The Long Walk is a re-read for me that I picked back up for Book #7 of the Stephen King Challenge. It is also one of the original stories that King wrote as Richard Bachman. I found it funny in the prologue section entitled The Importance of Being Bachman, King writes that he used his secret alias for when he felt that he had a really dark story that needed to come out. Let me get this straight. King has stories inside him that are too dark and horrible to put his name on them? Wow! This I’ve got to read again.
The story reads like a combination of the inspiration of the Hunger Games and Survivor meets the Bataan Death March and a parody of the draft for the Vietnam War. It is also the first novel that King ever wrote, predating Carrie by eight years.
Ray Garrity and 98 other late-teens entrants, in the Long Walk, begin the contest in the northern tip of Presque Isle, Maine. The purpose of the The Long Walk or why anyone would want to do it is not clearly explained. As the story unfolds, we learn that the Walkers have to maintain 4 mph, stay on the road, and cannot interfere with the other Walkers progress. If any of these rules are violated, the Walker gets a warning. After 3 warnings, they are shot and killed by one of the soldiers that are shadowing them on the side of the road in a half-track. As the hours and miles pass into days and nights of hundreds of miles, we learn about the Walkers and their stories. Meanwhile, Walkers are dropping as the miles on the road unwind. How far can they push their bodies through fatigue, weather, injury, and the unraveling of the mind?
While it may not sound like much of a premise, King tells an absolutely terrific tale. The characters are fantastically described and fleshed out. We feel their pain, their anxiety, their fears. The dread and fatigue ratchet up to dizzying levels and I feel that the ending is near perfect, as is the story. Highly recommended.
5 Blistered and Swollen Feet out of 5
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