Who knew a book about walking could be so engaging? Ah, but this is no leisurely stroll on a lovely summer’s afternoon. This is a grueling walk to the death.
While stories of monsters and psychological or paranormal phenomena are what Stephen King is known for, I find some of his best work comes from writing about the psychological tolls that experiences can have on people. The Long walk, written under his pseudonym, is at it’s very core, a psychological tale about endurance. it is a tamer version of The Hunger Games, in that most of the people are late teens or older, and are volunteers. Unlike The Hunger Games, however, this walk is more physically demanding. The walkers must keep their steady pace of 4 miles an hour until 99% of them give up and die.
Not only is the walk itself a test of physical endurance, but the psychological as well. Physical exhaustion, and being surrounded by death and supporters, makes some simply go mad in the end. It is the ranting and raving of people as they break down psychologically that makes the story so compelling. As we see with Garranty in the end, it is a hard, hard thing to befriend people knowing that at some point in the very near future you may all be dead.
As I mentioned above, I found a lot of parallels between this story and The Hunger Games, none more stark than in the spectator’s collection of souvenirs. What is wrong with us as a society that we need to collect mementos of people going through extreme hardship? Does it serve a s a reminder that we are in a better position than the poor soul under torment? Or is it our own vicarious death wish? Damn, I need to stop reading. I’m thinking way too much about hard and unanswerable philosophical questions. Damn you, Stephen King!
On to The Dead Zone next.