SPOILERS FOR THE “MAXIMUM RIDE” SERIES BEYOND THIS POINT
THE NINTH AND ULTIMATE MAXIMUM RIDE STORY IS HERE! Legions of Max fans won’t be disappointed by this encore episode in the beloved series about the incredible adventures of a teenage girl who can fly. As Maximum Ride boldly navigates a post-apocalyptic world, she and her broken flock are roaming the earth, searching for answers to what happened. All will be revealed in this last spectacular “ride”- a brand-new grand finale featuring all of the nonstop action, twists and turns that readers can rely on in a blockbuster Patterson page-turner!
So let’s talk about “Maximum Ride” for a second.
First off, I have to start by saying the first three books in this series will always have a special place in my heart. I first read them when I was in sixth grade (which says something about how long this series has been running, seeing as I’m a sophomore in college now), and I think it was the first time I developed a complete fangirl level obsession with a book series. Seriously, I absolutely loved those books. Somewhere in my house there are multiple spiral notebooks full of badly written eighth-grade fanfiction for this series about my avian-hybrid OC, and as much as I hope that said notebooks are never found I think they are a solid testament to how entirely obsessed I was with the earlier books in this series in middle/early high school.
If you aren’t familiar with this series, it follows this group of six kids/ teenagers who were raised in a lab and genetically altered so that their DNA is mixed with avian DNA, meaning that they have wings and can fly. Before the series starts they escape from the lab, so the story follows them as they try to avoid being recaptured, fight the organization that created them, and learn about their individual pasts. It was awesome, it was intense, it was hilarious, and it was really fun to read.
At least it was for the first three books. And I mean that, you can easily stop after the third book and have a perfectly resolved ending.
SPOILERS FOR “MAXIMUM RIDE FOREVER” AND THE “MAXIMUM RIDE” SERIES BEYOND THIS POINT
This may just be my opinion, but the series started to decline after the third book. The fourth and fifth books had really heavy environmental messages, and while there really isn’t much wrong with that global warming is a far cry from kids with wings fighting evil scientists and genetically altered werewolves. The sixth and seventh books, were slightly better, but not by much. A character was added for the purpose of creating a love triangle, all this weird apocalypse stuff that had nothing to do with the earlier books starting happening, and no one other than four of main the main characters were getting any focus or development. They weren’t horrible books, but they didn’t compare to the first three.
And then the “final” book just had a really bad ending. I mean the apocalypse happened and the world literally ended. And that was it. Aside from the four main characters who got all the focus, we didn’t even know if anyone was even alive. If there was any consolation, it was that it couldn’t get any worse since the series was over. It said so all over the book.
But then one day I walk into Barnes and Noble and see this:
Originally I had not even intended to read this book, I mean, the “final” book came out in 2012, and in those three years I had already come to terms as much as I could and created my own headcanons and stuff. But then over time I realized that I really wanted canon closure on these characters who I used to be extremely attached to, and I was kind of curious as to where the heck this story could go after the apocalypse. So I read the darn thing. And while it wasn’t nearly as frustrating as “Nevermore”, it was definitely something.
On the bright side, we learn right away that everyone from the flock did survive the apocalypse. (Dr. Martinez and Ella are confirmed dead though, which is really sad, especially since we don’t really see anyone having time to grieve), but crud gets dark fast when the island from “Nevermore” is destroyed by a volcanic eruption.
So this book starts off with a volcanic eruption…Okay. If you told eighth grade me that a Maximum Ride book would start out with a volcano erupting she’d probably ask you what weird fanfiction you had been reading, but at this point I’m almost ready to accept any weirdness this series has to throw at us.
We’re also led to believe that Dylan died in the eruption, and briefly seeing the reactions to the death was really sad, but I honestly wasn’t buying it. It was too soon in the book for a major character who gets a load of focus to die, and I tend to go by a “no body, no proof” rule at this point, so I had a feeling that he would be back later, so I feel kind of bad for saying this, but I really wasn’t that upset yet.
So after the opening there’s a few parts where for a moment it’s actually like the original books. The flock is fighting together, everyone is getting attention, there’s a really cool action scene, it’s pretty cool for a few chapters.
BUT THEN James Patterson does the unthinkable and KILLS A DOG.
I don’t care how good the series is, if you kill a dog I will be an emotional wreck, and when we find out Akila was killed in the fight against the hyena-things I was completely emotionally destroyed. Especially since we had to see everyone’s reactions, and the fact that this is already a FREAKING DEAD DOG BOOK. I AM NOT OKAY.
And that was pretty much the turning point where this book got seriously depressing. For a while it just became this giant pile of death, disturbing imagery, and sadness. Honestly, we’re only a few chapters in, and we already have two offstage character deaths, a supposed major character death, a housing development full of dead bodies, the majority of Earth’s population dying in the apocalypse, and a talking dog mourning his dog love interest who has just been killed off. And this just completely hopeless feeling extends through a good portion of the book, like there was none of the snarkiness or humor from the earlier books, just post-apocalyptic death and misery. Everywhere.
And all of this is made even worse by the fact that as I read I am slowly realizing, “crap, I am still extremely attached to these characters.” I know it’s been so long since the last book, and they haven’t all been written that well recently, but I still really care about what happens to these characters. I don’t know if it’s lingering feelings from when I first read the series or what, but I’m still deeply concerned for their well-being, and I want to see them survive and interact with each other. I even still ship Fang and Max a little. I think all of this is what made the last few books so frustrating, we had to read as all these great characters were either barely featured or written kind of out of character, and it was painful to read, especially because they were all such individual characters who worked so well as a group.
So of course, the book’s next course of action is to separate everyone. Seriously, right after we finally see everyone together they all go in separate directions. Angel, who continues to get progressively creepier, gives Fang a vision of his death, so he decides to leave, I guess to avoid hurting anyone, it wasn’t really clear, Iggy and Gazzy go to look for survivors, Angel gets this vision about Russia and goes there on her own, and Max, Nudge, and Total go back to the island. And then after they meet with those fish mutants Max decides to leave, so the group is completely divided. And this is a major issue, I mean, the flock belongs together, historically, nothing good ever happens when they split up the characters work off each other. So of course, like it always does when they separate, everything goes to complete Hell.
Suddenly we break from the plot to get an introduction to this Horseman character who is tasked with killing all of the remaining mutants on Earth, especially the flock. Now this character is supposed to be all shrouded in mystery, but as soon as they mentioned he had wings I’m just like “IT’S DYLAN. THERE HE IS. HE’S NOT DEAD, WHOEVER CAUSED THE APOCALYPSE BRAIN WASHED HIM OR SOMETHING.” So yeah, I kind of figured that out…
So anyway, remember how I said that everything went to Hell? Well, we start a new chapter, we get Nudge POV, what is something we haven’t seen in a while. Apparently she is learning to live with the fish mutants, and we see her swimming in one of their caves. BUT THEN, the Horseman comes the heck out of nowhere and attacks her and holds her under the water and we get this line about the last thing she ever saw, and then he gives a report that she is dead
WHAT. WHAT THE HECK. NO. NO YOU CAN NOT KILL ANY OF THEM OFF THIS IS NOT OKAY.
Here’s the thing. For some reason I actually believed that the author would do this. I believed that he would kill a major character who hadn’t been given much focus recently for shock factor. And I was an emotional wreck! I literally had to stop reading, put down the book, and scream into a pillow because holy frick, a character whom I have been emotionally attached to since middle school just got brutally killed off, and I was NOT OKAY.
AND THEN after the book goes on for a while IT HAPPENS AGAIN. We follow Max for a decent amount of chapters, and then we finally catch up with what Iggy and Gazzy are doing, only for this Horseman character to show up and BRUTALLY MURDER BOTH OF THEM.
And again, I believed it, because it might have been shock factor or something or maybe these characters had been featured so little in the last few books that the author thought they were expendable, I don’t know. All I know is that I am literally screaming again because this book is essentially A SNUFF FILM OF ALL MY FAVORITE CHARACTERS FROM MIDDLE/ EARLY HIGH SCHOOL. WHEN I SAID I WANTED CLOSURE THIS IS NOT WHAT I MEANT.
Meanwhile, all of this horrible death is intermixed with scenes of Max flying around various locations and describing the effects of the apocalypse, and let me tell you, parts of it are just seriously depressing. I mean, there was this hope spot-ish moment with the bird-human hybrids, but the rest of it is overall just really disturbing. I mean, let’s compare the content of the earlier books with what goes down in this one.
Stuff featured in the original Maximum Ride Books:
- Kids with wings fighting genetically altered werewolves and evil scientists
- A beautiful amount of sarcasm and fun banter between characters
- Focus on a large group of well-developed characters
- Talking dogs
- Fairly decent plot resolutions
- Good characters going through a lot of crap, but for the most part always surviving in the end
Stuff featured in this book:
- Mass genocide
- Housing developments full of skeletons and decomposed bodies
- Dead dogs
- Everyone being really depressed in a really dark situation with no humor whatsoever
- Death by the underwater version of those flesh eating worms from the “Gone” series
- Wings getting ripped off
- Attempted cannibalism
- Plot twists coming the heck out of nowhere with no foreshadowing
- EVERYONE FREAKING DYING HORRIBLY
See, it’s a complete tone change, even kind of a genre change. And don’t get me wrong I’m okay with dark stuff, and this book isn’t horrible or even that bad, but it’s really jarring in regards to the first few in the series.
So anyway, I don’t know if we’re going in order here anymore, but the book switches to a Fang POV just in time for him to find Dylan fighting these advanced Horseman/Eraser things so he tries to help but then one of the things freaking RIPS HIS WING OFF and then he falls off of a cliff and DIES. WHAT. JAMES PATTERSON STOP THIS YOU HAVE PASSED YOUR ACCEPTABLE AMOUNT OF CHARACTER DEATH LIMIT OH MY GOD.
But then I have this realization that something must be up here. There’s no way that James Patterson would kill the majority of his named characters, especially the protagonist’s main love interest. So I start thinking that this book is either going to be the world’s biggest character death cop-out, or one of the most depressing YA novels I have ever read. There is no in-between here, I mean, no matter how dark the book is I just don’t think the author would kill everyone.
But what if he would…
But we don’t have to worry for long because Max meets up with Angel, who takes her to this literal army that she has been forming through the course of the book, and it turns out that the Horseman was indeed Dylan, and that he faked the first three deaths so they wouldn’t be killed by the people who caused the apocalypse. So no one is actually dead!
And part of me is like:
And the other part is like:
But this means Fang is ok right? Right? RIGHT?!?!?!?!? NO BODY NO PROOF RIGHT?!?!?!?!?
So apparently, even though everyone else was okay, Fang was actually killed. Like they hammer it into your head that he is very much dead. Excuse me, I’m going to go lay on the floor and cry over this ridiculous book.
Anyway, the next part of the book is actually pretty cool. There’s this really cool action scene where they find this compound where the Remedy (who caused the apocalypse) is hiding and storm it with this huge army and there’s this really intense fight scene and we find out that everything was caused by the scientist who created Dylan and he’s hooked himself to a bomb to kill everyone so Max flies him out over the ocean and he’s talking about how her generation will die out and I think she’s about to make an epic speech or something…
And then Max reveals that she is pregnant.
Okay. There is a correct way to do a plot twist, and there is an incorrect way to do a plot twist. Suddenly revealing that your fifteen year old main character is pregnant with no foreshadowing, indication, or build up whatsoever is not the correct way. Really, it’s not what happened that I’m frustrated over, just the fact that it kind of came the heck out of nowhere. And I don’t know if this is weird to think or anything…but when did Max and Fang even have time to conceive a child? Like, she doesn’t seem that far along but wasn’t the apocalypse sort of happening? I don’t know, I just feel like if this was something to include it could have been handled better throughout the whole book.
So they defeat the Remedy and take over his base and everything and it looks like everything is coming to an end, but then Dylan reveals that he has Fang’s body under stasis and can bring him back and Max agrees to let him do it, but they have to switch life energies or something (It wasn’t really that clear), so Dylan dies in the process. And, I don’t know, I’m glad they were able to bring Fang back and that my OTP is together and all, but something about Dylan’s death was kind of disturbing. I feel kind of bad for him, it’s not his fault he was created for a love triangle, and that he literally died for the other pairing. I guess I just don’t know why he had to die.
Afterwards we go into the epilogue when Max and Fang’s daughter is four years old and the series finally wraps up. It did seem pretty final this time, and I must say, it was a lot more satisfying than the ending of “Nevermore.”
So what did I think of this book? Well, in all honesty, I don’t really know. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it could get really depressing at times. But it was entertaining, I read it really fast, and there were some cool scenes. Overall, despite all my complaining, I would say it was somewhat better than most of the later books, and definitely better than “Nevermore”. My personal recommendation for this series is to read the first three books as canon, and either stop there or read the rest and consider them a sort of non-canon fanfiction, because the first three are amazing, but the rest, including this one, aren’t horrible, but they just aren’t the same.
Well thanks for reading this insanely long rant! See you next time!