Killing Me Softly: The Kill Order by James Dashner

June 7, 2013 Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fantasy, Frightening, Psychological, Young Adult Fiction 17

Hey Bookworms,

How’s it going? Been hit by any devastating solar flares lately? No? Well. That’s good. Because you know what happens when solar flares hit? Nothing good, that’s for sure. Remember back to when I reviewed The Maze Runner by James Dashner and thought it was awesome? And then I read The Scorch Trials and thought it was compelling? And then I finished The Death Cure and I was kind of meh? I’d been told that I’d feel better about things once I read the prequel, The Kill Order.


Our story starts off with the only connection we get to familiar characters. Thomas and Theresa are nervously awaiting their decent into the Maze. As soon as Thomas is about to have his memory wiped, we are taken back in time and plunged into a world in chaos. The earth has been plagued by a series of destructive and devastating solar flares. Our main characters, Mark and Trina, only survived the initial impact by having been on the subway. The solar flares led to massive melting of the polar ice caps thus flooding the island of Manhattan and heaven knows where else. They’re taken under the wing of a pair of ex military survivalists along with a handful of other teenagers.

Half the population of Earth is assumed to have perished during the flares, what with the radiation and the heat and the melting of human flesh and whatnot. Those who are left, Mark and his crew among them, have tried to cobble together an existence out of what’s left. They’re living in shanty villages hunting, foraging, and getting their Bear Grylls on. For about a year they’re putting things back together until a bunch of douche canoes show up on an airship shooting poisoned darts at random. Their mission? As we learned at the very end of The Death Cure, they were sent by the world governments to cull the population to a sustainable level, given the Earth’s depleted resources. More humane, they rationalize, than letting nature take its course and having people die off slowly of starvation and/or conventional illnesses they’ve run out of resources to treat.

As we know, this supposedly humane virus turned out to be THE FLARE, the dreaded disease that went airborne, spread like wildfire, and drove people completely out of their minds before killing them. Sort of like Mad Cow disease, but with people… And different. AND it killed EVERYONE who wasn’t immune. SPOILER ALERT (if you haven’t read the initial trilogy.) They never did cure the damn thing, so the immunes are left to repopulate the Earth, a la The Stand… Minus significant awesomeness and supernatural elements.

Now topping the list of Stuff I'm Afraid Of: Solar Flares!

Now topping the list of Stuff I’m Afraid Of: Solar Flares! SOURCE

While I was happy to have some closure on how The Flare came to be and what the deal was with the solar flares, I had a few issues with this book. Throughout the original trilogy, Thomas has had his memory wiped and we only see bits and pieces of his past through random memory flashes. I didn’t love the device in the trilogy, but I tolerated it fairly well because, DUDE. They had their memories wiped! How ELSE would such information come through other than in fits and starts?

Dashner obviously enjoyed writing this way, keeping his audience guessing. Stylistically, I suppose he was trying to remain consistent by employing this same flashback-esque sort of shtick in The Kill Order. HOWEVER. Mark had full use of his memory. Sure, he had some mad PTSD as anyone who lived through the end of the world would be expected to. BUT. He never just comes out and tells these stories. They come to him in dreams. Strikingly coherent dreams that read like a narrative. Maybe I’m alone here, but even when my dreams dredge up painful memories, they’re NEVER cogent. My dreams always involve weird random crap popping up and a disembodied quality. Also, there’s almost always something I simply cannot do, like change clothes or find my classroom or find my car or find my train terminal or figure out why I’m skydiving…

It just seemed like an overused gag that didn’t fit the set of circumstances put forth in this novel. All in all? I’m glad I read this and got some answers to some of my nagging questions, but in the grand tradition of the Star Wars fiasco, this prequel left something to be desired.

What about you, Bookworms? Anybody read The Kill Order? Were you pleased that it brought you closure or were you all cantankerous about it like yours truly?

17 Responses to “Killing Me Softly: The Kill Order by James Dashner”

  1. Wayne

    I’m kind of lukewarm about these disaster books, especially now. With the Ruskies in Syria, the I.R.S. persecuting groups they don’t like, and millions of people in the Middle East hating our guts, enough is enough. That being said, I’ve enjoyed reading *The Andromeda Strain* and *The Stand*. All in all, I’d rather read *Data, A Love Story* or even *Fifty Shades of Gray* 😉

  2. ashley

    I read this a few weeks ago. I do enjoy Dasher’s style. I like the guessing game. I enjoy the Lost feeling of trying to piece everything together. While this book did answer some questions, I thought it was boring! I felt a huge lack of character development. I want to feel for the people I’m reading about! It was just ok for me!

  3. acps927

    I was glad to know more about the origins of the flare, but I really wanted the prequel to be about Theresa and Thomas before the maze. Of course, I probably would have just ended up more upset with Dashner about how he handled them in book 3 (though I’m not sure if that’s possible because it made me quite upset). And those dreams were strangely coherent.

  4. 3kids2cats1divorce

    OMG, I just read a non-fiction kindle freebie on how to survive a catastrophe in suburbia without firearms and the authors were all het up about solar flares. I didn’t even realize I needed to be worried. I have the trilogy, but now I’m scared to read it!

    • Words for Worms

      You don’t really find out about the solar flares in the trilogy, it’s in the prequel. Although, now I feel the need to read that freebie, because what about the SOLAR FLARES?!

  5. RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book

    Womp womp. Guess I made a floppy rec! 🙂 Well, I didn’t read the books all at once (this one I read like months later), so maybe thats why I enjoyed it much more because I didn’t remember some of those tiny details that I’d normally nitpick.

    • Words for Worms

      LOL not your fault! There were good points among the bad, I spose I was just being moody and cranky about this one. I just didn’t see the need for the flashbacks… But hey. I got the answers I wanted, so I should quit complaining.

      • RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book

        You’re allowed to complain. And I didn’t write the book, so I’m not too offended (Author James, if you’re reading this, we all totally enjoy your books). But at least you got some answers, more than you had before, even if certain things bugged you.

  6. June

    Yeah this book leaves a lot to be desired. I kept thinking that maybe Dee Dee would end up being one of the immune kids in the Trials or something, but no such luck. I didn’t like how there was almost no connection with any of the characters that we met in the trilogy. I mean, this book didn’t need to be all about those characters, but I at least expected that they would show up somehow.

    I was annoyed that the author didn’t spend more time exploring what the world was like right after the solar flares because I was interested in that aspect. It didn’t help that what we did learn was through a bunch of dream sequences that were just a cheap plot device to keep us guessing.

    Overall, I’m still glad that I read this book just to get closure on the series, but the trilogy itself was much better.

    • Words for Worms

      Hahhahaha oh June. I love this. We’re so on the same wavelength. And the closure for everyone but DeeDee is pretty much “so we’re gonna hang out until we go so insane we try to eat each other. Then we’ll die.” Sigh. Ah well.

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