What Amazon says
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…
I read this book [for the second time] with my eyes wide open as to its disturbing dystopian content. I have been reading Stephen King and Richard Bachman books since I was ten years old and I am well aware of the different writing intentions and outcomes between King writing as himself and King writing as Richard Bachman.
This book is exceedingly dark in a way the the King books cannot, in my view, ever match. The reason for this is that The Long Walk depicts a dystopian future world and circumstance that are horrifyingly possible.
The Long Walk is set in the not to distant future, in a world where the overpopulation and employment issues we are currently facing have not been addressed and there are [presumably] millions of young people who are facing uncertain futures in lowly paid and boringly competitive jobs. In order to distract the public from its largely miserable existence a national walking marathon has been introduced to amuse the masses. This annual walk, which is televised and attended by millions of spectators, involves a walk to the last man standing [i.e. the death] by 100 participating teenage boys. In much the same way as the Roman gladiators who entertained the crowds during the days of the Roman Empire, participants of the Long Walk are expected to die with the main difference in this being that the participant’s entering willingly and are young enough to effectively disbelieve in the reality of death.
The book centres around one main character, Ray, and his circle of acquaintances, which develop into deep friendships, over the course of the walk. The walk starts off with all of the boys believing in their own strength and abilities and filled with enthusiasm and tracks the breakdowns of their individual physical and mental health as the walk progresses. The disillusionment of early deaths due to unexpected complaints like charley horses, falls, nose bleeds and illness, are starkly and emotionally depicted as the reality of the proximity of death seeps into each boys mind.
I am most intrigued by dark psychological horrors and this book fits squarely into that category and I found the mental journey that Ray undertakes fascinating and chilling. The ending was appropriate although a bit unexpected for me. Possibly, deep in my mind, I still believe in happy endings and it is disturbing to discover that this is not always the case. If fact, in life, it is frequently not the case and that understanding hit me a bit like a club.
An excellent book which does not rely on the tools of supernatural mythology to make its point.