I invite you to enter my Maze. I say it is mine, because despite who else I might be, I am the architect as well as your guide. Your first goal is to find the shortest route through the Maze – a simple task, I assure you, if you know what to look for. I have planted clues throughout for your interpretation – or misinterpretation.  Indeed, you will be fascinated by the Maze’s ambiguity, stimulated by its mystery, stymied by its riddle. But fear not! I will be with you all the way. Fear not, that is, if you truly believe that my clues or I can be trusted.

Enter room 1.  Which door should you take from here? Someone in the narrative uses the word “story,” and the same word appears above the door to room 20. Is that the connection? Is there a connection?  Give it a try and go to room 20, which is peculiar in its own way. Just inside the door to room 27 you see what looks like the bottom half of an archer’s arrow – an arrow pointing the way perhaps? I will not tell. Perhaps it wouldn’t help if I did. It is up to you to decide, as you move from room to room, hoping that fact is not fiction and that your best judgment has not led you astray.

Tempted? Test your wits against mine. I guarantee that my Maze will challenge you to think in ways you’ve never thought before. But beware…one wrong turn and you may never escape.

 - Images and text copyright 1985 by Christopher Manson
used with permission. [Purchase MAZE from Amazon]


Hidden Hint:

● Over the door is a red colored fish, this is a visual metaphor for a “red herring.” [Credit: Unknown - prior to 1990.] The door is in the shape of a pi symbol. [Independent Credit: LoMoody | Hidden Mystery | White Raven] A comparison between this image and the matching image in the prologue shows that the red herring is gone and has been replaced by the phrase “THE NEXT PAGE.” This illustrates a basic principle in the book, room linkages between two rooms are red herrings. Reinforcing this is the pi symbol which symbolizes infinity (i.e. this applies to the whole book). Also reinforcing this is the umbrella which is a running gag in the book in which the visitors are urged to prepare for rain that never comes. [White Raven]

Next:  Title Page

89 thoughts on “Cover

  1. I know I’ve been the king of “maybe we should think about this” lately, without offering any actual productive thought, but…

    When we talk about the confirmed solutions in this book, we for some reason neglect to mention the solutions that are confirmed even more directly than the contest solutions: the ones listed on the back of the book.

    Now, we have traditionally ignored these because we know they’re wrong. Finding the word “story” in the text in Room 1 does NOT mean that that’s the right way. The arrow in Room 20 does NOT point the right way. So we know that stuff’s wrong, and we’ve ignored it.

    But ignoring this stuff doesn’t make sense with our current understanding of the book. Red herrings are just as much “real” puzzles in the book as anything else. Think of the same example I raised in a nearby comment–F HOUR TREE. This is a real puzzle, as good an example as we’ve found of one, and it’s just a red herring. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t inform how we approach other puzzles in the book, or what kinds of things we should be looking for.

    Similarly, it doesn’t really matter that the “solutions” Manson gives us on the back cover are wrong–at least, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be using that information. It gives us insight into what Manson viewed as red herrings and how he used them.

    Specifically, what we learn from the back cover is:

    1) Mentioning a word associated with a door is meant to be a clue to take that door.
    2) Something pointing at a door is, alone, a clue to take that door.

    “Well, no kidding,” everyone says.

    WELL, but just keep this in mind when looking to explain things in other rooms.

    ALSO, taking Manson’s identified red herrings seriously should help to counter the worldview that every room points you toward the best door in it, either by indicating only that door or by indicating every door except that door. The way that the above types of clues are used does not conform to that view–certainly off of the solution path, at least, but maybe not on the path either.

    • I understand that the summaries on the backs of books are often added by the publisher rather than being written by the author. I’m not sure if that is the case here; the publisher would probably be overstepping boundaries to write it from the perspective of the guide, since that would corrupt Manson’s characterization. However, I can’t help but feel that there is something somewhat different about the guide’s tone and diction here, but perhaps that just because the context in which he is speaking is different from the rest of the book.

  2. I know I’ve been the king of “maybe we should think about this” lately, without offering any actual productive thought, but…

    Maybe we should think about this. The parts of the book that give the most explicit warning that clues might be untrustworthy are the back cover and the directions–both of which were likely among the last bits of text written. I wonder–did Manson always intend to make it so clear that the Guide was untrustworthy, or was this a late concession based on feedback? It really flavors the book differently, right from the outset, to have these clear warnings, and not have to derive from experience just *how* untrustworthy the Guide and the clues are.

    And that makes wonder whether any parts of the book work differently, were intended to work differently, for a reader that wasn’t immediately handed those warnings. Maybe something that seems to do nothing more than hint at the Guide’s evil nature *really does* do nothing more, because it was created before the decision to give the reader a free heads up.

    • Hmmm… this is so core to how the book operates I’ll have to think about it more. But honestly, telling the reader the guide will be untrustworthy is kind of meta-manipulation in its own way. So much of the time the guide is actually validating the visitors, so expecting lies from him makes the reader do 4D chess in their brain.
      It’s hard, I guess… much of the guide’s presence in the book from a decision making standpoint is confusing or almost nonsensical, even when you know what all the right answers are. Which is probably the point. So telling the reader that might give them added reason to overanalyze everything he says, confusing them even more. It might be a way to make the visitors make believable decisions, keep the guide’s influence subtle, and still inspire the reader to make strange ones to go against the guide. Take 2, 9, 11 and 35. The way the visitor text and guide text work together make a disorienting reverse-psychology experience.

      The guide doesn’t act predictably either, so things that make him seem distrustful vary wildly from each room.
      I guess the guide is just so hard to interpret that interpreting how we interpret him is also hard. Getting a warning certainly does make the book feel malicious, though most readers probably wouldn’t have trouble figuring out that malice anyway. Malice =/= misleading? Maybe the guide isn’t even that misleading and the part was added in the directions and back cover to ADD difficulty? It’s so hard to say.

    • Ok so I now realize what I wrote basically was just “hmmm maybe but also hmm maybe not”

    • No matter how you slice it there isn’t one narrative lens we can apply to the guide that makes him make sense. So for his purpose, he’s written extremely well

    • Keep in mind, it’s not just the Guide– you also get a heads up that the clues (puzzles) might not lead you the right way. This is only hinted at in the text past the Directions, but it’s a fundamental aspect of the book, and one that otherwise could take a long time to discover. It could also be quite frustrating; imagine not knowing the puzzles are untrustworthy because there was no warning, actually SOLVING some of them–I mean, absent a warning, wouldn’t you think F HOUR TREE = THREE FOUR just had to be the right answer? Wouldn’t you be pissed to learn it wasn’t, that solving the puzzle just wasted your time?

      That’s what makes me hypothesize that early feedback requested a stronger hint that nothing can be trusted. We take that for granted, but if you don’t, it seems downright infuriating.

    • Well said.
      To someone who just picked up the book, the rooms look hard, but in a way like: the puzzles would be tough, not the underlying logic of the puzzles. The actual struggle isn’t just getting information but finding it AND knowing what to do with it.
      Example: imagine there’s a version of maze where the logic is extremely short and linear, Room 33 has its doors all labeled with a type of word relationship, “rhyme,” “alliteration” and “antonym.” There’s a wagon and a picture of a flagon, and the connection between them is the end of the puzzle: you go through the “rhyme” door.
      In Maze, when we figured out flagon rhymed with wagon, it gave us very little. It inspired more findings but as a clue in itself seems useless in the context of the unsolved puzzle. And yeah, it’s because the puzzle is unsolved, but it’s also because it probably needs to be unscrambled and connected and odd one out’d to give any useful information. It might even just be a red herring, like Manson referenced a famous agon and put a bunch of rhyming words to throw readers off. That’s just how puzzles in maze work. Manson thinks of an answer, then encodes it through various steps of logic and puzzlecraft and misleading info. The correct door is not the one under the rhyme. This probably isn’t even meant to be misleading, just part of a larger whole, so it’s not really an example, but what I mean to say is obfuscation and layers would make linear interpretations of maze rooms nonsense. Not treating Maze like a normal book is crucial to having any fun with it, because as a normal book the design is incomprehensible. I completely agree.

      The guide on the other hand is harder to work out meta intentions with, because like… the warnings take the maze room expectations from HARD PUZZLE –> ANSWER to HARD PUZZLE –> HARD LOGIC –> ANSWER. But the guide? It’s hard to know if he was even written with derivable “answers” in mind. Suggesting to Manson to add the warning to both of them is something I would see early readers doing, but it’s hard for him because if the guide really does just say purely unhelpful things, he can’t tell readers to simply ignore him. And he doesn’t just mislead! Sometimes the things he says genuinely help, like the silences are as eloquent as sounds line. I agree it’s a big possibility it was added to make the readers start interpreting him abstractly earlier on, it’s just hard for me to make concrete theories about he operates or is intended to. The puzzles I would say for sure need the warning. The guide needs it too, but it’s just harder to come to a conclusion about what that says about him.

      I really wish I knew more about how the book came to be and like, the creative process. Not the specific logic employed but the general techniques used to give the puzzles their mazey feel. That’s probably what I would ask Manson if I ever met him- while writing, did you have to make them harder, or easier? Did you expect it to be as difficult as you did? When did you decide to add in overarching statements like the warnings and directions? What effects did you hope to achieve with different aspects of the book? There’s so much we don’t know

  3. I can understand why the by is not capitalized, but why not capitalize “ the “ ? Could it be an overall clue as to what can be done or from what one can do?

  4. Im sorry to say this but the door is literally impossible to open once closed because if you look inward the door rather that have a knob has a ring to pull it open except that the door opens inward rather than outward meaning the ring on the door is used for the sole purpose of trapping people in there

    the cracks on the floor make the phrase all

    and last but not least the arch now this deals with geometry and a little geometry lesson a circle always has a center point in the center the distance from the surface and the center point is the radius and the length of the middle of the sphere is the diameter and the lengh of the edge of a circle is the Circumference which is measured by Pi theres only half of the circle meaning we have to measure the diameter

    or its 3 things to make a message from the bottom to the top the floor says ALL the door TRAPS people and Pi on top of the door goes on FOREVER


    • Well, if there’s a handle on the other side of the door then this isn’t really a problem.

    • The doorway itself is also shaped like the symbol pi.

      And there’s a fish, a PI-scine marvel.

    • Now you may say I should have scrolled down to notice that WBMcL made the same points. But I expressed them in a PI-thier way.

  5. Not only is the door in the shape of a pi symbol, the red colored fish could be foreshadowing its use as a pi sign or “piscine”, since piscine means “of, pertaining to or characteristic of fish”.

    • Wow, you made a comment where I completely understand your mostly sensible train of logic! Good job!

      You’re still wrong, but baby steps.

    • I appreciate the plain statement too! I think we should be very hesitant to conclude that rectangular door frames are capital pi symbols, and using a sign with a fish on it to combine with pi to make a word meaning “relating to fish” seems redundant. Isn’t “piscine” pronounced “pie-seen”?

    • I don’t know. I think the “circling and dividing…which half” text in the prologue is a pretty decent clue that the half-circle/πr thing is intentional.

    • It’s an interesting connection to make. But П is not π; in fact, it is not just a different symbol, but one with a different mathematical meaning assigned to it. And “circling and dividing” and “half” connect just as easily to the semi-circle without a doorway as pi and an umbrella as r. I don’t think it’s impossible that Manson used this doorframe as a loose pi shape–it’s not a non-existent bull’s head–but it’s not convincing on its face.


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