‘Maze Runner’ author introduces new trilogy

Nov. 09, 2013 @ 12:05 PM

NOTE: Signed copies of James Dashner’s “The Eye of Minds” and other novels are available at Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill.

In author James Dashner’s “Maze Runner” series, Thomas awakes, but does not remember his name. He finds himself in The Glade, or The Maze, from which Thomas and his fellow “Gladers” escape.
After they escape from The Maze, Thomas and his “Glader” friends’ quest continues in the novels “The Scorch Trials” and “The Death Cure.” Dashner’s prequel, “The Kill Order,” explains how sun flares and disease created the post-apocalyptic world of the “Maze” trilogy.
Now the character Michael begins a new quest in “The Eye of Minds” (Delacorte Press, $18.99), the first book in Dashner’s new Mortality Doctrine trilogy. Dashner and his wife, Lynette, signed copies of “The Eye of Minds” and books in the “Maze Runner” series at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill last week.
A movie adaptation of the “The Maze Runner” is scheduled for release in September. Dashner wrote the screenplay for the film, which is directed by Wes Ball, with Dylan O’Brien playing the role of Thomas. “I’m just ridiculously thrilled,” Dashner said of the production. “They’ve captured my vision perfectly.”
Before his “Maze Runner” series, Dashner published his “13th Reality” series. He mapped out more of the plot and characters for The Mortality Doctrine series than he did for his previous stories, Dashner said. All three books in the new series are outlined. (“The Rule of Thoughts,” the second novel in the trilogy, is slated for publication in fall 2014.)
Dashner’s books are marketed for young adult readers, but he estimates that about half of his readers are adults. With the success in recent years of the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” books, the barrier between young adult and adult readers has blurred. It’s now all right for adults to be seen reading books marketed to young adults. “I’ve been lucky that I came out at a time when the young adult market has exploded,” Dashner said.
In “The Eye of Minds,” 16-year-old Michael is the son of wealthy parents whose business requires lots of travel. Michael’s nanny, Helga, keeps house and cooks his meals. By default, Michael -- a master gamer, code writer and hacker -- spends a lot of time on the VirtNet. Without giving away too many details, Dashner’s VirtNet is a game that blurs the line between reality and virtual reality – to the point where gamers experience excitement, fear and other raw emotions, but in a safe environment.
At the opening of the novel, that safety is shattered. Michael is playing a game with Tanya, who is hanging from a simulation of the Golden Gate Bridge. Michael tries to keep her from committing suicide, but Tanya begins to destroy her Core, a device that helps players distinguish between the game and reality. “Without your Core, your brain wouldn’t be able to filter the VirtNet properly,” Dashner writes.
Tanya dies, something that is not supposed to happen in the VirtNet. Other gamers have shown up brain dead. The deaths have been linked to Kaine, a gamer who has hidden a program called The Mortality Doctrine somewhere in the VirtNet. An agent for the VirtNet police enlists Michael’s hacking skills to try and find out what the gamer Kaine is planning, because it could have consequences for the VirtNet and the real world. Michael in turn enlists his fellow hacker and gamer best friends Bryson and Sarah, and their quest for Kaine begins.
Dashner lists the films in the “Matrix” series and “Inception” as influences on The Mortality Doctrine. He and Flyleaf owner Jamie Fiocco shared thoughts about Stephen King’s books. “He’s by far my favorite. His writing really inspires me,” Dashner said.
“I think it’s my best book so far,” he said of “The Eye of Minds.” “I could see it having a sequel series,” he said.