The Long Walk (1979) – Stephen King as Richard Bachman

King’s first novel, written, not published, is a gripping thriller that terrifies and captivates, from the first page to it’s haunting conclusion.

Writing under his pseudonym of Richard Bachman, the story follows Ray Garraty a young teen in an alternate timeline where a totalitarian government has assumed control, and all of it is overseen by The Major.

One hundred young men arrive at the marker, and when the signal begins, they begin The Long Walk. They walk until they drop. They must maintain a walking speed of four miles an hour. If they drop below that, they are given a warning (which takes an hour to walk off) and if three warnings are given, you buy yourself a ticket – the accompanying soldiers execute you.

Starting in Maine, they begin their walk, and their numbers are slowly whittled down. The lone survivor will be given The Prize, but he has to outlast everyone else.

I wondered how King would be able to carry the story over the length of a novel, and was unsure if it could be done, but it is, and it’s an amazing ride.

I read this one at just the right time. We were covering the Canadian Screen Awards, Toronto Comic Con, and then doing the red carpet for the Canadian Film Fest. All while trying to do my paying job and balance my the rest of my life.

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I was exhausted, for three weeks straight. So while Garraty and I were in different scenarios, I could totally empathise with what he was going through, because, like him, all I wanted to do is lay down and sleep.

King keeps us in Ray’s head, and as the continual strain of walking, mixed with hunger, the weather, the lack of sleep all combine to make a psychological thriller that keeps the pages turning, even as the miles pass beneath Ray’s feet, and his fellows fall to the guns.

It’s an emotional ride, because friendships are formed and then torn asunder when those three warnings are hit.

I got swept up in this one, and the story moved me, and that ending… It’s scary, relevant, and it works like gangbusters.

King knows how to tell a story, and this one keeps the characters involving and it’s a terrifying ride, crafted as only King could.

Putting us inside Garraty’s mind traps us as much as it traps him, and he struggles at first to walk, but then as the reality of where he is sinks in, he struggles with survival, and what that will mean for him, if he is the last one walking.

I loved this ride.

kingstpehen

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