Book: The Game of Lives

"The Game of Lives"

Michael used to live to game. Now the games he was playing have become all too real. Only weeks ago, Sinking ino the Sleep was fun. The VirtNet combined the most cutting-edge technology and the most sophisticated gaming for a full mind-body experience. And it was Michael’s passion. But now every time Michael Sink,s he risks his life.

The games are over. The VirtNet has become a world of deadly consequences, and Kaine grows stronger by the day. The Mortality Doctrine–Kaine’s master plan–has nearly been realized, and little by little the line separating the virtual from the real is blurring. If Kaine succeeds, it will mean worldwide cyber domination. And it looks like Michael and his friends are the only ones who can put the monster back in the box–if Michael can figure out who his friends really are.

I am done with the Mortality Doctrine trilogy. Literally, because this is the last book. I hope. And figuratively, because… Well, this was one tough book to finish. And no, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to let go of the story yet. It was mostly because I found it hard not to root for the villains.

Halfway through the book, I was sick and tired of the main character, Michael.

But more than an unlikable main character, what I didn’t like about The Game of Lives is that it doesn’t provide a fulfilling conclusion to the journey we started with The Eye of Minds. It still feels like random events are happening to stop the main characters from achieving their goal without rhyme or reason.

And then there were the characters.

I love morally gray characters. They make stories interesting, because you never know if they would do something good, or bad. They’re even better when you can see why they would choose to do a good or a bad thing. But when they’re doing something obviously sinister, and then they say they’re doing something good without back-up evidence that they might actually be telling the truth? You get a villain like Klaine.

Come to think of it, my problem with the Mortality Doctrine from the get go has always been Klaine. I understand the need for a complicated villain, but I feel like we were short-changed with a villain who can’t decide if he’s good, bad, or just plain selfish.

I hated Klaine not because he was the bad guy, but because he was badly written. He is supposed to be scary, but he doesn’t really pose any threat. Not even during the last battle between good and evil. Not even during the last part where our main protagonist is duking it out with him.

Stories like this always needs a good villain. That’s half the battle. When your villain doesn’t live up to the title of head evil honcho? However you end the series will be disappointing.

And that’s what The Game of Lives is: a disappointing ending to a series that wasn’t all that stellar to begin with.

Book: The Rule of Thoughts

"The Rule of Thoughts"

Michael completed the Path. What he found at the end turned everything he’d ever known about his life–and the world–completely upside down.

He barely survived. But it was the only way VirtNet Security knew to find the cyber-terrorist Kaine–and to make the Sleep safe for gamers once again. Unfortunately, the truth Michael discovered about Kaine is more complex than anyone anticipated, and more terrifying than even the worst of their fears.

Kaine is a Tangent, a computer program that has become sentient. And Michael’s completing the Path was the first stage in turning Kaine’s master plan, the Mortality Doctrine, into a reality.

The Mortality Doctrine will populate Earth entirely with human bodies harboring Tangent minds. And the takeover has already begun.

But the VNS would rather pretend that the world is perfectly safe. So it’s up to Michael and his friends to root out Kaine and stop him before, one person at a time, humanity falls prey to artificial intelligence and its sinister desire to run our world.

This book was, quite frankly, a disappointment. And it didn’t help that I picked this book up after reading the hold-on-to-your-seat romp of The Revenge of Seven. Compared to the most recent book from the Lorien Legacies series, the cyber thriller promised by the premise of The Rule of Thoughts felt laid back and lackluster.

I can’t help but wonder what happened to Dashner in between his series of novels. The Maze Runner trilogy had a wonderful sense of action and adventure, while treading the tricky balance of drama and that always present coming-of-age theme of a young adult book. In comparison, The Eye of Minds felt like a retread of The Maze Runner–up until the last part of the book when we are promised a new exciting world to play in. A promise that was not realized by The Rule of Thoughts.

Whatever menace main villain Kaine had in the first book completely disappears in this mess of a sequel. You can barely feel his presence in this book, and that takes a whole lot away from the urgency of what our heroes are supposed to do. And I feel it’s because Dashner decided, midway into writing this installment, that Klaine isn’t the ultimate be-all and end-all of villains. He wanted to insert the thought that maybe there’s another evil out there, one that isn’t as starkly malevolent.

Which is probably why Kaine transformed from the slightly scary villain of the first book, into a caricature of one in this book. And no, pointing it out in book doesn’t make it seem like the author knew it was going there all along. The Kaine we have in this book is definitely not the Kaine we met in the first book.

And then there are our characters. Michael, Sarah, and Bryson might be awesome hackers, but they are terrible people. Because Sarah’s parents get abducted, and the first thing they think to do is to chase after Kaine without any clue how to do so. Yes, they would rather go on a wild goose chase than try to get help.

Yes, I understand that Michael wouldn’t be able to get help. I did read the book. But Sarah? Gambling her parents’ safety, after seeing all that blood? It made her unsympathetic. And seeing as she was the only one that really makes you care about our three main characters, it really made me lose any good will I had for the book.

Reading The Rule of Thoughts became a chore. And seeing as books like this is supposed to be a form of entertainment… Well, a chore is a bad thing to be.

But who knows? Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this way. Maybe other people liked the book. Why don’t we check out what other people are saying about The Rule of Thoughts:
Kirkus Reviews
Alice Marvels

Book: The Eye of Minds

"The Eye of Minds"

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. and recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific–the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.

And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom–and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.”

If you’re looking for something exactly like The Maze Runner, then this book is for you. If you’re looking for something similar but has its own trajectory– Well, you might want to look somewhere else.

Okay, maybe that’s not fair. The Eye of Minds is a good enough novel. Nowhere near as good as James Dashner’s previous trilogy, but The Eye of Minds is shaping up to be a very good follow-up. But that’s also the thing. It follows The Maze Runner. Too much, if I’m to be honest.

Sure, they don’t exactly share the same elements. But the journey that our main protagonist takes to get to where he needs to go? It’s way too similar, and although months have passed in between me reading The Maze Runner and The Eye of Minds, I couldn’t help but connect the parallels. And it is distracting.

Things do improve, a lot, once we reach the end game. This is when The Eye of Minds completely leaves the shadow of The Maze Runner to finally stand on its own.

It’s just too bad that it takes us almost the whole book before we finally see that this is a different story. That this is not a retread of something that had worked before.

Although, if we had a more interesting protagonist, I don’t think I would have minded the parallelism between the two stories as much. But as it is, our main protagonist is pretty much one note throughout the whole book. Of course, we find out why in the end–but, once again, when everything happens near the end and during the end, then you don’t win. You’ve already lost your reader.

But seeing as I did finish the book, I am looking forward to see where James Dashner takes this story. I am curious as to how this whole thing will unravel.

Now, before you go, why don’t you check out a few other reaction posts on the book?
Alice Marvels
Book Twirps

Book: The Kill Order

"The Kill Order"

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and destroyed the world mankind took for granted.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next.

Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it–if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. ANd to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

I thought there would be more to The Kill Order than what we get, but for what it’s worth, it’s a good book–just don’t expect too much.

The Maze Runner is one of the best novels I’ve read recently, but I thought the sequel and the finale didn’t live up to the promise of the trilogy’s premise. Especially since the source of all the discord and drama barely gets touched upon. So I was happy that there was The Kill Order to fill in the blanks.

Unfortunately–or fortunately, depending on how you look at it–James Dashner focuses on human interaction instead of conspiracies. And so our supposed answer, The Kill Order, to the questions left behind by The Maze Runner trilogy falls short of actually answering questions. What we’re left with, after the trials and misadventures we take in this prequel, are suppositions of what might have happened in between the end of this book, and the beginning of The Maze Runner.

Now, I’ve always harped about how character development is more important than original twists and turns. And if we’re judging The Kill Order by character development alone, it hits full marks. But take the book out of the its environment, take The Maze Runner trilogy out of the equation, and you get a story about a boy who would do anything to save the girl he loves. It’s nothing special. And set in the background of a Post-Flare world, you would have no idea what was going on unless you’ve already read the trilogy that spawned this prequel.

While character development is important, I think it’s also important for a prequel to be able to stand apart from its series–especially if it’s populated by unknown characters, and happens before the events of the series that warranted it.

So would I recommend The Kill Order? Sure. If you’re already a fan of The Maze Runner trilogy–or, at the very least, have already read the series. If you haven’t, you might want to skip this one until after you have done so.

Of course, as I always say, all these are just my thoughts. Feel free to browse the ‘net to find what other people have to say about the book:
I’d So Rather Be Reading
Blog Critics
My Books. My Life.

Book: The Death Cure

"The Death Cure"

Thomas knows that WICKED can’t be trusted. They stole his memories and locked him inside the Maze. They forced him tot he brink of death by dropping him in the wilds of the Scorch. And htey took the Gladers, his only friends, from him.

Now WICKED says that the time for lies is over. That they’ve collected all the date they can from the Trials and will rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission: to complete the blueprint for the cure for the Flare. But they must undergo one final test.

What WICKED doesn’t know, however, is that Thomas has already remembered far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what WICKED says.

The time for lies is over. And the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever have imagined.

And so the Maze Runner trilogy ends. I love endings. Especially when they’re as engaging as The Death Cure. Of course, as you might be used to by now, I still have concerns–but overall, I thought this book was absolutely brilliant.

Let’s begin with what I didn’t like though:

For two books, we’ve been very much in the dark about what’s going on. With this being the last book in the trilogy, and with the wrap-up imminent, I was hoping that author James Dashner would trust us readers with more of the truth. But he doesn’t.

Thing is, unlike The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure doesn’t dwell on Thomas’s hunches and hurt ego. And that’s good. This time, when we do get glimpses of the truth, they’re treated as information-sharing–and Thomas pretty much shares everything he learns with his friends from the get go.

What I really don’t understand though is Thomas’s aversion to the return of his memories.

Before I complete go into this, I must warn you that there will be spoilers.

All right, back. Straight off, Thomas refuses the offer of having his memories returned. At first, I really did think that WICKED has something wicked planned for the Gladers once they allow for their memories to be returned. And I was all right with Thomas’s decision.

The thing is, even before the action really begins, the people who did choose to take their memories back did get their memories back–with no side effect. Thomas’s refusal only served to cut him (and a few others) off from the bigger group.

On the one hand, it maybe the smarter decision as a writer to break a smaller group off for us readers to follow. But I must say, it was very frustrating as a reader to still be kept out of the loop–in the final book of a trilogy that was steeped in conspiracies!

I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the book more had the author been more up front with answers. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as good. But that’s neither here nor there now, isn’t it?

The book is far from perfect: there were questions left unanswered, things that came left off field. There’s even one side story that is completely forgotten until the memo at the end mentions it again. The ending is a little too perfect. But the bottom line is this: The Death Cure delivered a good story.

I just hope The Kill Order, the prequel to the Maze Runner trilogy, delivers good answers.

Now, let’s see what other people have written about The Death Cure:
Dead Trees and Silver Screens
Mundie Moms
Nose in a Book
YouTube Review: megs3493

Book: The Scorch Trials

"The Scorch Trials"

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get tehir lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated–and with it, order–and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim…and meal.

The Gladers are far from done running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They mus cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder–does he hold the secret to freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

The problem with sequels is that they rarely live up to the genius of the book that came before. And The Scorch Trials is no different. It is not as good as its predecessor, The Maze Runner, but that’s not to say that it’s bad. It’s not. The Scorch Trials is quite the page turner as well. It’s just that– Well, some of the charm wore off. Especially when it comes to main character Thomas and the mystery of WICKED.

Going back to the first book, everything felt new and intriguing. There was intrigue in who Thomas was. And as the book went on, we found out that he had a hand in creating the world that our characters were inhabiting. WICKED was a complex character, with us (the readers) unsure if they really are good, as Teresa wrote on her arm, or if they’re just a group of cold-hearted scientists.

And that’s where the second book hit a snag.

Yes, we were moving forward with the plot. The Gladers, the characters we’ve grown to care about in the first book, are out of the maze–but they’re not completely safe yet. Instead of getting back to whatever normal is, they are thrust into a new test that puts them in direct contact with illness that has been decimating the world’s population in the most dangerous place on this new Earth. And to top it all off, one of their numbers is replaced by a person from another group of Gladers.

New dynamics? Yes. Except the framework of the first novel remains the same in this second book: Thomas still does not know who he really is, save for the fact that he has a hand in all these tests. WICKED is still straddling the line between good and evil.

The setting might have changed, but the story has not. And that’s where the second book fails. All these new action masks the fact that we are only replicating the events of the first book. If we read deeper into this, we could probably draw a parallel to the fact that the Gladers are being subjected to more variables and stuff. But why should we make an excuse for the novel?

At the end of it all though, The Scorch Trials was still enjoyable to read because of the new adventures and challenges. Now, I’m just hoping that the last book wouldn’t hold back on the answers–that it would live up to the promise of The Maze Runner.

Now, before we go, let’s take a look at what other bloggers have said about The Scorch Trials:
My Books. My Life.
Foil the Plot
Reading for Sanity
YouTube: TheJeanbooks

Book: The Maze Runner

"The Maze Runner"

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is empty.

But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse encolsed by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as anyone can remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, for just as long, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the Maze after dark.

The Gladers were expecting Thomas’s arrival. But the nexdt day, a girl is sent up–the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. And more suprising yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might find their way home … where that may be. But it’s looking more and more as if the Maze is unsolvable.

And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers–if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.

Oh, wow. This book is really something. Really.

The funny thing is, I’ve been meaning to start reading this book since forever. Okay, maybe not forever–but ever since I saw the cover and the title, I’ve been intrigued. It wasn’t until now though, with me having so much free time suddenly, that I finally found myself buying the book and reading it.

I loved it. Loved it, loved it. So much so that I already bought the second book and the prequel, and have the third book reserved for when the bookstore I haunt finally get a new shipment of the paperback version.

What is the book about? Read the synopsis, there’s not much more explaining needed. The synopsis actually tells around ninety percent of the story. So why do I like it still? Why, because of how it’s written of course.

The Maze Runner is a simple story on survival. But it’s no Lord of the Flies. It’s not Michael Grant’s Gone. When we enter the world James Dashner creates, there is already a pre-existing civilization. The confusion brought on by the unfamiliar terrain and jargon actually adds to what made the book work for me: there’s tension, there’s fear.

But what really made The Maze Runner an awesome reading experience for me was the main character: Thomas.

Thomas is pretty much a blank slate–except when he’s not. All his actions seem pre-programmed, which highlights the fear and antagonism felt by the token villain. Suddenly, the protagonist you’re rooting for is turned on his head. What if, all along, he was the villain?

It’s a great play on what is becoming a trope in dystopian young adult literature: the hero is plucked from a normal life, put in an unfamiliar world, and his experiences and the trials he goes through makes him (or her) a hero. That’s not what The Maze Runner is–

In this book, we start out the same way: plucked from normal life and put in an unfamiliar world, and then he gets accused as being the person responsible for creating this cruel world in the first place. Except, we readers don’t know if it’s true, because our anchor (Thomas) has no clear memories.

And then, suddenly, things become familiar for Thomas. And he himself begins to think that he might have had a hand in creating the maze. And then we readers no longer know what’s going on–and it’s exhilarating.

Suffice to say, I don’t really care that ninety percent of the book is already spoiled in the synopsis. I don’t even mind the fact that the remaining ten percent is a set up to the next book.

I loved The Maze Runner, and I’m looking forward to loving The Scorch Trials too.

Though, I am curious too as to what other people have said about the book. So why don’t we check out some of the ones available online?
A Thousand Wrongs
Clouds and Cuticle Oil
YouTube Review: ReadTomes