It’s the year 2025 and society is very different then what we know today. Unlike those that claim today the United States is the land of the free and that the ultimate “American Dream” is attainable by anyone, the system is now designed to keep those who are below the poverty line to stay just where they are. However, there is a way out, sign up as a participant in “The Games”. Yes, you can compete on a variety of dangerous game shows in an effort to obtain large cash prizes and get you and your family out of the gutter.
The novel follows Ben Richards, a man whose daughter has recently become quite sick. Without the means to hire a doctor to help her regain her health and tired of his wife having to turn to prostitution as an income, Ben signs up as a contestant. The only problem is that Ben has been cast in the most dangerous show of all, “The Running Man”. In the competition, you need to stay alive for a period of 30 days. Sound easy? Oh yeah, you need to hide from “The Hunters”, people whose job it is to find you and cut your time on the show short. You also need to avoid exposure to the masses as people can receive cash awards if spotting and reporting you. If that report leads to your death, they are eligible for an even higher cash reward.
Constantly on the move, Ben travels all around the United States in search for a place to hide, if only for a little while. He limits his stay for only a day or two at a time, fearful that his spot will be exposed as he mails in the required tapes day to day. Attempting to stay on the run for as long as possible, the final prize of $1 billion dollars is quite alluring. While he does receive some help from a few disgruntled members of society, it does little to help as he has to fight his own paranoia in resisting the urge to distrust everyone.
I know you need to suspend your disbelief for someone else’s vision of the future, especially when you’ve past a lot of the eras in which King has pinpointed specific events (i.e. a major outbreak in 2005) to occur. However, there really are no specifics into how society degenerated so rapidly in the 90s and the early part of the 2000s, which I dislike. Maybe it’s the crime fiction fan in me that needs to know so much in regards to details (thanks a lot, John Connolly) but I find myself craving that – especially in a dystopian society. I NEED TO KNOW WHY. *
Overall, I enjoyed the novel – not quite to the extent that I enjoyed other King books but it was entertaining nonetheless. As I said earlier, my need to know how society had changed to what it was sort of ruined my enjoyment. Obviously, that’s no fault of King’s as he clearly intended it to be that way. Supposedly, the man wrote it in a week so detail was not something he was going to dwell on.
I will say this – the ending (the very final chapter) was awesome. I’m not sure if I’ve giving anything away but it’s the ultimate act of rebellion. I actually laughed out loud. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a good thing or not, either way, it was outstanding.
*** Reviewers Note *** Yes, I’m aware that I still loved “A Long Walk” despite its lack of details surrounding society’s turn towards “The Long Walk” itself. I felt that this book suffered more considering society appears to be in far, far worse shape.