After all the Ayn Rands, Michael Crichtons and other heavy weight authors, I surprised myself when I realized that I haven’t read a single stand-alone by Stephen King (I HAVE read through half of Dark Tower series though). So I jumped at Stein’s ‘The Running Man’ the moment I noticed it.
Stephen King had written the book under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. The story is set in a dystopian near-future world, not unlike ‘1984’. The gap between the rich and the poor is very wide and among the latter extreme poverty and virulent diseases are a common place. The public is pacified by providing ‘Free-vees’ (read ‘free TVs’) in which the Network held fatal gladiatorial games. The poor people would take part in those anyways despite the risks, as they were promised money and a life definitely much superior to the one they were leading. For the Network, it was a way to get rid of people it considered useless or dangerous.
One such show was “The Running Man”, which was one of the highest rated show. The Network usually chose applicants it considered as possible anti-national elements for the show. The show involved the participant to stay a fugitive for thirty days, in which the entire state machinery would use its entire power to seek him out. If found, the participant would be shot immediately, and if not then he would stand to win for himself more than a billion dollars. The catch was that no one had won the show. The best record was eight days.
The protagonist of the book- Ben Richards, driven by poverty and his daughter Cathy’s flu, signs up for the Games and is thrown into “The Running Man”. He would now have to fight against overwhelming odds to survive against a government which kills its own people for amusement, all the while getting help from the most unlikeliest of corners.
The story was paced very well, and I finished this in two sittings. The world as described by the author is very dark and haunting, and it sort of reminded me of ‘1984’. The book was generally decent and it met the ‘Stephen King standard’. But to say the truth, the author did not exactly pack a punch. I was never really dazzled or surprised by aspect of the story. The story WAS good but it hangs around expected lines.
I give the book 3/5. It’s a good one time read, not VERY engrossing, but it can keep your interest.