Every year, 100 teenage boys meets for a race known as “The Long Walk”. During the race, you have to walk in a pace of 4 miles per hour or more. If you don’t, you get one warning. If the person with a warning keep the pace for the next hour, the warning is removed. You can collect up to three warnings. If you’re too slow after the third warning, you’re shot. There is only one winner out of the 100 contestants, but the reward is the ultimate prize.
First line of the book: “An old blue Ford pulled into the guarded parking lot that morning, looking like a small, tired dog after a hard run.”
Title: The Long Walk
Author: Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
My Edition: Published in December 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd as a part of “The Bachman Books”. Originally published in 1986
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction, Dystopia
WHY THIS BOOK
I bought “The Bachman Books” a while back as a reward to myself for finishing my exams, and read it shortly after I was finished with the school semester. This one was the first of the three books that “The Bachman Books” consist of. I hadn’t really heard much about it before I started reading it, so it was really just picked as a part of my plan to read all of King’s books.
The concept of this book is the main reason to why this is one of my favorite books of all times. This is exactly the kind of plot that just makes me open the book and not close it until I’m done, and I’m not really done with the book when I’ve finished it either. Because this is a kind of plot I could spend hours thinking about and talking about. I’ve already spent hours imagining how I would react and how far I would be able to go and what I’d think and how I would keep myself motivated. I’ve also spent hours imagining how my friends would manage and how far they would have come, and how we would support each other. Not to mention those hours I’ve spent discussing exactly the same with my friends. It’s been a long time since a plot got to me this much.One of my criteria’s for a beyond perfect absolutely amazing book is that it has to make me want to talk about the book or think about the book both before, during and after reading it. This one has definetly managed that part. Beyond doubt.
In The Long Walk, the contestants are young boys – 100 of them, having to walk and never stop. This means that you can’t ever sleep, you’ll have to eat and drink while walking, take a piss while walking and do whatever you have to do while walking. The warnings makes it possible for small breaks, but they have to be incredibly short and will never make you able to catch a breath or something. Just to barely be able to tie your shoelaces or to take a shit (because yeah, you’ll have to do that on the road – no room for a break to do it elsewhere). Also, the whole thing is a kind of Game Show, so people will be watching you a big part of the time. If you fall, and can’t get up before time’s up, you will be shot and you will die. If you pass out, you will die. If you want to quit, you’ll have to choose between continuing or die. If you try to escape, you will die. Just imagine how this must be like. Seriously, just imagine what these boys are going through. And what it does to you. Imagine what sort of relationship you’ll get to the other ones walking – especially when you know there’s only one winner. That if you win, it will be because all of the people you’ve been on the road with is dead. And then, try to imagine why someone would do this. And all of these things are a big part of the plot, which just makes every single page of the book so incredibly interesting.
Another one of my criteria’s for a beyond perfect, absolutely amazing book is that the “Why”-question must be answered. It has to make sense. And in this book, that part satisfy me in a way I’ve never experienced before. Because: Unlike our familiar books containing some sort of sick game-show-thingy (like The Hunger Games), The Long Walk is not a contest anyone is forced to do. You have to apply for yourself, and “a lucky few” is picked out. So this isn’t a kind of power-play or poor victims tossed into a gameshow for the entertainment of others. So, in this book the ultimate why-question is: why the fuck would 100 teenagers do this voluntarily every year? I can’t give you that answer, and frankly, I’m not even sure if I have one either. And for the first time ever, I’m still satisfied.
Why they do this, is a question that follows us throughout the whole book and that the characters themselves discuss and ask themselves about. By making it such a big part of the book, King shows us that this is indeed a plot where the why-question is enormous. And with all the boys talking about it and thinking about it, it actually makes sense. And somehow, it doesn’t at the same time. And somehow, it makes perfect sense that it shouldn’t make any sense. You follow me? If not, seriously read the book. You’ll get it.
The writing in the book actually surprised me. I read a short synopsis about the book before I started reading it and immediately thought that this could be a challenge to read. Because, when the plot is about 100 boys walking on a road – and just that, how in the world could there be any action in this book? I was also worried that because of the lack of actions, this book would contain so much of the main chracter’s thoughts, it would be boring to hear reflections about life and descpritions about the nature surrounding them, and then some more reflections about life and some more descriptions about the nature.
But this book has the most amazing solution to that. It’s just this perfect balance between really, really interesting reflections, action (because yes, a lot of things happen in this book), incredibly interesting conversations between the characters and some more action. All over, the writing is easy so it’s never a problem reading the pages and at the same time it’s filled with those beautiful quotes I love and need to have in my super geeky quote book.
Throughout the whole story, we follow 100 boys walking. That’s it. So, it’s natural that the characters in the book is a very important part of it all, and it’s crucial that they’re interesting for us to want to read. And they are.
The main character, Garraty, along with everyone else we get to know throughout the story, is just a perfect character. We get to know them in a deep, personal way which is natural since they’re all just a small mistake away from dying. That makes every conversation in this book fascinating. As they go further and further and closer to their own deaths, it is so fascinating to read about what Garraty’s thinking and how the relationships between the boys develop. They all know that only one of them will survive. So, all of them kind of has to hope that the boy they’re talking to is going to die soon, but at the same time, it has to be good to have someone to talk to in what most likely is your last hours on earth? Or is is best to just not get to know anyone, so that it doesn’t hurt when they die off?
It’s really hard to talk about the ending of this book without spoiling everything, but it is a kind of ending that the King-community has been discussing back and forth a lot. It’s really special, it’s kind of open and it may be containing an Easteregg from the King-universe.So if you’re a hardcore King-fan, it’ll be interesting. And if you’re not, the ending still works kind of perfect nonetheless.