The Running Man by Richard Bachman / Stephen King Review

Within the books written by Richard Bachman, Stephen King’s not-so-secret pen name, there is almost always an air of desperation. The Running Man is certainly no exception.

One of King’s shorter novels, is set within a dystopian future in which the poor are seen more by the government as worrisome rodents than actual human beings. The protagonist of The Running Man, Ben Richards, is quick to realize this as he watches his daughter, Cathy, grow more sick by the day and tread closer and closer to death. Desperate for money to pay Cathy’s medical bills, Ben enlists himself in a true reality style game show where the objective is to merely stay alive.

Much like Bachman’s book, The Long Walk, we are treated to visions of an atmosphere in which spectators enjoy not so much the winning of the game show, but in the losing. The losing, of course, involves the contestant’s death. However, unlike The Long Walk, viewers of the series are encouraged to report sightings of contestants to the game show authorities, thereby making themselves accomplices in the crime. The situation is made more diabolical by the stipulation that the contestant must send in a videotaped message by mail everyday.

The story becomes richer when Ben takes a hostage to ensure his safety. It is within these moments that Ben learns a startling fact that will cause him to question the very outcome of the race itself.

is, by far, not one of King’s best works. Like Cujo, readers might get the sense that the book was slapped together in some places and with good reason: King himself has admitted that he wrote the novel in under 72 hours.

That being said, the novel is also an interesting one and the concept will be familiar to those television viewers who enjoy more tame versions of , such as Survivor. Perhaps King was onto something as he prophetically hypothesized of a population that would enjoy watching others attempt to survive on national TV. This, in and of itself, makes The Running Man a worthy read.

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