Monday, 17 October 2016

The Fever Code

Book Title: The Fever Code
Author: James Dashner
Series: The Maze Runner #0.6
Date Started: October 7th 2016
Date Completed: October 17th 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Mystery
Quality Rating: Three Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Three Star
Final Rating: Three stars

I really wanted to enjoy this book, I promise I did. I was ready for some character backstories from the Gladers - especially Newt and his sister, and Minho who we know basically nothing about at all - I was hoping for some proper, sound explanations from WICKED, and maybe a few exciting action scenes in between. I would've taken whatever storyline as long as we had those characters we love back. But I don't feel like we did have them, so in the end I just couldn't enjoy it.

One of the first things I noticed when reading The Fever Code was just how far Dashner has come in his writing style. I always said that his prose really wasn't great in the original trilogy, and it has always been a bit of a struggle for me to get through his juddering style. But, seemingly out of nowhere, this book has a really good flow in its writing. It's not perfect (Dashner really needs to work on distinguishing his character's dialogues past catchphrases and between age groups; when the five year old kids at the start speak the same at the adults do ten years later there's a problem), but overall I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I could actually get lost in the world while I was reading without being pulled out by having to reread a sentence several times to understand it.

This book, in short, is a patchy collection of scenes that Dashner has clearly had in his head since he wrote the first book. These specific scenes are all developed and interesting because he's had a couple of years to turn them over in his head, but when they're combined with lots of scenes that feel like they've been made up on the spot in order to fill in the gaps things start to fall apart and lose their pace a little bit. When some of the scenes that Dashner clearly had a sentimental attachment to (and so wanted to include) are set when the characters are about five just as they're abducted, we then have this enormous gap of about ten years to when most of the actual action of this book happens (predictably, when the first lot of people have been sent into the Glade). What needed to happen was for Dashner's editor (as the unbiased overlooker) to step back and say 'I'm sorry, I see this is important to you, but it's weakening the story' and either not include it or incorporate it in in a flashback or narration or something. Instead we get this huge portion of the book which is trying to compensate for the huge gap between events by being filled with pointless and at times boring scenes that don't transition the time well or even develop characters or plot. We honestly didn't need the first three quarters of this book in terms of making the main story points - and it's not like James had to set the scene and introduce the characters, we're all well aware of who these people are. If we're here, we want new information, but we don't really get it.
So when I had those thoughts going around my head for the majority of this book, and then suddenly that last quarter comes up I really wandered why we needed most of this book that is really a huge introduction to the climax. (All I can think is that there isn't enough in just the ending to write a whole book.) The conclusion to the book itself was a little lack lustre for me, but I do admit that I was already a little too disappointed to be able to take anything in properly anymore. And we all knew how this book was going to end of course, but the 'shock' factor right at the end didn't really surprise or impact me a lot - but even then, the pacing in that last little section was really good! And the emotions started to feel actually real and I caught a glimmer of that original playfulness that makes this trilogy so fun. I wish the whole book had been like that ending quarter, and I wish Dashner had sacrificed those few scenes right at the beginning to focus properly on the later development.

We were promised to be reunited with old characters. Oh, I was so excited, I was so ready to hear these tragic backstories. And we got them a bit - and if you're a fan of Thomas you get it a lot. The Fever Code is very much the Thomas and Teresa show again (understandably, everything does happen because of them), but I missed the side characters and, for most of them, they're barely in more than a couple of pages and mentions. Honestly, this was the biggest thing that got in the way of my enjoyment of this book, and I hold my hands up and say yes, I did let the fact it didn't live up to expectations sway me. But I don't think anyone can go into this book without expectations: it's the prequel to a series that gets you attached to certain characters, of course you want to be able to explore them more in a story that supposedly follows their backstory.
On a personal note, Newt is entirely wasted on this book. I have a personal attachment to him, but he's a well known fan favourite, and it's clear Dashner knew this because he very aptly positioned the token reunion scene between Newt and his sister - but that's pretty much your lot for that relationship. Overall, a lot of the side characters past Teresa, Chuck, and maybe Ava Paige, become little name drops or cameos scattered throughout the story. Some of them aren't necessary to the plot and are just there so you can say 'oh look, here's this person', and the rest don't spend nearly enough time actually exploring those side characters again.

In all fairness, The Fever Code had a tough wrap from the beginning: we all had our hopes for what sort of backstories we were going to explore, and I have to say the films definitely haven't helped in terms of reminding people of what actually happens in the canon. There were some parts that really confused me until I remembered some of the weirder little events in the book (that still don't really make sense). In its own right, this book isn't that bad but it's not what we've been sold, and it didn't focus on the aspects of the prequel I was invested in.

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