Publisher: Signet

Book Review – The Long Walk by Stephen King

July 28, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 6 Comments

Book Review – The Long Walk by Stephen KingThe Long Walk by Richard Bachman, Stephen King
Published by Signet on July 1979
Pages: 370
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Horror
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Doctor Sleep, Cujo, Pet Sematary

five-stars

In this #1 national bestseller, “master storyteller” (Houston Chronicle) Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman, tells the tale of the contestants of a grueling walking competition where there can only be one winner—the one that survives.

“I give my congratulations to the winner among your number, and my acknowledgments of valor to the losers.”

Against the wishes of his mother, sixteen-year-old Ray Garraty is about to compete in the annual grueling match of stamina and wits known as The Long Walk. One hundred boys must keep a steady pace of four miles per hour without ever stopping...with the winner being awarded “The Prize”—anything he wants for the rest of his life. But, as part of this national tournament that sweeps through a dystopian America year after year, there are some harsh rules that Garraty and ninety-nine others must adhere to in order to beat out the rest. There is no finish line—the winner is the last man standing. Contestants cannot receive any outside aid whatsoever. Slow down under the speed limit and you’re given a warning. Three warnings and you’re out of the game—permanently....

“The whole walk seemed nothing but one looming question mark. He told himself that a thing like this must have some deep meaning. Surely it was so. A thing like this must provide an answer to every question, it was just a matter of keeping your foot on the throttle.”

Only Stephen King could write such a spellbinding tale of a bunch of boys doing nothing but walking.

The Long Walk has become something of a national pastime in America where every year, hundreds of teenage boys apply to compete. Only a hundred boys are selected to try to be the last man standing. The winner receives anything they could ask for. We experience The Long Walk through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Ray Garraty. We see firsthand (or sometimes the fallen one’s name is murmured slowly along the lines that remain standing) as one by one, the contestants fall from exhaustion, pain, mental anguish, or because they simply fell below the required 4mph speed. He makes friends with several and is forced to see them fall to the hail of bullets when they’re given their third and final warning.

‘The lights filled the sky with a bubblelike pastel glow that was frightening and apocalyptic, reminding Garraty of pictures he had seen in the history books of the German air-blitz of the American East Coast during the last days of World War II.’

With references to the German air blitz of the American East Coast and of 31st of April, it’s clear that the world The Long Walk takes place in is a twisted alternative version of our own. Other than that, this story is a very straight forward sort of tale that lacks any sort of supernatural or fantasy aspects. But it’s most definitely horror. Day after day of non-stop walking, catching brief yet unsatisfying naps while your feet continue propelling you forward, being forced to take a warning and possibly two so you can quickly go to the bathroom by the side of the road all the while guns are trained on the back of your head and spectators line the roads just for the possibility of being there to see the guns remove someone from the running.

It’s easy to compare this story to the multitude of preposterous reality competitions these days, but if you take into account that King wrote this during 1966-1967 when the war in Vietnam was raging, the correlation to war, in general, becomes apparent as well. The televised draft, the battle, and the mass deaths that seemed so very meaningless. There is of course also the fact that the one to remain standing isn’t ever actually a “winner”. After seeing the things that occurred in the competition, the victor is irrevocably changed.

The Long Walk is the second book written under the Bachman name but the first I’ve read. At the beginning of my edition, there was an introduction called “The Importance of Being Bachman” where he discusses exactly why he chose to write under a pseudonym, and of his displeasure when he was unveiled as being Bachman. It was an interesting take that I never considered before as to why a writer would choose to write under a pseudonym, but this beautiful line sums it up nicely.

‘…there’s a place in most of us where the rain is pretty much constant, the shadows are always long, and the woods are full of monsters. It is good to have a voice in which the terrors of such a place can be articulated and its geography partially described, without denying the sunshine and clarity that fill so much of our ordinary lives.’

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Book Review – Cujo by Stephen King

March 28, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 11 Comments

Book Review – Cujo by Stephen KingCujo by Stephen King
Published by Signet on January 1981
Pages: 324
Genres: Horror
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Doctor Sleep, Pet Sematary, Mr. Mercedes

four-stars

Cujo is a two-hundred-pound Saint Bernard, the beloved family pet of the Joe Cambers of Castle Rock, Maine, and the best friend ten-year-old Brett Camber has ever had. One day Cujo pursues a rabbit into a bolt-hole--a cave inhabited by some very sick bats. What happens to Cujo, and to those unlucky enough to be near him, makes for the most heart-squeezing novel Stephen King has yet written.

Vic Trenton, New York adman obsessed by the struggle to hand on to his one big account, his restive and not entirely faithful wife, Donna, and their four-year-old son, Tad, moved to Castle Rock seeking the peace of rural Maine. But life in this small town--evoked as vividly as a Winesburg or a Spoon River--is not what it seems. As Tad tries bravely to fend off the terror that comes to him at night from his bedroom closet, and as Vic and Donna face their own nightmare of a marriage suddenly on the rocks, there is no way they can know that a monster, infinitely sinister, waits in the daylight, and that the fateful currents of their lives will eddy closer and faster to the horrifying vortex that is Cujo.

Stephen King has never written a book in which readers will turn the pages with such a combination of anticipation and dire apprehension. Doing so, they will experience an absolute master at work.

‘It would perhaps not be amiss to point out that he had always tried to be a good dog. He had tried to do all the things his MAN and his WOMAN, and most of all his BOY, had asked or expected of him. He would have died for them, if that had been required. He had never wanted to kill anybody. He had been struck by something, possibly destiny, or fate, or only a degenerative nerve disease called rabies. Free will was not a factor.’

Cujo is a seemingly simple story minus all the supernatural thrills that are usually present in King’s stories. It’s about a gentle dog named Cujo that one day chases a rabbit into a hole, encounters an infected bat, and that gentle dog slowly transforms into a horrid nightmare that the town of Castle Rock will never forget.

The story was a surprisingly heartbreaking one as we’re given brief glimpses of the transformation of Cujo and his inevitable loss of self control. Before he was infected, Cujo was a good dog who played with children and despite his size never gave anyone any reason to fear him. Unfortunately, his owners just never took the time to get Cujo his necessary shots. As the story progresses Cujo becomes more and more helpless  to stop the virus from taking control, but this sense of helplessness isn’t limited to Cujo. There are three separate storylines that all have that same sense of helplessness.

While the focus of this story is obviously Cujo, you quickly find yourself wrapped up in the lives of these people just as much. The main storyline is of course the unfortunate circumstances that caused Donna Trenton and her four-year-old son Tad to become stuck in a driveway in the middle of nowhere during a terrible heatwave with a rabid Saint Bernard keeping them from going anywhere. Donna attempts to make the drive to their local mechanic, Joe Camber, in order to get her needle valve fixed on the  carburetor. She makes it the whole way only to have her car die in the driveway yet her sigh of relief is short-lived as Cujo makes his presence known. The second storyline deals with Vic, Donna’s husband and Tad’s father, who is at risk to losing his ad agency after his biggest client seeks to drop them. Finding out the night before he leaves for New York that Donna has been having an affair only adds to his worries yet he still leaves as their livelihoods all hinge on him keeping his company. The third storyline is regarding Joe Camber’s wife, Charity, and her fear that their boy Brett is going to turn out exactly like his father. In a final attempt to help prevent this she plans a vacation for the two of them to see her estranged sister and her family after Charity wins $5,000 in the lottery. Shortly after arriving, a few things occur that leave her convinced that she’s already too late.

While these storylines all seem to be of little consequence there is one scene in particular that sets in motion everything that is to occur. As Brett and his mother Charity are preparing to leave, Brett notices Cujo acting strangely. He tells his mother but she demands he stay silent. She knows if he were to tell his father he would demand the boy stay home to care for his dog. They leave not telling anyone, being completely unaware of the devastation they could have possibly prevented that day. This only goes to show that seemingly small decisions can truly have vast consequences.

One of my favorite things about stories is learning about the inspiration behind them. King had read a news article about a boy in Maine that had been killed by a Saint Bernard. King’s motorcycle had stalled out and he just barely got it to the mechanic before it died. That same mechanic had a Saint Bernard that looked as if he would attack King until his owner got him under control. King and his wife drove a Pinto that also had a sticky needle valve on the carburetor. All of these real life issues came together in a terrifying way to become ‘Cujo’.

This story is an incredibly realistic horror that is easily imagined. While not supernatural, there is a comparison made to Cujo being of the same evil to Frank Dodd, a local serial killer. That comparison generates the theory of evil being a deep-rooted thing that is always there and is all the same. Whether Cujo is truly evil or not, his story still succeeds in leaving you with an exceptionally uneasy feeling when you consider just how easy this all occurred. And it makes you consider with a sudden horror whether your lovable pet is up to date on their shots.

This post was written for King’s March, an event hosted by Wensend & Fourth Street Review.

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