Published by Pocket Books on April 19, 2016
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Thrillers, Suspense, Psychological, Dystopian
Source: Purchased Book
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In this #1 national bestseller, “master storyteller” (Houston Chronicle) Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman, tells the tale of the contestants of a grueling walking competition where there can only be one winner—the one that survives.
“I give my congratulations to the winner among your number, and my acknowledgements of valor to the losers.”
Against the wishes of his mother, sixteen-year-old Ray Garraty is about to compete in the annual grueling match of stamina and wits known as The Long Walk. One hundred boys must keep a steady pace of four miles per hour without ever stopping...with the winner being awarded “The Prize”—anything he wants for the rest of his life. But, as part of this national tournament that sweeps through a dystopian America year after year, there are some harsh rules that Garraty and ninety-nine others must adhere to in order to beat out the rest. There is no finish line—the winner is the last man standing. Contestants cannot receive any outside aid whatsoever. Slow down under the speed limit and you’re given a warning. Three warnings and you’re out of the game—permanently....
In my crazy attempt to read all of Stephen King’s back catalogue, I chose The Long Walk at random. Written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman you can instantly recognise King’s cutthroat style. The story has no build-up other than for a few pages, you are instantly catapulted into this dystopian America, you have no reference to why The Long Walk takes place or how the boys ended up there. It’s a story that has a mental and physical assault upon you. Your legs feel like they will cramp up the further along you read. Never has a story pulled me in so quickly and left me with so many more questions.
How on earth would you prepare yourself to march onto and into a death march? This is exactly what the main characters find themselves in the middle of. The eye of a storm, a tsunami that will engulf their lives, their emotions, and any responsibilities they once had. This is an expert kind of torture that would very quickly pick apart even the strongest psychological wills. The marchers must watch their fellow participants be killed after receiving three warnings for slowing or stopping. This is watched by spectators and is the ultimate show of power and dictatorship, everyone can see the impact of insubordination, and is a great motivator for compliance.
King can seep into your subconscious mind. He has a sleepy voice constantly seeping through the edges of reality, a hand that grabs you by the throat and demands your attention. Soon things escalate to a panicked frenzy. With themes touched upon like friendship, loss, grief, mental illness, and mortality you understand the story on a much deeper level. It becomes multi-layered and much more than just ANOTHER dystopian novel.
“They walked through the rainy dark like gaunt ghosts, and Garraty didn’t like to look at them. They were the walking dead.”
Each walker goes through many stages from optimism, denial, grief, to near acceptance. The prose is dark and depressing and we see characters change right in front of our eyes. They undertake a chameleon-like change as grief, pain and mental illness take root in their minds. It was so seamless which felt far more frightening. Death is constantly nipping at their heels and to see how it affects the boys is chilling.
King has you walking that road with them. You can feel every heavy step, you can feel your legs becoming lead-like, it’s a task to keep putting one foot in front of the other. He explores the theme of putting extreme pressure on the human body to task and the impending psychological impact.
The Long Walk makes you grateful to be alive. A story that is so depressingly dark it verges on hopelessness.