Monday, September 3, 2012

The Long Walk - Stephen King

To be honest, I've never been a huge Stephen King fan.

Some of you may want to read that again. I know that lots of people (readers and writers) consider such a statement heresy, or at best the musings of a madman, or simply wrong. I even understand why people think that.

I guess I just took a wrong step on King Road. As a young reader (I'm going to guess somewhere between 10 and 13) I remember picking up a hefty tomb*, reading about a hundred pages to find that little of significance had happened, and putting it down to read something more exciting. I didn't pick up many King books again after that, although both my brothers are heavily into the King/Koontz/Herbert kind of thing. It simply didn't grab me, although I remember enjoying some of his short stories about the same age. Whether or not I'd enjoy him now I don't know.

A couple of years later I do remember reading, devouring in fact, a single volume collection of the Bachman books. And of those, the one that stood out in my mind, that still sticks in my mind, was The Long Walk. Quite simply, it blew me away. I love how little it gives away, and how utterly simple is the focus. There's no twists and turns, just characters moving towards an end that we are told about at the beginning.

It is also inexorably dark. One of the darkest books I've ever read, still.

The Long Walk is one of the books, and one of the first, that utterly changed my conceptions of what a novel could be, and what a novel could do. I love that a one sentence description of the book is also the entire plot. I didn't know you could do that, before I read it. I never even imagined it. The images it conjured in my head have never left.

James Smythe reviews The Long Walk here, as part of the Rereading Stephen King series in the Guardian. Well worth checking out.

*Offhand, I think it was Tommyknockers. I could be wrong.


  1. I'm somewhat a King fan (I've never been ravenous about him, despite he's the author I've read the most...go figure) and I can tell you, THE LONG WALK comes back in every single King discussion I have. It's just a rock solid novel, you know? The premise, the characters and the execution is so good, nobody seems to remembers King used about five thousand adverbs a page. I've read twelve King/Bachman novels and it's probably my favorite.

  2. I am a fan of SK, but not all of his work. I dig his short stories more than the novels, and I know he is horror guy, but I think he has a great sense of humor in some of his writing / phrases. Also, great story over at TK-n-C!

  3. Thanks Sean.

    Reading King is on my list of things I must, must do. Unfortunately I strike one thing off the list every month or so, and add another six. It doesn't help that I'm not sure whether to read his horror, or something else. I like the idea of his most recent novel, the time travel Kennedy assassination thing, but also think it might be a good idea to start with Carrie, It, or something else from that era. So I never quite get around to it.

    One of these days.

  4. Great post. And as a non-fan of the Tommyknockers, may I express my condolences. I'm not surprised that it was that one that turned you off.

  5. Thanks Bob. I guess I picked the wrong starter. One of these years I'll take Christine or It on holiday, and who knows, I might just love it.