12 June, 2012

(Audiobook) Review - The Long Walk by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman

I've been going through a kind of mild Stephen King binge at the moment. I've mentioned before that I thought I wasn't a fan of the King and had given up on him for a while, but with my high enjoyment of his Dark Tower series, I've given him a second chance. This was not a bad idea.

The Long Walk [US] [UK] [Kindle] intrigued me when I started hearing people say it was like The Hunger Games, but darker. While I can see where this comparison comes from - a televised game of kids competing and ... I don't want to spoil it if you don't already know - it's not really anything close.

It's much more intimate and deep, it's more human, and it's not nearly as ridiculous and over-the-top. It crushed me and made me appreciate what it's like to be alive.

This book details the journey of 100 boys (up to 18) competing in a televised competition called The Long Walk. There's a starting point and an ending destination and really only a few rules to follow. The winner reaches the end first without getting a ticket.

If you don't want things to really be spoiled (these are only mild spoilers if any), you may not want to keep reading. Just thought I'd warn if you want the "pure" experience.

At first, the whole concept of The Long Walk didn't really make sense to me. Who volunteers to join a competition where not only does everyone die but the winner, but everyone joining has also seen the end when the kids are obviously suffering.

The first thing that got me (and by "got me," I mean sucked me in and made this a favorite book of mine) was the kind of secret language that was used. King, I've noticed, likes to make you feel like you're in on something bigger or at least something that not everyone knows. You read his books, you can speak his language along with other "Constant Readers" as he terms it.

The first phrase is "getting a ticket." At first, I was pretty sure what this meant, it's not revealed right away, but very quickly you find out that these kids who get a ticket get shot. Soldiers line the race waiting for the time when a boy will slow down enough, stop, or leave the race area and that's when they get their "ticket."

Essentially, the winner is the sole survivor.

And that's how we get to the next part of this secret language. The "warnings." A boy is warned when he falls under the mandatory 4 miles per hour that all racers must keep up. Each boy gets three warnings and then they get their "ticket."

A warning can be gained back only by time. Each hour you walk without a warning, you gain a warning back. So, you get three warnings, it takes you three hours of walking at 4 miles per hour to get back to having zero warnings again.

While King exceeds at amazing concepts like this one (I still can't stop thinking about this), he's even better with his characters, Ray Garrity especially.

King uses a third-person limited point of view, telling the tale from Garrity's perspective. We learn of and become very close to his group of friends, we find out whatever gossip or information comes down the line from the front-runners, but we really find out what it's like to and means to someone to survive.

It's amazing how little it takes to get your ticket in a situation like this. I mean, think about it, you may be perfectly fine any other day, but what if this is the day your appendix decides to act up? What if today's the day you get a small cold, what could it turn into? What if you get a simple Charlie horse?

In this race, it's almost always deadly.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Ray Garrity contemplates these simple occurrences, but then things just keep getting worse as you can imagine, especially as the the Long Walk carries on and your feet get more than tired, and you haven't slept in days.

The Long Walk is a book I won't soon forget. I don't plan on rereading books very often, but I will definitely reread this one. The fact that this isn't even considered one of King's best works gets me really excited for what's to come.

4.5 out of 5 Stars


Spaz said...

I remember this book really shaking me up and sticking with me for a while after reading, too. Great review. Highly recommend the book, even (especially?) to those that think they don't like King.

Bryce L. said...

Definitely, I think this is a great starting point. That and Dark Tower are great places for fantasy fans for sure. Thanks, Spaz.