Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Book Review: The Long Walk by Stephen King/Richard Bachman

On the first day of May each year, one hundred boys will take part in “The Long Walk”. Breaking the rules results in warnings. More than three warnings and you’ll get your ticket and you’re out of the race.

“They walked through the rainy dark like gaunt ghosts, and Garraty didn’t like to look at them. They were the walking dead.” 

I’ve felt for quite a while now that my top 10 Kings are pretty solid – before reading this I had about 13 or 14 left to read and none of them really seem like possible contenders (apart from maybe The Green Mile). In particular, I never thought a goddamn Bachman book would break the top 10 (we have a rocky relationship me and Bachman). And yet here we are! The Long Walk didn’t just break into the top 10, but the top 5!
From the outset I thought The Long Walk would just be another dystopian novel (I say “another” quite loosely as surely this was one of the first?), but boy was I wrong. Below the surface, this book touches upon so many different themes and topics, like mortality, identity, friendship, and countless others. If you’ve followed my King journey you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of the books in which King tackles death, grief, loss and mortality. That’s kinda my wheelhouse. All of these rank in my top 10: Pet Sematary, Duma Key, Lisey’s Story, Bag of Bones… and stories like The Woman in the Room and The Last Rung on the Ladder (both of these appear in Night Shift, which is also on the list). The Long Walk is heavy on both mortality and death.
King started writing this when he was eighteen. EIGHTEEN. And yet this will surpass many of the books I read in my lifetime. I’m not sure how much editing was done between his first draft and when it was actually released, but either way, this is a fascinating idea for a book. Only King could make the story of one hundred boys walking down a road so fucking nail-biting and engrossing. It is dripping with tension and dread. My heart would be racing in my chest – when some of those boys stumbled I would be screaming “GET UP” in my head!
So many King books have had an impact on me, but this has been one of the most impressive. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it or talking about it. I almost wanted to stop strangers in the street and tell them all about the amazing book I was reading. I had to settle for telling my boyfriend all about it instead – but even then he was kinda like “So?” *shrugs*… and that’s the thing. The plot sounds interesting, yes, but it’s the immersive experience you have when reading this one that really sticks with you. It’s the characters you get to know. It’s the looming black cloud of death that hangs over these boys. I cried on countless occasions during this read – death is a very real fear for me, and when I think of what these boys must have been going through, it got to be too much at times.
As for the characters themselves, King has written them all in such a way that they’re very individual, with their own personalities and traits. McVries in particular stands out for me. You get the impression he may not have been the best person in the world before this experience, but he becomes a really decent guy throughout the walk, he becomes someone for our main protagonist, Garraty, to lean on. I love McVries <3 and Stebbins too! 
It’s a brutal read, it’s heartbreaking, there are certain scenes you’ll simply never forget – but ultimately, it’s worth it. It also gave me one of the worst book hangovers I’ve ever had, I’m so thankful for podcasts and people online who will allow me to dwell in this story that King created for a little while longer. It’s emotionally exhausting and physically draining, but its monumental impact will stay with me forever.
5 stars.


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