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From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Though Dashner wrapped up his best-selling Maze Runner trilogy with 2011's The Death Cure, he returns to the well with this prequel, telling the backstory of how the world's population came to be infected with the psychotic lunacy disease that would lead scientists to put teens through a series of sadistic tests in the name of finding a cure. We meet Mark and Trina soon after ravenous sun flares wipe out a good swath of humanity, living tooth and nail in a small settlement until a gang of hazmat-suited folks drop from the sky and shoot everyone up with virus-laden darts. The quest to find answers and save their band of friends takes them straight into a bleak heart of darkness. The story's burdened by thin characters, plot contrivances, and generally tortured logic, but the series' many readers aren't in it for the craft. The draw is the gobs of gruesome violence and raving lunacy in the back-to-back, extended action sequences. And there's plenty such fare here, even if it all feels like the stakes are lowered a bit by knowing the inevitable outcome.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist