Book Review: The Long Walk, by Stephen King

The Long WalkThe Long Walk by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a self-confessed Stephen King fan. You know that. I know that. (We also all know that he used to write under the pen name Richard Bachman. Authors–even successful ones–often live from book to book. As long as their next book sells more than their last book, life is good. Bookstores order more copies of the next one, and more copies ordered generally means more copies sold. The problem comes when the books start selling fewer copies. It can lead to a downward spiral, with the end result being an author is pretty much dead in the water. No bookstore wants his books, because they don’t think they’ll sell. So authors often write under two or more names. If one name (or “brand”) tanks, they’ve got the other one to fall back on. From what I’ve heard, that’s the reason why Megan Lindholm changed her name to Robin Hobb, for example. Two names, one author. But I digress.)

The fact is, whether writing as Stephen King, Richard Bachman, or Chubby Checker, I’m a fan of the way Stephen King writes. He’s able to hook me with a single page. It’s a skill I’m tremendously envious of. He’s also able to take a simple idea and stretch an entire novel out of it. Case in point: The Long Walk. The premise is simple: in the near future, there’s a national obsession over a yearly competition. 100 teenage boys start walking in Northern Maine. They have to keep walking at least 4 mph. Always. If they slow down or stop, they get a warning after 30 seconds. Two more warnings, and then they’re shot.


The last one walking wins fabulous riches and national admiration.

This isn’t a Hunger Games type thing. The boys volunteer–it’s extremely hard to get selected. But once they’re selected, there’s no going back.

There you have it. The story in a nutshell. But King just keeps ramping up the tension, bit by bit. It’s not a long book, and even then it doesn’t quite have enough there to warrant it being as long as it is. Still, it’s a strong four out of five stars. You get to know the boys. Care about them. Sides are drawn. It’s a fantastic example of taking a simple idea and following it to its natural conclusion.

Also very interesting to read now, in a post-Hunger Games world. Good to see HG wasn’t a “new” genre. People have been writing things like that for quite some time. This came out in 1979, after all. I highly recommend it, with the disclaimer that yes, it’s a Stephen King book. So you’re going to have some gruesome scenes in there. He doesn’t shy away from it. He just tells it like it is.

Great stuff.

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