Stephen King used to write under the pen name (pseudonym if you’re feeling fancy) Richard Bachman. The Bachman books is a collection of four shortish novels that he wrote as Richard, and they are pretty much fantastic. Two in particular. What I’ll do in this book review is give you a brief synopsis of the two best novellas, starting with my favorite.
The Long Walk
I read a lot of apocalyptic fiction (see my review of The Gunslinger, book one in King’s Dark Tower series). My life is great, but I do most of my pleasure reading escaping into worlds and futures where things have gone horribly wrong. This is a story like that. For reasons we’re not entirely clear on, the national sport of America is now a yearly contest called, you guessed it, The Long Walk. The name doesn’t mislead. Each year a group of 100 boys start at the northern border of Maine and start walking down the east coast. They are not allowed to stop. They are not allowed to slow below four miles an hour. They can’t leave the pre-determined route, and they can’t all win. The winner is the only one left alive, by the way. The penalties (proceeded by warnings) for breaking the rules are as severe and permanent as it gets. The winner gets, as his prize, whatever he wants for the rest of his life. I still wouldn’t enter. I blister too easily. During the course of the walk, friendships form, revelations abound, and lots of people die. I read this book in one sitting, with horrible fascination. What an idea! Makes for a great read.
The Running Man
You might be thinking of the terrible but awesome 80s movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. That is a movie adaptation of Stephen King’s book by the same name. There are a lot of differences, but the premise is the same: The Running Man is a game show where contestants flee wherever they can while they are tracked by “hunters” who are trying to kill them. Citizens can win rewards from turning in the contestants.
Why would anyone participate as a contestant? Simple! The world has once again gone to hell in the future and this is actually the best option for some people, like our hero Ben Richards, whose daughter needs medicine that he can’t afford. Fast-paced and fun. Much less video-gamish than the movie. I especially like the countdown format of the chapters.
Rage and Roadwork
Rage is about a school shooting and a hostage situation. Roadwork is about a man trying to sabotage an interstate highway project that will rob him of both his home and the place where he works.
I am not doing an in-depth review of either of these books because they had almost zero effect on me. I didn’t love them but didn’t hate them. They just were. If you pick up The Bachman Books I would definitely give them a try, but these are two of King’s books that I have almost zero opinion on.
But I would recommend the Bachman Books to any fans of Stephen King, or dystopian literature. At least half of this book is wonderful!