Finished: Jul. 30, 2011
First Published: 1979
Genre: science fiction, dystopian
An old blue Ford pulled into the guarded parking lot that morning, looking like a small, tired dog after a hard run.
Acquired: Purchased a used copy from a book/garage sale or thrift shop.
Reason for Reading: I'm in the process of of re/reading all of Stephen King's works in chronological order. This was the next book in line.
I originally read "The Long Walk" when King released his omnibus of "The Bachman Books" in 1985. Of the four novels "The Long Walk" and "The Running Man" were my favourites and I was looking forward to this re-read. Initially, the book struck a chord with me because even back in the eighties I could imagine a world where game shows had turned to life or death. Of course, now, in the 21st century, with reality shows that embarrass, degrade, hurt and sometimes seriously injure participants physically and/or emotionally; the life and death scenario is not so hard to imagine in today's death culture and in fact has already been done with the mock abortion reality show "Bump".
In "The Long Walk" we are in a future America, which has a dictator and a military presence, we know only that some event happened in the past for things to turn out this way. Boys from the age of 14 to 17 are allowed to enter the annual Long Walk, from which 100 contestants are chosen. The event is a national spectacle and parts of it are aired on TV and millions of dollars are exchanged in bets on who will be the winner. The book focuses on the race from one participant's point of view and we experience the physical, emotional and mental hardships and breakdowns that these boys suffer. Penalty for slipping below 4 miles per hour during the walk results in a warning every thirty seconds, after the 3rd warning, their is a 30 second countdown and the loser is shot dead and carried away. The game ends when one contestant remains alive. I really appreciated the psychological insight into the Walkers as a whole group and as individuals; the dynamics as they broke down into small groups, pairs and loners; and the examination of the varying effects that the psychological and physical torture had on different individuals. Probably my favourite of all the Bachman books, but I'll have to reread them all before I make a definite decision. A reread that lived up to my expectations.