In their shoes – “The Long Walk” by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
In Stephen King/Richard Bachman’s eerie “The Long Walk,” 100 teenage boys set out to take part in an annual tradition. Beginning in Maine and continuing until only one of the boys is left walking, the walk is an American tradition and even referred to as “the national pastime” at one point. None of the boys knows exactly why they signed up, but that’s a moot point, as it’s go time and they’re off. Our hero – Ray – is among them, and the odds-on favorite.
Soon it becomes obvious that there’s a dark side to this walk.
If the walker slows down to less than four miles an hour, they’re eliminated.
By eliminated, I mean shot. By mysterious soldiers who make the trek along with them, shouting warnings and giving tickets. Three tickets and you’re out. By out, I mean dead.
Yep. (How’s that for motivation?)
As the original hundred are weeded down to the last few stragglers, tempers flare, friendships are born, and boys will be boys. Ray gets by thanks to a mental image of his girlfriend and the idea of being with her again. Other boys struggle on through hunger and blisters and all kinds of unpleasant issues for a variety of reasons.
King wrote this under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, which he did for a few years to see if he could replicate his success. (Eventually, like a good author, he killed off Bachman.) “Bachman Books” tend to be a little darker, and usually don’t end with the strangely optimistic twist that King’s books do. (Good guys don’t always win in the Bachman world, whereas Stephen King’s novels generally leave the reader with some sort of hope, even if it’s a tiny sliver.)
“The Long Walk” is yet another one of those books that’s impossible to put down, purely because you don’t know what’s happening. The reader is as naive to what’s going on as Ray and his compatriots, which makes the whole thing even more chilling. Even when the book’s done, you’re not entirely sure it was all worth it. It’s a solid piece of work from a writer who hardly ever fails to deliver.