The Long Walk, The Dead Zone, Firestarter

The Long Walk (1979)

This dystopian novel is the second book that King published as Bachman, but the first novel he actually wrote. I had never read, or even heard about this one before, and after going in with a blank slate I really enjoyed it. The plot is intriguing. In a dystopian future, a form of entertainment is an annual walking contest in which 100 teenage boys walk without stopping until only one remains. They are required to keep a pace of at least 4 mph and after three warnings for slowing down or stopping are executed on the spot. The winner gets a cash prize and a wish for anything else they desire. This is no Hunger Games, this book is brutal. The physical pain felt by the contestants as they trudge onward toward certain doom is palpable. the deaths are heartwrenching and violent. But the real horror here is the mental toll that the contest takes on these boys, the physical gauntlet of marching from the northern border of Maine down towards Boston drives many of them to insanity. It is a great read.

The Dead Zone (1979)

I saw the Chris Walken movie based on this novel when I happened upon it at a local video store when I was in high school and dug it. I went to the library the next day and picked up the book. It was a great read then, and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it now. King’s pacing is fantastic and once this one got going, I couldn’t put it down. The story centers around Johnny Smith, who awakes from a coma to find that he has psychic powers. There are subplots involving an old flame, a serial killer, and a rising politician with a sadistic streak. The novel’s driving force follows Johnny as he comes to terms with his abilities and struggles with the morality of committing a political assassination to prevent the bleak and disastrous future that he forsees. This is a quick read in spite of its 400 or so pages.

Firestarter (1980)

Another top notch thriller involving psychic powers. This was a book I was unfamiliar with, but I am glad I finally read it. The plot is tight and fast-paced. A father and daughter are on the run from a CIA-esque division if the goverment known as The Shop. The father has the ability to make minor adjustments to people’s thoghts and actiona, his daughter has eveb stronge powers and the ability to start fires with her mind. The novel follows their escape, and capture, and then attempts ro escape again. Charlie, the little girl at the center of the story, makes a fantastic protagonist. There are also some top-notch villains at play, particulary the man known as Rainbird. This is a quick, satisfying read.

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