The Kill Order by James Dashner

I think I’m probably James Dashner’s number one fan (outside of the US).  His Maze Runner Trilogy is one of my favourite series and the first book, The Maze Runner, is in my top 5 books.  It’s one of those books that keeps you constantly on edge, trying to figure out what the heck is going on, and James Dashner’s amazing storytelling sends a shiver down your spine.  Although the first book is my favourite of the series, James keeps you in suspense and reveals little pieces of the puzzle throughout the rest of the trilogy (The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure), making you eagerly await the next installment.  The Death Cure was the perfect ending to the series, but James felt there was still more of the story he wanted to tell, specifically how the world went to hell in a hand basket and why there needed to be a maze in the first place.  The prequel to the Maze Runner Trilogy, The Kill Order, has just been released in the US and I had to know how it all started.

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next.

Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.
Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

I felt completely satisfied after finishing The Death Cure, but The Kill Order is like dessert. James reveals even more pieces of this wonderful puzzle of a story, connects them with pieces from the other books in the trilogy, and turns everything you thought you knew on its head.  The story shows us what happened after the sun flares struck the earth, how people coped in the aftermath, where the Flare virus came from and how it spread.  It’s told through the eyes of completely new characters, Mark and Trina, and we follow their fight for survival after the sun flares strike the earth.  The things that Mark and Trina see are terrifying, horrific and sometimes incredibly creepy.  Several times I thought twice about reading it before bed, in case those images stayed in my head.  Although they’re different characters, you feel for them just as you felt for Thomas, Teresa and their friends.

Now that I’ve read The Kill Order I desperately want to start the series all over again, because there’s all this new information I didn’t know the first time around.  One thing I especially love about The Kill Order is that Thomas and Teresa make an appearance, which really connects this book with the rest of the series.  James’ ability to connect all the pieces of his story together left me shaking my head in amazement and thinking ‘Wow, this guy is good!’

If you want a series that blows The Hunger Games out of the water, read The Maze Runner Series.

5 out of 5 stars

N.B. This is the US hardback edition of The Kill Order.  The paperback edition, published by Chicken House, will be available in NZ in March 2013.  I’m an impatient reader, especially when it comes to series, so I couldn’t wait.

Phoenix Files: Contact by Chris Morphew

Contact jumps straight back into the story of Jordan, Luke and Peter, three of the inhabitants (or prisoners) of the town of Phoenix.  It starts off right where the first book, Arrival ended with Luke, Peter and Jordan hearing the ring of a phone and running off to find out who the phone belongs to.  You learn in the first book that the phones and internet don’t work in Phoenix so it’s strange to hear a phone ringing.  This mysterious phone sets off a string of events that Luke, Peter and Jordan get caught up in.  The people who are in charge of Phoenix discover that the three of them are snooping around, so their principal gives them tasks to keep them busy.  This doesn’t stop them investigating the plans of the Shackleton Cooperative to bring about the end of the world, and as they uncover more secrets they find themselves fighting to save themselves and the ones they love.

Contact is fast-paced and so suspenseful that I found I was racing to finish the book.  Luke, Peter and Jordan get themselves into some really tight situations in this book and you wonder if they are going to get out of them alive.  The part when they are in Ketterley’s office really had me on the edge of my seat, hoping that they didn’t get caught.  One of the things I liked best about Contact is that Chris Morphew told the story from a different character’s perspective.  We see things from Peter’s point of view, which is quite different from Luke’s in the first book.  Hopefully the third book, Mutation will be told from Jordan’s perspective.  I’m going to get started on Mutation straight away because I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Recommended for 12+.   10 out of 10

The Phoenix Files: Arrival by Chris Morphew

What would you do if you found out there were only 100 days until the end of the world?

When Luke and his mum move to the town of Phoenix, out in the middle of nowhere, Luke knows straight away that something isn’t quite right about the place.  There are no cars, no phones and no internet.  All the houses look the same and the only way to get around the town is to walk or bike.  The town was especially built by the Shackleton Cooperative, the mysterious company that offered Luke’s mum a job, and their security officers roam the streets.  A coded message brings Luke together with Peter and Jordan, and when they decipher the message they realise they’re in serious danger.  Someone is plotting to wipe out the human race in 100 days and Phoenix suddenly becomes the safest and most dangerous place on earth.  When Luke discovers a note in his backpack inviting them to a secret meeting at the Phoenix Airport, they hope that they’ll get some answers.  However, their meeting at the airport gives them more questions than answers and as they hunt for information about Phoenix and the deadly plans, the more dangerous it becomes for them in the town.

Arrival is the first book in the action-packed, heart-stopping Phoenix Files series.  It’s one of those books that you just have to keep reading to find out what happens.  It grabs you from the very first page and doesn’t let you go until the end.  You’re left with lots of unanswered questions about Phoenix and the Shackleton Cooperative, but this just makes you want to go and pick up the next book straight away.  Luckily there are 4 books already released (and in the library) of this 6 book series so I can read them all before Fallout gets released next year.  The Phoenix Files are perfect for those who like mystery, adventure and suspense, or books about secret agencies and the end of the world.  If you like Michael Grant’s Gone series, then you’ll love The Phoenix FilesRecommended for 12+    10 out of 10