ Wilkinson, Amy (18 April 2013). "'Maze Runner' finds its Thomas". MTV. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  19. ^ "Movie Casting Round-Up: Thomas Brodie-Sangster joins 'Maze Runner'; Scott Glenn added to 'Trigger'". Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  20. ^ "Kaya Scodelario joins The Maze Runner". Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  21. ^ "We have @jamesdashner The Dashner Dude, then we got @wesball Mr Director Dude and now we have @ankaris Mr Designer Dude!! Good that". Twitter. 7 December 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  22. ^ The Art of Ken Barthelmey - Creature Designer / Concept Artist / Illustrator
  23. ^ Dashner, James (29 March 2013). "Much more casting news should be coming very soon. They start filming in May. Release date of 19 September 2014 #dashnerchat". Twitter. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  24. ^ "Fox Plans More Sequels to Popular Movie Franchises Post-Disney Merger". CBR. 3 April 2019. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  25. ^ Kit, Borys (3 May 2024). "'The Maze Runner' Reboot in the Works with 'Transcendence' Scribe Jack Paglen in Talks to Write (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 May 2024.