This book was as disturbing as it was engaging. The premise is simple, yet the storytelling is dynamic and thought-provoking. Each year 100 walkers are chosen from a pool of qualified applicants across the United States. At 9am on May 1st, deep in the state of Maine, the walkers begin their journey. The goal is to outlast all the other walkers. Those who drop out receive their ‘ticket’. What this means isn’t apparent until the first boy gets a side cramp, receives his three warnings, and then is shot in the head.
Along the more than 200 mile journey, King masterfully weaves his story, keeping the reader engrossed in the lives and eventual sufferings of these teenage boys who all but the winner has signed up for a death sentence.
This is a dystopian novel with some kind of dystopian alternative past that has taken place in world history. We’re never told exactly what has happened to lead to both the conditions that would create such a race or the broader societal influences that would lead a nation of spectators to revel in such a horrific form of entertainment.
“The reason all of this is so horrible,” McVries said, “is because it’s just trivial. You know? We’ve sold ourselves and traded our souls on trivialities.
As I read the book, I marveled at the somewhat prophetic nature of it. Written in 1979, in some ways, the book is a forerunner to the popular Survivor or Amazing Race tv shows, or books like the Hunger Games. In my estimation, because we live in a time that so undervalues humanity (see the sale of aborted baby body parts) and overvalues violence, a barbaric race like this is not far from our definition of suitable entertainment.