The Long Walk by Richard Bachman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's really fascinating to go back and read books you thought you really understood as a kid, and diving into Bachman nee King writing a disturbing dystopian YA really fits the bill for the whole mind-blowing thing. :)
Yeah. Dystopian YA SF.
He gives credit right in the book and all types of other places for cribbing from Shirley Jackson, especially the whole Lottery vibe, but what modern readers will probably latch onto is just how much the Hunger Games is cribbed off of King. :) (Also Battle Royalle, but let's get serious here. 1979 horrorshow master over the Japanese title that comes out just a few years before Hunger Games sounds a little more plausible.)
I could almost see the president pontificating, too, but there was nothing quite like that. Just the excitement and homey feel of a few states' worth of country and town folk gawking on the side of the road as they thrill to the idea that they might see a shotgun blast to a teenager's head if they falter on their very long walk.
It's pretty sick. It's all too plausible, too. We've got a whole nation full of psychopaths supporting each other and holding up a grand ideal of killing off 99 out of a hundred kids from sheer exhaustion, wounds, or even Charley Horses. You slow down, you die. Make it a marathon for five days. Have cheering girls and having to take a dump for a crowd as you walk. Get to know your own mortality. Figure out that a con is no less a con if everyone's being conned at the same time.
Honestly, I loved this book more now than I did then. I thought it was properly horrific and shocking and all, making me think more about boot camp and war preparedness in general and the insanity surrounding it... but this time I enjoyed the idea of pretending it might be a modern mature video game we could play as either the walkers or the dire guards with rifles that kept pace with the kids and gave them three warnings, three minutes, before the bullet entered the skull.
I was just thinking how much headshots would count. It's all about the headshots. And killing tons of kids, of course. It would be a real mind trip to play that game. Rather sick, too. But I think it might be a very popular one for the angry high-schooler crowd. :)
Too cool, regardless. The novel seems to start slow and very mild, but like the proverbial frog in the pot, we all get boiled alive. :) Great stuff.
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