What is it about books with short chapters that make them so easy to read?  I read at least two third of this book in one sitting yesterday.  Of course it is all due to chapter length, and has nothing to do with the level of engagement in the story.

The Running Man predated The Hunger Games by several decades, but I cannot help seeing the similarities.  A dystopian society in which the government is, or is controlled by the Network.  (talk about King not liking TV?).  Ben Richards is an out of work father of a sick child who volunteers for the games to get money.  After a series of tests he is recommended for the Running Man, where he could win a lot of money if only he can stay alive for thirty days.

Coming at this story from where I have, post-Hunger Games, I cannot help but see similarities to many other similar stories.  Obviously Hunger Games builds on this story’s idea.  But there’s thematically more in these types of stories than rich people making sport of the disadvantaged.  It is sickening to see how little imagination we have.  I use the term imagination not in the way that means fantastical, but the way that J.K. Rowling did in her Harvard Commencement Address: to mean that we have the ability to place ourselves in another’s position. It is true that we can never truly imagine the horrors of one person’s circumstances until we’ve experienced the same thing, but our own inability to even try is astounding.  Such it is in the Running Man.  A perfect example is found when Ben enters Amelia’s car.  Yes, he had taken her hostage and she had every right to be scared, but she also crossed the line when she started calling him a monster and a savage.

King has reportedly said that this book was ‘a book written by a young man who was angry, energetic, and infatuated with the art and the craft of writing.”  Anger is plain, and justifiably so.  What sort of a world do we live in where lives are expendable?  A world where we watch people being hunted down and killed and consider this entertainment . . . Oh, wait . . .I think that’s what is happening with law enforcement officers and ISIS now.  Hmmm . . .

One thought on “The Running Man – Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)

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