For fans of James Dashner‘s Maze Runner Trilogy, there was no more exciting news than the announcement that Dashner would be revisiting his world, for a prequel set during the devastation by solar flares and the subsequent introduction of the Flare virus to humanity. Finally we might get some answers. Perhaps we weren’t out of the Maze quite yet…

In many ways, however, The Kill Order comes as a disappointment. Beyond the initial Prologue our favorite characters remain unseen in the distant future, and the new cast that takes their place feels light on both personality and intrigue. Mark and Trina are a pair of teenagers who are trapped – safely – underground when the solar flares hit. Their initial relief is short-lived as we fast-forward to a hideout in the mountains, where Mark, Trina and many others are trying to restart something resembling human civilization. Just when things seem to be picking up, however, they’re attacked by suited men in a floating ‘Berg’, shooting darts containing a manufactured virus into the assembled masses. Our heroes try to track down and stop the Flare virus before it takes hold…

Of course, if you know anything about The Maze Runner then you’ll know that Mark and Trina are destined to fail, which makes for a depressing end to the tale – and a rather predictable denouement. What seems intended as a story about love and hope has nowhere to go but despair. The Kill Order is a downhill slide from start to finish.

The bigger issue, however, is the lack of surprises in the plot. While all three of the Maze Runner novels kept us on the edge of our seats with twists and turns, The Kill Order relies largely upon action sequences for its thrills – and these quickly grow stale. While it might make a fantastic movie, the action-heavy nature of the novel feels like a wasted opportunity. Teenage boys will probably love it, but the rest of us are destined to tire of its gung-ho muscle-flexing long before the finish.

The Kill Order isn’t a bad novel, but it’s a pale shadow of the original Maze Runner material. Fans who want one last bite of the world of the Flare virus will be happy – and those who like their novels packed with fights and crashes will be in heaven – but if you’re hoping for something more you’ll wind up disappointed. And don’t expect any happy endings.

The Kill Order is available now from all good bookstores, and the Random House website, priced $17.99.

Home Culture Review: James Dashner Unravels His Maze in 'The Kill Order'