Thomas wakes up in a metal elevator that brings him to a place called the Glade. He has no memory of who he is or how he got there. He gradually discovers that the Glade is run by two boys: Alby, the leader, and Newt, the second-in-charge, who both maintain order by enforcing simple but effective rules. The elevator box surfaces from under the ground every week supplying new food, tools and sometimes weapons. Every month a new boy with no memory of anything but his name, finds himself in that elevator box. The Glade is surrounded squarely by a mile-high wall made of concrete. Outside the wall is the Maze, a labyrinth of high concrete walls covered in ivy that changes every day. The Maze houses strange, lethal creatures known as Grievers. Grievers are described as amorphous monsters of metal and flesh. The Gladers are trying to stay alive as well as "solve" the Maze by running through it as fast as they can while tracking movements of the walls and trying to find an exit to escape.
One day after Thomas' arrival, a girl named Teresa, is delivered through the elevator into the Glade with a note saying "She's the last one. Ever." It implies that there will be no more children sent into the Glade. The girl subsequently lapses into a coma. When Thomas comes to visit her, he recognizes her, but can't remember her name until he hears her voice telepathically in his mind telling him her name. Teresa wakes up and tells Thomas that they knew each other before they were sent into the Glade, and reveals that they could communicate telepathically.
Her arrival triggers a series of changes to life in the Glade: People start acting weird, the sun disappears, the weekly deliveries of supplies stop coming, and the doors of the Maze stay open at night, which allows the Grievers to enter the Glade and hunt the children, as well as Thomas and Minho being the first people in the Glade to survive the night in the maze.
Thomas proposes that the walls of the Maze aren't random, but that their movements are actually a code, leading to the discovery that the Maze is spelling out words. Thomas also discovers that the Cliff that they all thought was just a cliff turns out to be where the Grievers leave the Maze or "The Griever Hole" as he and Minho call it. If they can come and go over the edge of the Cliff, then maybe so can the Gladers. This drives Thomas to think they need memories to get out, so he intentionally gets stung by a Griever so he can go through the changing. The changing is a process that begins after one gets the grief serum after getting stung, to cure the infection from the Grievers.
Thomas and the Gladers find out what the pattern is, which causes most of the Gladers decide to make a run for the exit, knowing that it could be suicidal trying to take on the Grievers, but figuring that nothing could be worse than being stuck in the Glade waiting to be hunted by the Grievers. They succeed, only to find out that they were test subjects in an experiment conducted by WICKED, which stands for "World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department." Gally, one of the Gladers who always knew something was different about Thomas and hated him for it, appears at the laboratory to which the teenagers escape. He hadn't originally escaped with them, and he is acting as though he is being controlled. He moves to throw a knife at Thomas, but Chuck, the youngest Glader and Thomas' friend, jumps in front of it.
After briefly mourning the death of Chuck, all 20 Gladers are rescued by a group of people and brought to a safe haven while being told about an apocalyptic occurrence caused by sun flares that killed millions. This was followed by a sickness called the "Flare". It is revealed that orphaned children are being tested to find a way to beat the Flare.
The epilogue reveals that the group who rescued the Gladers may just be another variable in the experiment, and that the Gladers weren't the only group being evaluated.Thomas: The protagonist. Thomas is the last boy, but not the last person to enter the Glade. The only thing remembered when he came into the glade was his name. Chuck described him as about 16 years old, of average height, and brown haired. He was called Greenie as he is a new arrival. He becomes a Runner with Minho after being the first person to spend a whole night in the Maze and saves Alby when he was about to die.
Teresa: The first girl to enter the Glade. She is the last person who was put in the Glade. She has a telepathic connection with Thomas. She also calls Thomas "Tom." She is also known to help Thomas out of the maze and fight the grievers in the griever hole. She is thin, has black hair and blue eyes.
Alby: The eldest and the leader of the Gladers. "The dark-skinned boy with short cropped hair, his face clean shaven," tries to keep order within the group by having all the boys follow the rules they've set down to survive. He has a very close relationship with his second-in-command, Newt. He was in the group of 30 people who first arrived in the Glade. Alby commits suicide by walking into a group of Grievers, thinking that it was better that he die there than outside the Maze.
Newt: A tall, strong, smart boy with medium-length blond hair and a British accent. He is noted for saying "bloody" often in his speech. He used to be a Runner, but is no longer able-footed. He is very kind, friendly, and welcoming to Thomas. His nickname for Thomas is Tommy and they end up being good friends. He is Alby's closest friend and second-in-command and takes over as leader when Alby no longer feels capable.
Minho: The Keeper of the Runners - in charge of navigating and mapping out the Maze. He is very sarcastic, hotheaded, sassy and impulsive, but at the same time charming, smart, and loyal towards his friends. As a Runner, he's in very good shape and is described as "an Asian kid with strong arms and short black hair." He and Thomas quickly become good friends.
Chuck: A young and chubby boy with curly hair who was the newest Glader until Thomas arrived. He immediately becomes friends with Thomas, and acts like a little brother towards him. Chuck was a "slopper". He is around 12 or 13 years old. He is killed by Gally after the maze.
Gally: A Glader who lives by the rules Alby put in place. He does not trust Thomas and shows an immense dislike for him. He is also the Keeper of the Builders. He runs away from the Glade in a fit of rage after exclaiming that he thought "Thomas was not to be trusted" in The Gathering. At the end of the book, he kills Chuck with a knife, and with a gun in the movie.
Frypan: The Gladers' cook and Keeper of the Cooks. He is described as very particular, talented, and very, very hairy. Also known as "Siggy."
Clint: One of the two Med-jacks (which are the medics). The short boy with graying black hair works closely with Jeff healing victims of the Griever's sting with the Grief Serum.
Winston: The Keeper of the Slicers - in charge of slaughtering livestock for food. He is described as "an acne-covered kid, short but muscular" and seems to enjoy his job a little too much. Also becomes friends with Thomas.
Jeff: The taller of the two Med-jacks. He works closely with Clint healing victims of the Griever's sting with the Grief Serum, but he dies in the maze.
Zart: A big, black-haired, brooding boy. He is Keeper of the Track-hoes, who are in charge of farming. He often gives Thomas answers when no-one else bothers to tell him, making him a favourite in Thomas' eyes. Although, he is not his friend. He is often made fun of by the other Gladers. He gets killed in The Ending by a griever.
Ben: A Builder. After undergoing the Changing and attempting to kill Thomas, while still quite induced with the serum and still psycho, he is banished to the Maze, and dies the next day.
Ava Paige: The Chancellor of WICKED and the one apparently responsible for sending teenagers to the Maze. She appears in the Epilogue of the book.
Grievers: Mechanical creatures that haunt and kill the gladers in the maze. In The Ending, they are let free onto the glade to kill one person every day.
Adam: A glader who dies in The "Ending".
Dave: A glader who dies in The "Ending". He is killed on the same day Thomas gets stung.
In late 2005, Dashner had published four books to complete The Jimmy Fincher Saga, which had been with a small regional publisher. His publisher wanted him to write another book, but he decided he would try for a national book market instead. In November of that year he had an idea when going to bed "about a bunch of teenagers living inside an unsolvable Maze full of hideous creatures, in the future, in a dark, dystopian world. It would be an experiment, to study their minds. Terrible things would be done to them. Awful things. Completely hopeless. Until the victims turn everything on its head." The book was later published in 2009. Dashner wrote the book from December 2005 to March 2006.
Kirkus Reviews wrote, "Hard to put down, this is clearly just a first installment, and it will leave readers dying to find out what comes next".
Jessica Harrison of the Deseret Morning News labeled The Maze Runner as "a thrilling adventurous book for kids ages 13+ that will get readers' hearts pumping and leave them asking for more." She noted that it "starts out a bit slow" but as it matched Thomas's confusion and picked up pace as he became more accustomed, she wrote that "it's almost as if Dashner is easing the reader into what becomes a fast-paced, nonstop action." However, she thought the "only drawback" was the "fictionalized slang", saying, "While it feels realistic and fits with his characters, it gets old pretty fast. On the plus side, however, it's used so often that the reader almost becomes desensitized and learns to ignore it."
Fox released a film adaptation of the book, titled The Maze Runner, on September 19, 2014. Wes Ball signed on as director and T.S. Nowlin wrote the screenplay. Dylan O'Brien played the lead role of Thomas, Thomas Brodie-Sangster portrayed Newt and Kaya Scodelario Teresa,. Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Will Poulter and Aml Ameen were added to the cast as Minho, Chuck, Gally and Alby, respectively. Patricia Clarkson played the role of main antagonist Ava Paige. Dexter Darden portrayed Frypan, Alexander Flores portrayed Winston, Jacob Latimore portrayed Jeff, Randal Cunningham portrayed Clint, Chris Sheffield portrayed Ben, and Joe Adler portrayed Zart.
Wayne Haag served as an artist on the film, and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Lindsay Williams and Lee Stollman as producers.
Creature designer Ken Barthelmey designed the Grievers for the film.
Filming started on May 13, 2013, and ended July 12, 2013.