What Amazon says
In the year 2025, the best men don’t run for President, they run for their lives….
Ben Richards is out of work and out of luck. His eighteen-month-old daughter is sick, and neither Ben nor his wife can afford to take her to a doctor. For a man with no cash and no hope from the poor side of town, there’s only one thing to do: become a contestant on one of the Network’s Games, shows where you can win more money than you’ve ever dreamed of—or die trying. Now, Ben’s going prime-time on the Network’s highest-rated viewer participation show. And he’s about to become prey for the masses….
With an introduction by the author, “The Importance of Being Bachman”
The Running Man is a dystopian novel visualizing a future world of even greater and more widely distributed poverty than that of our current world. The “Have Nots” live in ghettos and are kept entertained and quiet through a free television system which airs violent and blood thirsty games programmes. The contestants for these games are carefully selected based on specific physical weaknesses such as a heart condition and, while the contestants do win money for their efforts, they always walk away greatly injured or, in the case of the prime time game, The Running Man, dead. The contestants that are selected for The Running Man are troublemakers who the government wishes to get rid of. The television station is under the thumb of the ruling government which aims to maintain the current societal status quo.
Ben Richards is a troublemaker in the eyes of the law. A man who has protested against the lack of heath regulation for low level workers and has been black marked by employers as a result. Ben is married and has managed to have a child, Cathy, despite working in a factory where he was exposed to radiation for years. Now, however, the Richards are struggling to put food on the table and little Cathy is deathly sick with influenza. There is no money for a doctor. Ben’s wife, Sheila, turns tricks as a prostitute to obtain some badly needed funds, much to her husband’s anguish. In desperation, Ben decides to apply for one of the game shows.
Ben’s application is successful and, identified early on in the application process, as a troublemaker, he is allocated to The Running Man. No-one has ever survived this game which requires the contestant to run from the hunters who are out to kill him. The public can join in the game and win but calling in sightings of the contestant to the television studio. No-one is on the runners side which makes surviving extremely difficult. Ben soon discovers that the game is also rigged and the two video cassettes he has to mail to the television studio every day are provided to the hunters to help them determine his location. Ben, however, is a survivor. He is also a man running on hate and this turns out to be a rather bad combination for the hierarchy of the television studio.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Running Man and recommend it to all lovers of dystopian fiction.