The Running Man, originally published way back in 1982 under Stephen King’s pseudonym Richard Bachman, holds a place in my “Re-read” collection of my kindle. Whenever I’m at a loose end, undecided about what to read next I’ll look through my collection for books I’ve read before and have marked as I want to re-read.
This book has called to me a few times now while looking through the list. I can honestly say I haven’t read that many books Mr King has released, I’ve probably seen more adapted as movies / television than what I have read, but this one keeps creeping back as one I want to read again.
Set in a dystopian future where the world is severely divided between the haves and the have-nots. King predicted the rise of reality television in this book, where the poor and the desperate compete for cash, usually with fatal outcomes. Shows like Treadmill to Bucks (where contestants with heart conditions win money the longer they stay alive on a treadmill), Dig Your Grave, Swim the Crocodiles, et cetera, but standing above all these is the ultimate in reality television – The Running Man.
The protagonist, Ben Richards, is desperate to earn enough money to buy his daughter medicine. He lines up with thousands of other hopefuls, and as expected makes it all the way through the tough selection process and gets selected for The Running Man.
Once on the show, he is declared and public enemy, staked $4,800 cash and given a pocket video camera. He’s then let loose with a 12-hour head start of the “Hunters” who are sent to track him down and kill him, as violently as possible. Viewers and the public can earn cash by reporting sightings of him, and his family wins $100 for every hour he stays alive past 48 hours (his stake money deducted).
I’m a huge fan of this one, having re-read it multiple times. It’s nothing like the movie, thank god.
Though I admit I do enjoy nostalgically watching the Schwarzenegger shoot-em-up version when it’s on the television.
If you haven’t read The Running Man yet, check out the sample on Amazon.