What would be the ultimate form of entertainment? What would not only push the envelope, but shred it to pieces? These are two questions the early Stephen King novel The Long Walk (written as Richard Bachman) strives to answer. Set in a bleak future that is governed by a shadowy, vague figure called The Major, The Long Walk takes the reader on a journey where we see a nation's lust for entertainment fed by a high-stakes walking competition.
Our main character, Ray Garraty, is a sixteen-year-old average joe. He, along with ninety-nine other boys, have been selected out of a lottery-style drawing to participate in The Long Walk. The Rules are straightforward: walk at 4 MPH (or faster, but never slower); go under that limit too many times, and you'll be given your ticket. A seemingly simple premise. Once you add in the factors of new found friends, and enemies, and a mom and girlfriend who are counting on you, as well as the eyes of a nation upon you, the game turns into a complex entity that is anything but simple. As the miles pass under him, Garraty struggles not only to stay alive but also to keep his sanity. The walk seems to become less about winning, less about the Crowd (an always present entity that at first generally awes the contestants then fades to a constant background presence), and more about Garraty and the other walkers contemplating the meanings of their lives.
But that's the beauty of this novel. The reader can ponder life as the walkers do. The reader can look at the future as presented in The Long Walk and wonder if this is perhaps a whisper or idea of what could be coming for our world. Or, the reader can simply read the book at face value, choose not to delve into depths of meaning, and still come away having read a satisfyingly chilling story.
With a cast of characters you'll quickly come to know and care for, and impending doom literally present on every page, The Long Walk is a brisk-paced read. Well-written, well-paced, The Long Walk is a highly recommended read.
What did you think of this review?