Maia Station says it best when describing J.M. McDermott’s Maze at the very beginning of the book. She talks of everything being, “…disjointed, wrapped in silver gauze…” and also “…sand ground away at her mind…” Maze is truly a piece of human art and each layer is peeled back like skin to show the bloody tissue and bone beneath the surface.
The stories of those living inside the maze are formed by what at first appears to be a jumbled mass of hodgepodge characters. Maia Station is a scientist from the future somehow sucked into this bleak and unforgiving world. Joseph lives in a similar time stream to us, just in a more apocalyptic world before birthing a Djinni from his flesh and then is dragged through pipes into the Maze. Wang Xin is a young boy turned fearless warrior, who sees all his paths laid out before him by the water Djinni splashed into his eye. Then finally, there is Julie Station, born inside the Maze by Maia and her closing chapter. This diverse group of characters and different periods of time, are all interconnected as we weave through the maze, one life at a time.
Life in the Maze is cruel, harsh, and only those with a strong desire to survive can flesh out a meager existence for themselves. Feast on maggots, berries, vultures, or even minotaurs and harpies to quench the ache of hunger in your stomach. McDermott knows the very depths humans can go to in order to survive. Joseph’s story is particularly graceful in his downward spiral for survival. Just an average guy who finds love at a high school reunion, except for the ball of light he sucked into his lungs and births from his chest. A creature known as Jenny, who rips his life and that of his loves apart when it spits them out into the hostile world of the maze.
Each page you turn grabs hold of your hands and yanks you deeper into its clutches until you’re so far entrenched in the Maze you can’t find your way back out. Each of our characters hopes to carve out a better life for themselves and possibly gain some understanding of the maze along the way, all the while each of them are somehow linked together by a bond of blood.
I won’t claim to fully understand the circular closure in the novel, but I do appreciate McDermott’s story-telling prowess. Not often am I left in a dark tunnel with a glimmering light dangling in front of me and I totter after it on uneasy steps. Maze did that to me. If you want to lose yourself into a hostile world with only a small chance of survival and comprehension, then I dare you to step into the Maze.