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The Running ManThe Running Man by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“He understood well enough how a man with a choice between pride and responsibility will almost always choose pride–if responsibility robs him of his manhood.”

I was only looking for an entertaining read, something I would’t have to take too seriously and one that I knew would take me away from the copious amounts of marking and grading I had to do at the time.

Let’s put it this way; I got more than I bargained for! This book is all the above and then some. I first met with ‘The Running Man’ in the 1980’s film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger  At the time it felt very much like an ultra-futuristic, distant, dystopian nightmare that thrilled a lot of people with its American take on Orwellian themes.

I am not a big Stephen King fan; at the best of times I have lukewarm respect for his innovative imagery and ability to keep his audience entertained and slightly crapping themselves in certain creepy scenarios. However, I think I have become something of a convert with ‘The Running Man’. Nowadays I feel like I’m a more mature reader, and I can definitely appreciate his scary powers of second-guessing what the near future holds for mankind; which this piece of work definitely showcases.

For anyone who like me, was sitting on a fence in regards to King’s quality as a novelist is at an advantage. If you have never watched the film, or heard about the book then you are in luck, reading ‘The Running Man’ will give you a very clear answer.

Personally, I read this from a post 9/11 perspective. The novel depicts a corrupted America, whose political and social infrastructure rests on rotten foundations. More sinister tones of ‘The Hunger Games‘ prevail across the continent, where the poor are nothing but forgettable pawns that can be used to entertain the rich.

“In the year 2025, the best men don’t run for president, they run for their
lives. . .”

As I said before, the novel contains many parallels to that dark period in American history. It reflects the current culture of the corrupted ‘American Dream’, which Chuck Palahnuik very aptly describes as being able to “make your life into something you can sell.” And what is ‘The Running Man’ if not the reality show turned nightmare? King takes the capitalist, materialistic, consumerist attitude of America and shows us what it can turn into.

The writing is addictive and the pace is wonderfully set. King shows off all his skills as the reader is roped into following Ben Richards; who reads like a ‘last of his kind’ type of Clint Eastwood character fighting to save his baby girl who is slowly wasting away in front of his eyes. As a last resort, he enters the ‘Games’; as this is the only way he will ever find the money to save his family from poverty. What ensues is a true roller-coaster account of his fight to survive the ‘Games’ and save his family.

Even though this sounds like a plot that has been done to death; I recommend everybody give it a try. You will be surprised how fresh and original King’s version of events will be.

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