The Running Man by Richard Bachman
Originally Published: 1982
The Running Man by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King) is set in a dystopian future. This story was also included in “The Bachman Books” which was released in 1985.
It’s 2025. Ben Richards is just one of the poor. No money, and no future. His young daughter is sick and needs medicine they can’t afford, his wife is prostituting herself, and he is unemployed, having been blacklisted from his trade. Richards is at his wits end. In desperation, he tries out for one of the deadly government-run game shows in hopes of earning the money his family needs. He makes it into the biggest and highest paying game show there is. The Running Man. He has a 12 hour head start before they start to chase. But not only does the show send “The Hunters” to kill him, the citizens of the country can turn him in for money. Everyone knows his face. Everyone wants him dead. But the longer he evades capture, the more he earns for his family. $100 for every hour he stays alive, an additional $100 for every police officer or Hunter he kills, and a grand prize of $1 billion if he survives for 30 days. But everything is stacked against him. Using disguises, fake identities and an underground network of people, he runs. Only to find he may not be able to run far or fast enough.
I loved the way the chapters were laid out in a countdown format, starting with “Minus 100 and Counting” and ending with “Minus 000 and Counting”. It added to the overall pace of the story, which was fast. It is a really good read. The character of Ben Richards is one you automatically sympathize with, but you still see both the good and the bad. You cheer him on, knowing he’s doomed. You fear for the people who help him. You fear for the world he lives in.
On another note, this was published as a horror novel. It is not. Perhaps suspense.
Very few films live up to a Stephen King novel. Note that King describes Ben Richards as “scrawny” and “pre-tubercular”, which would make sense in the world he lives in. In the movie he was portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Enough said.
Re-Read: November 2016
Favorite Quotes from The Running Man:
“In the year 2025, the best men don’t run for president, they run for their lives. . . .”
About the Author:
From the “Forward” of this book, Stephen King wrote: “Bachman was never created as a short-term alias; he was supposed to be there for the long haul, and when my name came out in connection with his, I was surprised, upset, and pissed off.” King wrote a number books under this alias, and even after being “found out”.
The official Bachman bio tells us he was a dairy farmer who wrote at night. He had a wife named Claudia Inez Bachman, had one child, a boy, who died in an unfortunate, Stephen King-ish type accident at the age of six. He apparently fell through a well and drowned. In 1982, a brain tumour was discovered near the base of Bachman’s brain; tricky surgery removed it. Bachman however, didn’t live long after that, dying suddenly in late 1985 of cancer of the pseudonym, a rare form of schizonomia.