Cover of "The Running Man"

Cover of The Running Man

James stumbles a little bit this week by spending alltogether too much time talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s film version and hardly any talking about King’s (or in this case Bachman’s) book. I was about the same age as James when the film came out and even then I could see it was shite. It succeeded in taking a pitch black dystopian vision of a not too distant future where extreme reality shows like “Swim the Crocodiles” and “Treadmill To Bucks” (in which patients with heart conditions have to answer questions on a treadmill that increases in pace every time they get one wrong) have become the vehicle to keep the masses docile and turning it into a cheesy action movie stuffed with lycra-clad characters and piss-poor Arnie quips. I saw it again recently on late night TV and it was even worse than I remembered.

King claims that he wrote the complete first draft in one long 72 hour writing session and that very little was changed by the time it was published. It rips along at a furious pace from the get go and refuses to let you stop until the bleak climax. King tended to keep the chapters short in his earlier books so that I would find myself checking ahead and counting how many pages there were in the next one in the hope that I could squeeze just one more in and The Running Man uses this technique superbly with its countdown structure as you follow anti-hero, Ben Richards from his selection to his inevitable destruction. The ending of the book has become infamous in the post 9-11 world due to it’s portrayal of Richards crashing a passenger jet into the TV Network HQ (Tom Clancy was probably nearer the mark when he had a jet crash into the Capitol building at the end of his book “Debt of Honor”) – hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. At least in this instance King hasn’t withdrawn the book the way he has “Rage” with it’s echoes of the Columbine shootings.

Anyway, you can check out what James has to say here: Rereading Stephen King, week 12.

  1. […] Rereading Stephen King – week 12: The Running Man […]

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