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Walk the line
on 30 July 2010
In some weird dystopian future 100 teenage boys volunteer to walk a death march across America in search of the "Ultimate Prize" for the sole survivor - you see, if you can't walk anymore, you're shot. Thus begins an epic 200+ mile walk in which the endurance of the human body and spirit is pushed to its limits.
King does a good job of keeping the story moving despite not much variation in what's happening over nearly 300 pages: they walk, someone falls, is shot, they walk, someone falls, is shot, etc, repeat. The cast of characters is built up and then brought down. We slowly see the characters start to crack up psychologically and then physically, then turn on one another. It's fascinating for a while.
King also doesn't give much away about the world this takes place in - it's recogisable except there is talk of a "Change", of "Squads", and the mysterious "Major" who runs the annual (!) Long Walk. The Walk is spectator sport at its bloodiest.
We are also kept guessing as to the reward for the winner - a prize is mentioned but walkers talk about how they just shoot the winner instead. The ending is masterfully written to keep the reader guessing as to what really happened.
But even if this is one of King's shortest (by his standards), I still think the book was overlong. It's an interesting story that gets a bit long in the tooth due to the slow depletion of the 100 boys and could've been as effective at half the length.
Despite the feeling that it dragged a bit for me, I was definitely impressed with the way King portrayed psychological disintegration so well, as well as the subtletly in which he kept the boys' motives for taking part in the race somewhat ambiguous ("volunteer" is a term used loosely as you find out - or is it? Are they all mad or not?). One of King's most interesting works and better than some of his more well known books, a definite book to check out if you're a fan or would like to read King without the supernatural horror he's famous for.