54 pages 1 hour read

James Dashner

The Kill Order

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2012

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Summary and Study Guide


The Kill Order (2012) by American author James Dashner is the fourth novel in the Maze Runner series and a prequel to the first three books. Like the other Maze Runner books, The Kill Order is a work of young adult (YA) dystopian science-fiction. The novel reveals that a virus (the “Flare”) caused by solar flares incited civilization’s destruction and led to the development of the Glade project. The Maze Runner protagonists, Thomas and Teresa, appear in this novel briefly, but The Kill Order mainly follows a group of young survivors of the solar flares.

Dashner writes YA speculative fiction, including the fantasy series The 13th Reality (2008-2012) and the novel The Journal of Curious Letters (2008). The first three novels of the Maze Runner series were adapted into a high-grossing film series released between 2014 and 2018.

This guide uses the Kindle eBook published by Delacourte Press.

Content Warning: This guide contains discussion of violence, disease, and mental health conditions.

Plot Summary

A year after Earth’s civilization was destroyed, survivors are gathering in settlements. Mark and his friend, Trina, live in a small settlement in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. As they prepare for a normal workday, an airship known as a Berg approaches. Everyone goes outside to greet it, hoping it is a rescue ship sent by the new government. However, as the Berg opens, two men begin shooting dart-like projectiles at the settlement. One of Mark’s friends is hit. While everyone runs for cover, Alec, a former employee of the Department of Defense, arrives with grappling hooks. He and Mark use them to board the Berg, cornering the two people left aboard. To avoid answering Alec and Mark’s questions, the pilot purposely crashes the Berg, and Alec pulls Mark from the wreckage.

Mark and Alec are lost, but they have a map that shows the Berg's point of origin. They decide to travel there to find out why the people on the Berg attacked them. Alec explains that the darts contain a virus, and they have to be careful to protect themselves from further attacks. First, they return to their settlement and discover that most of the people are dead. Some survivors, including Trina, are in a secured shed. Mark is relieved to find Trina alive and safe. Lana, Alec’s coworker and a nurse, tells them they have noticed that the virus seems to affect each person differently; those who were shot with the darts die quickly but can infect others, and their deaths are protracted. Lana believes the virus’s incubation period has passed and it is no longer contagious, but they should still use caution.

Darnell, a friend of Mark and Trina’s who was hit with a dart, begins to panic, and hallucinates that “they” are in his head. He becomes erratic, his delusions intensify, and he beats his head against the door until he dies. A short time later, another friend, Misty, begins to show hallucinatory symptoms and asks to be locked up. Her friend Toad decides to stay with her, and the others leave to find the origin of the Berg.

As the characters travel, they continue to keep their distance from one another for fear of infection, but Mark and Trina share a hug in secret for comfort. After a few days on the road, they come across another village that has been attacked. The only survivor is a young girl, Deedee, who appears untouched by the virus. Trina convinces Alec to bring Deedee with them since her townspeople left her behind. As they continue their journey, Mark reflects on their experiences of loss and on how Alec saved him and Trina shortly after the solar flares.

When they arrive at the Berg’s headquarters, the group realizes another group is in the area. Mark and Alec investigate and are captured by people from Deedee’s village, who all display symptoms of the virus. As the village leader interrogates Mark and Alec, Mark makes note that the people attempt to remain calm. However, the leader’s behavior becomes erratic, and he suddenly dies. Mark and Alec escape, but when they return to their camp, everyone is gone. Mark and Alec follow their tracks to the Berg headquarters. As Mark and Alec explore the area, the ground begins to open up, and they drop inside.

Inside the building, Mark and Alec question a man and learn that the people in the Berg were sent by the Post-Flares Coalition (PFC) to spread the virus as a way to reduce the population and avoid food shortages. The man says the PFC forced him to drop Deedee (who is immune) into the middle of an infected village, which he thinks is unethical. During the conversation, Mark and Alec overhear a meeting in which a man announces they had found a group of survivors—Lana, Trina, and Deedee—and are looking for two men—Mark and Alec. Mark and Alec steal a Berg and escape.

Alec locates Lana, Trina, and Deedee while Mark is beginning to show symptoms of the virus. They arrive in an upscale neighborhood in Asheville, North Carolina, and begin searching for the girls. They find them and after a brief battle and manage to rescue Trina and Deedee. However, Alec and Trina are now also showing symptoms. Mark finds communications that explain how the PFC believed the virus would be a humane way to kill half the population to protect the food chain, but they did not test it. The virus acted unexpectedly inside human hosts, and the PFC does not have a cure. Mark realizes the only thing left to do is get Deedee back to the PFC headquarters so that the scientists can use her to manufacture a cure. They do this by breaking into the PFC building in Asheville and using a device called a Flat Trans to transport Deedee to headquarters before they succumb to the virus.

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By James Dashner