Title & Author: The Running Man by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Suspense
Format chosen: paperback
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
‘The Running Man’ 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.
I needed a book that I could read in one day for the 2015 Popsugar Reading Challenge. At just over 200 pages, The Running Man was a good qualifier without being ridiculously short. Plus I enjoy Stephen King books, as you may know from some of my previous entries. But wow, this book was not for me!
It’s the year 2025 and The United States is a totalitarian mess. The protagonist, Ben Richards, can’t find an actual job because he has been blacklisted by his previous employer. His daughter is sick and needs medicine so he “auditions” for the Games Network so that he can hopefully appear on a reality show and get money for this medication. The auditions cover all kinds of things–overall health, mental acuity, personality tests–and weed out the vast majority of candidates. Richards keeps succeeding and is ultimately cast in “The Running Man”, a show where the whole goal is for you to remain alive as long as possible.
The book’s chapters are set up in a countdown format starting at “…Minus 100 and Counting…” and working down to “000”. This makes the pace of the book feel a bit frantic at times. That pace also didn’t give King a lot of time to craft characters that I really cared about. I mean, I wanted Richards to beat the system just because he was the underdog but I wasn’t really invested in whether he lived or died. I barely met his wife and only heard about his daughter in terms of her sickness so I didn’t really care about them either. The bad guys are bad and I didn’t like them but there was no real reason for me to root for the “good” guy.
Here’s my ridiculous idea on what happened: King had an idea for a book set in a dystopian future and gave himself a goal to complete it in under 250 pages. Were that the case, he accomplished the goal but made some big sacrifices in the process–character development being a big one.
I feel like King does his best writing in longer format works: The Stand, 11/22/63, and It come to mind in particular. Even some of his “shorter” (for him) works like The Shining are still fully thought out and complete. That’s what was lacking for me in The Running Man.
Verdict: I’m a huge Stephen King fan but The Running Man just didn’t give me anything to care about.
Recommend for: diehard King fans who need to read all of his works and/or people who need a book to finish in under one day for a reading challenge.
Price: currently about $6.99 (Kindle) to $13.17 (paperback) on Amazon.