Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Running Man and The Long Walk

Stephen King is one of the greats of present-day literature. He's really, really good. So it seems odd that relatively few people remember his "Bachman Books"-- novels written under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. (For more info on Bachman, look here.) This is especially odd because these books are real gems. Today, we look at two more Bachman books: The Running Man and The Long Walk.

The Running Man: Each night all Americans, whether they live in the vast polluted slums or the fortress-like enclaves of the rich, tune in to the nation's favorite TV game show: The Running Man. Each night they see if the contestant has succeeded in evading death at the hands of the Hunters as he tries to survive for thirty days and win the one-billion-dollar jackpot. The record for survival is eight days. But now a new contestant, Ben Richards, has set out to beat the brutal odds, beat the rigged game, beat the entire savage system. He's betting his life that he can . . .

This one was supposedly written by King in about a week. And the frantic, unstoppable pace of this book goes to support that. There's just nowhere you can put it down. It's short, brutal, and leaves little time to breathe. All in all, classic King. Not horror, but very, very good.

My rating: 9.5/10

The Long Walk: The place: An ultra-conservative America of the not-too-distant future . The event: The country's #1 sports contest, a grueling 450-mile marathon walk, where a single misstep could be the last . The competitors: The cream of the nation's youth, 100 red-blooded American boys out to make it to the top no matter who they trample on to get there . The prize: A fortune in money, fame, and everything the heart desires for the one and only winner . But in a flawless society there are no losers--because the New American Government knows how to bury its failures . . .

This novel is a character study at heart. It shows what goes through the mind of people who try to befriend their competitors, knowing all the while only one of them will survive. This book, more than any other of the Bachman books I've read to date, gets inside the characters' heads, a trait King does better than just about any other writer out there. The characters' perspectives change about the Walk; about the enforcers along the Walk; and about the crowd, which sometimes becomes Crowd in the characters' heads, a horrible mindless beast that lusts for blood. It's a book that sticks with you long after you have finished it.

My rating: 10/10
P.S. I know I've already reviewed these, but in retrospect, the reviews didn't give the books justice, and the ratings I gave weren't as high as the books deserved. Sorry for the confusion, if there was any!

Coming Soon: Everything's Eventual


David Wagner said...

If I were to make a list of my favorite King books, these two would be at or near the top of the list. We haven't all forgotten about the Bachman books! I liked Thinner a lot as well...

Krista said...

I think I might have to go get The Long Walk again.