Book Review: The Kill Order - James Dashner

★★★☆☆: Dystopia can be dull as dishwater.

[spoiler free]

The Kill Order is the much better written prequel to James Dashner's best-selling young adult dystopian trilogy which begins with The Maze Runner. In it we follow Mark, a teenage boy adjusting to his new life removed from traditional civilisation immediately following the destruction of the outward surface of Earth by sun flares. Where the main series focuses on happenings much further along in the chain of events following the sun flares and their aftermath, The Kill Order deals with the immediate fallout.

The plot in this book is much more concise and well put together than the rest of the series, but sadly Dashner continues in his efforts to explain very little. Dashner's characters also suffer from a total lack of personality, excepting possibly one secondary character, the sarcastic army guy, Alec. It often feels like he should be leading the book. However, even he doesn't have as much depth as I'd like to see. The writing is at least reasonably well paced, but there are lots of action scenes which feel a bit like watching clothes being churned around in a washing machine. There is a strong blandness and emptiness to this entire world and what little explanation we are offered seems like a very basic attempt at constructing a watery motive for a series of mindless, almost random actions. Still, this prequel feels considerably more competent and mature than the other books in the series.

There is potential for some interesting characterisation, but sadly the book actually removes almost all of the characters from most of the story, so we're forced to hear only Mark's boring thoughts, and Mark's boring emotions, and Mark's boring concerns. At least there is some nice exposition via his memories, during which we get to escape from his head a bit, ironically by being further inside it.

Ultimately, the dullness pushes through this book. It does feel much more considered and fleshed out than The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure, but not really enough to make it very enjoyable.

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