On the first day of May, 100 teenage boys meet for a race known as The Long Walk. If you break the rules, you get three warnings. If you exceed your limit, what happens is absolutely terrifying.
©1979 Richard Bachman (P)2010 Penguin
The Path Between the Seas to The Great Bridge ~ Kagan's Peloponnesian War to Gaddis' Cold One ~ Mornings on Horseback to a River of Doubt ~ Tom to Huck ~ Lennie to Charley ~ Cadfael to Cross ~ Rhyme to Reacher ~ Blomkvist and Salander to Wallander and Wallander ~ Moving Cheese or Eating Frogs ~ On the Road and Into Thin Air ~ The End of History to A Short History of Everything to ... well ... everything else.
The Ironman Triathlon comes to our little Island this week which seemed a good enough reason to dust off Richard Bachman/Stephen King's The Long Walk. I've read the book but had not listened to the audio before.
First observation ~ in this case, the audio is better than the book. Kirby Heyborne is first rate; his characterizations are distinct and consistent. As the characters move from fatigue to exhaustion to agony and beyond, you can hear the transformations in his voice. The guy is very good.
So, of course, is the book. If you are new to Stephen King's Richard Bachman period, you should know that the Bachman books are fairly described as King's darker ones. Yes, it is hard to accept that Pet Cemetery, Carrie, The Shining and the rest of King's oeuvre don't represent the limit of King's horror. They don't. Listen to The Long Walk and you will understand why.
The difference between King writing as King and King writing as Bachman ~ especially here in The Long Walk ~ is the presence or absence of hope. Even in the darkest of the King novels (perhaps, Pet Cemetery), the characters never abandon hope, even when that hope is ultimately self-destructive.
The Bachman books are different. Hope ~ for success, redemption, love, almost anything ~ is stripped away from the characters, sometimes dramatically all-at-once, sometimes incrementally. We, the readers, are then faced with what is left. Often, that is a new and profound terror.
The Long Walk is the archetype for such a plot. It is an amazingly compelling, step-by-step telling of the defining contest in an America that is recognizable to us, but has somehow strayed far off course. We are given just a few hints of how this happened and they are offered in passing, not as central plot elements. What the plot focuses on is the defining manifestation of this redrawn America ~ The Long Walk. Through it, we can see the contours of this new America.
And all that is just background. The story you will remember, the story King tells, is of the boys on this long walk. Avoiding spoilers, we watch them begin their competition as any boys would ~ with bluster and bravado, good humor and mischief. We watch as they test themselves, over a very long walk (recounted in a long 10+ hour tale). We watch them slowly stripped of, well, everything. And, in the end, we find ourselves, too, stripped of hope.
This is not horror in the sense of monsters and dungeons. There are no "gotcha" moments, no cheap thrills. This is a higher grade, more insidious terror. And, that makes it all the more compelling.
Spend the credit. Listen to the novel. Don't worry, you'll still be able to fall asleep afterwards. You just might not like your dreams.
Id walk long enough to get to my car, to go to the Walk, then i would run and hide in Canada.
I read this book a long time ago, and in audio format i feel that i got that much more out of the story this time. I love this story. If your a fan of the book, you will love the audio version.
If you never read this story before, buy it and listen to it. It will hook you and keep you wondering "what the hell is going on with these people, why are they doing this!"
A lot of people have read all sorts of metaphors into this book. That's fair. What I will say is that if you get through the first few chapters and really like it, keep listening. If you're unsure after the first few chapters, save yourself a lot of time and skip to the end. It's a highly character-driven book, not plot-driven despite what the tag line seems to indicate.
Of Course! It's Stephen King.
He's good, but the same narrator as Gone Girl which was distracting for a while.
When this book ended, I was VERY angry because it was not worth the journey (literally and figuratively)
So, the book starts out interesting enough, but then that's it. The rest of the book is everyone walking. We spent the whole book assuming SOMETHING else has to happen, but it doesn't. It just keeps going and going.... Is the writing style symbolic of the boys long, tedious walk? Probably. But not worth the long time it takes to listen in our opinions.
It’s a simple, sinister plot with shades of the classic short story, “The Lottery.” One hundred selected teenage boys compete each year for a prize of unimaginable wealth by walking for days until only one of them is left. No stopping, no resting, no slowing down. Whenever one falls behind in the grueling march, he doesn’t just lose a shot at the prize; he is shot dead. Soldiers do the shooting and enforce the rules. An Orwellian government is implied but never detailed. All along the long route over back roads and highways, sometimes through cheering crowds and often alone together in the night, a little community develops among the characters, who both compete against and support each other in a struggle that all but one must lose. It is a long book – nearly 11 hours – and probably couldn’t fully impart the marathon nature of The Walk if it weren’t.
An interesting aside on grammar: In King’s book, “On Writing,” he rails against the over-use of adverbs, and suggests that the last step in writing a book is to go through and remove about half of them. Maybe it’s because I just heard that book, but in “The Long Walk” it seems like someone put them all back in, and quite a few more. Or maybe it’s because the fictitious Richard Bachman really does, as King claims, have a style of his own.
Tell us about yourself!Woof, woof woof ( I love audible, chasin and killin defenseless kittens and eatin em...yummy ). I luv dem thriller stories, and dream of J.D. Robb & yours truly doggy style, howl! Anyway, I is jus kiddin bout the kitties with peace, good health and lots of happy readin y'all!
Although a simple story fom Mr. King this time out, this one had me thinking long after it ended. How could such a society endorse such barbaric competitions in which only 1 is granted the prize, his life. The other 99 boys will not be invited back for next years event. In this dystopian view of Americana turned on its heels, we see our young boys being cheered on by each community that the Long Walk passes through sorrow comes quickly for those boys who are unable to continue, sorrow and a bullet to the brain from the morose soldiers. Could this be one of those alternate realities, like if Hitler and Nazi Germany would have prevailed? Once again, thank you Mr. King for such an interesting story..
I like my horror, techno-thrillers, and science fiction. Which is why Jurassic Park and The Lost World are 2 of my favorite books ever!
What a fantastic book! This is a very cool story about a not-so-distant future where 100 teenage boys volunteer for a yearly, grueling, last-man-standing marathon. The competition is televised for America's entertainment, as one by one, the kids drop like flies. Put this in a pot, sprinkle some Running Man in, and you've got yourself The Hunger Games!
This is one of my favorite King stories, written under the psuedonym Richard Bachman.
Whether you are new to Stephen King (welcome to Planet Earth), or a fan looking for something else by the Master of Horror, I don't think this will disappoint!
It was OK, he was working with very little
This was a really bad short story turned into a really awful novel. We know of no reason why they walked, why this society was a-moral and monstrous, what the walk was intended to accomplish or why it was ever instituted. I have often been inspired, moved, wildly entertained and generally very pleased with Stephen King's works...never bored to tears and a bit angry for foisting a book on us that should have stayed in the proverbial shoebox under the desk. This book is, all in all, a tremendous waste of time.
Matuculous and extensive in his writing style, King does a great job illustrating protagonist's progression from somewhat naive and uncomplicated teenager to cynical and bitter young man, his slow departure into madness, and completely believable re-evaluation of self, the walk and his friends.
I wish there were more details on the 'universe' this book is set in. What caused this tradition? What kind of world they live in? I prefer well-developed backdrops in fiction, but lack of commentary did not take away from the book. All you see as a reader is a road, seemingly endless, bleak and full of ache.
I have read some criticisms of the ending, but the ending was intelligent. It is ambiguous, and seemingly purposefully so. If you want to settle into a happy ending where the knots are fitfully tied, perhaps romance novels would be more suiting.
I am true King fan, I have read them all. This was easily the worst, though I hate to say it. It starts off with a ridiculous premise, then fails to expand on why any of it is that way. I mean think about it- how many people would volunteer for this walk, knowing only one out of a hundred of them will survive? I can't believe anyone really thought this book was scary, instead it was just extremely repetitive and boring. This first hour of my listen was spent thinking that maybe we would be listening to details of three or four long walks... I just couldn't see how only one could be stretched over 10 hours. Boy was I wrong! I can't and don't recommend it.
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