Why "The Long Walk" is the best Bachman book (review + SPOILERS)

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M_Parabola

Well-Known Member
Jan 27, 2016
56
266
25
Outside NYC
#1
Not only do I feel "The Long Walk" is King's best Bachman book, but one of his best books overall. Perhaps I'm just a sucker for subtlety/brevity within a story. I enjoy a novel that refuses to hand the reader everything all at once, instead it drops bits and pieces gradually. Setting up a tone that says "hey, you need to make sure to pay attention!". This style of writing has been my main inspiration as a writer of short stories.

It's horrifying that you have this alternate reality/dystopian setting that's kept purposefully vague. It refuses to give you a set time period. You know it takes place in Maine, in the US. However, there are little differences thrown into the mix that become more apparent as you read on and make you question the setting even more. My favorite part, and something I enjoyed in Dolores Claiborne as well, is the dialogue. Instead of King describing things to you as narrator, each tidbit is given from either Garratty's perspective, or through conversations he holds/overhears with other Long Walk participants.

Which is an interesting concept in itself, WHY. Why would these young men sign themselves up if they truly knew the outcome? That only one will survive. As they all talk and discussion with each other their individual reasoning it starts to become more and more apparent that they have their eyes set on the prize at the end. That things are so incredibly bad that they'd do anything, even risk their life, to attain it. Yet protagonist Garratty's reasoning is still left somewhat up in the air in comparison to the other boys who walk for more clear-cut reasons. I think this is also horrific, to have a person participating without fully understanding their own motives. Yet here they are.

You could almost say the novel itself is a metaphor for young men being sent off to war, not knowing if they'll survive yet doing it of their own volition for their own reasons. To protect their country, to do a duty, to take care of their family, etc. I say this comparison merely because of the pivotal role the Major plays throughout, and how the population reveres him. There's also a little play on "The Running Man", where this is a televised event. A game of death with the grand prize being, what exactly? Again, left in the air. A prize beyond your wildest dreams.

This is a novel that lets you feel like you're a participant not just an outside viewer. You feel as if you're one of these boys as you join in on their conversations. This allows you to feel the horror that much more when the boys watch people they've become close to, boys they think stand a good chance of winning, be gunned down in an instant. You feel their reactions, their realization with perfect clarity that anyone could well be next. Death spares no one.

Having to face mortality at that age, an age when you're not focused on thinking so deeply about death—where young men frequently feel they will "live forever", is such a heartbreaking story. Nothing is handed to you as you read this, you as the reader are left to draw your own conclusions about everything you've just read. And I think the ambiguity makes this one of King's best novels. Because it's free, it flows, and it buries you deep within a story that haunts your mind as you go about your life asking yourself, what if our world was like that? What if I were in that position? Death spares no one, not even the young. What of my own mortality?
 

GNTLGNT

The idiot is IN
Jun 15, 2007
81,027
307,967
56
Cambridge, Ohio
#2
Not only do I feel "The Long Walk" is King's best Bachman book, but one of his best books overall. Perhaps I'm just a sucker for subtlety/brevity within a story. I enjoy a novel that refuses to hand the reader everything all at once, instead it drops bits and pieces gradually. Setting up a tone that says "hey, you need to make sure to pay attention!". This style of writing has been my main inspiration as a writer of short stories.

It's horrifying that you have this alternate reality/dystopian setting that's kept purposefully vague. It refuses to give you a set time period. You know it takes place in Maine, in the US. However, there are little differences thrown into the mix that become more apparent as you read on and make you question the setting even more. My favorite part, and something I enjoyed in Dolores Claiborne as well, is the dialogue. Instead of King describing things to you as narrator, each tidbit is given from either Garratty's perspective, or through conversations he holds/overhears with other Long Walk participants.

Which is an interesting concept in itself, WHY. Why would these young men sign themselves up if they truly knew the outcome? That only one will survive. As they all talk and discussion with each other their individual reasoning it starts to become more and more apparent that they have their eyes set on the prize at the end. That things are so incredibly bad that they'd do anything, even risk their life, to attain it. Yet protagonist Garratty's reasoning is still left somewhat up in the air in comparison to the other boys who walk for more clear-cut reasons. I think this is also horrific, to have a person participating without fully understanding their own motives. Yet here they are.

You could almost say the novel itself is a metaphor for young men being sent off to war, not knowing if they'll survive yet doing it of their own volition for their own reasons. To protect their country, to do a duty, to take care of their family, etc. I say this comparison merely because of the pivotal role the Major plays throughout, and how the population reveres him. There's also a little play on "The Running Man", where this is a televised event. A game of death with the grand prize being, what exactly? Again, left in the air. A prize beyond your wildest dreams.

This is a novel that lets you feel like you're a participant not just an outside viewer. You feel as if you're one of these boys as you join in on their conversations. This allows you to feel the horror that much more when the boys watch people they've become close to, boys they think stand a good chance of winning, be gunned down in an instant. You feel their reactions, their realization with perfect clarity that anyone could well be next. Death spares no one.

Having to face mortality at that age, an age when you're not focused on thinking so deeply about death—where young men frequently feel they will "live forever", is such a heartbreaking story. Nothing is handed to you as you read this, you as the reader are left to draw your own conclusions about everything you've just read. And I think the ambiguity makes this one of King's best novels. Because it's free, it flows, and it buries you deep within a story that haunts your mind as you go about your life asking yourself, what if our world was like that? What if I were in that position? Death spares no one, not even the young. What of my own mortality?
 

MisterE

New Member
Mar 17, 2016
1
10
58
#6
A few days ago, a fellow worker asked me "What is the most frightening story that you have read by S.K.?"
I had no hesitation in answering, "The Long Walk!".
I am a 56 year old man from Wales, (which is not part of England), and have read this story many times.
I do have a University degree, but in Religion and Philosophy, not Literature.
I can't begin to give an authoritative dissemination of this story.
All I can do is posit the following thoughts.

All 100 walkers consider themselves to be immortal and unbeatable.
They proceed to the start line with their own unshakeable faith of invincibility.
But S.K. immediately reminds us of their vulnerability by the gifts of sandwiches and cookies.

After the Walk starts, you get the basic reminder of how nature works to defeat the ambition of the human condition.
A stray stone gets stuck in a shoe: You need to urinate: You need to defecate; You need to sleep!
And, as a teenager, you need to find sexual relief.
Tough ****! The rules of the Walk are sacrosanct.
What you are left with is, I need to survive.

Basically, you are left with a picture of Teenage misconception.
They have all looked at the map route, but not considered the terrain.
They have gauged the distance in scale, but not the enormity of it.
And finally, starting off as friends, they haven't realised, that to win, 99 must die.
 
Jun 1, 2016
19
65
28
#8
I just listened to the Long Walk for the first time a few days ago, and. . . I think this is the only truly "Great Book" Stephen King has ever written . Granted he writes pulp fiction, so, if he has written any, then that is far more shocking than writing only one.

But yeah -- it is amazing. The last line, the constant undertones of that world that is never directly discussed, the Thru the Looking Glass references, the surrealism of Stebbins -- which is ultimately used to bring reality to desperate finality, the fact the book is entirely concerned with a specific idea. . .and

Well -- really, the short version is this: The Long Walk reminds me one heck of a lot of Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, and a little of Vonnegut. And it made me cry. I'm not sure any other King book has quite pulled that off.
 

Neesy

#1 fan (Annie Wilkes cousin) 1st cousin Mom's side
May 24, 2012
56,659
206,943
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
#11
It's the only King book I've read over and over. Something about it haunts me and I'll pick it up an read it again.
I'll share a quick story - found a copy of the original book - it was a paperback (of course) and they wanted 4 bucks for it - this was the summer of 2015

So did I buy it? No - I am not sure why I hesitated. What a complete fool I was!

I really passed up a great opportunity - so now I have a sore spot over my stupidity when I think about it.

I must have been temporarily insane to pick it up and then decide against it and put it back
:cower:

apparently these books are worth about $125 bucks but I would have just added it to my collection, actually, not sold it!
 
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