The Kill Order by James Dashner is the prequel to the Maze Runner trilogy, a young adult post-apocalyptic series. I found Dashner’s latest novel to be a deliciously dark adventure that hooked my attention from the prologue to the epilogue. One of the great qualities of The Kill Order is that it can be read as a standalone novel.
Dashner’s writing is fast-paced and addicting. Mark, the protagonist, and Alec, a war-veteran who joins Mark, embark on a quest to find a cure for a mysterious disease plaguing the survivors of the nearly-destroyed Earth.
The reader is given a glimpse into Mark’s experience during the solar flares that killed a large portion of the Earth’s population and natural resources. Mark’s recounting of the events that took place a year prior to the current events of the novel, told in present-tense and introduced as recurring dreams that he suffers from, are so creepy that I can’t help but be wary of our future. By writing in present-tense, Dashner is effectively making the reader feel like s/he is there with Mark: seeing what he sees and feeling what he feels.
Dashner does not spare us the gory details in The Kill Order. His descriptions are unsettling and disturbing. I enjoyed how vivid his writing is because it shows that he isn’t afraid to be honest. Dashner’s well-placed details not only set the tone of the novel, but help the readers understand his view of what life would be like if the world was on the verge of destruction.
Dashner hints that death is inevitable for his characters. I know that these characters’ purpose is to let me know how the world in the Maze Runner trilogy came to be and how the Kill Order, issued by the government, affected the survivors of Earth. Yet, I rooted for them and waited to see if they made it through to the end. This reaction is a result of wonderful character growth.
To be honest, I have always been wary of Dashner’s writing because his character development tends to feel stilted. Imagine my surprise when I found myself connecting with Mark and the other characters. Dashner elegantly shows the reader Mark’s slow descent into madness, while still managing to portray his various emotions. I was impressed to note that Mark accepts his fate. As a result, I found the last few sentences before the epilogue to be some of the most powerful lines in the book, simply because Mark has successfully grown as a character.
I will be so bold as to state that The Kill Order is perhaps one of Dashner’s best novels yet. I would recommend The Kill Order to those who want a different take on how a disease can ravage the world, and to readers who are seeking an addicting story of a teenager and his will to survive.