After watching The Running Man I felt compelled to read the book. Off to the library I went. What a wonderful place, they let you take any book you want…for free…as long as you return it.
This is the only book by Stephen King I’ve ever read. It does not fit into the horror genre but there is some violence and graphic gore at the end. Over all I really liked it. The similarities between the book and the movie are the title and two of the main characters names and that’s it. However, I couldn’t help but picture Arnold and hear his accent in my head as I was reading.
If I had not known anything about the plot going into this book I would have been very confused. The book opens up with no explanation of the deteriorated state that the country finds itself in or the level of control that the government has over the people. We just find our main character, Ben Richards, living in poverty and becoming more and more desperate to provide for his wife and child who has pneumonia. He can’t find a job because he refuses to work for a company that doesn’t properly protect it’s workers against radiation. In his desperation he tries out for a very popular and very deadly game show, The Running Man, in hopes of winning enough money to send his little girl to the doctor.
Richards makes it past all the physical and mental screenings to become a contestant. He is given a small head start, sent out into the city and must elude the game show’s professional hunters. The longer he can stay alive the more money he wins. Kinda sounds like Survivor but with gore and death. Hummmm. The audience (the general public) are rewarded if they turn in sightings and rewarded handsomely if the sightings result in a kill. The game show host leads the public to believe that Richards is a deadly criminal to ensure there won’t be any sympathizers. That added with the fear of going against or even questioning the government run entertainment industry is enough to keep the population under it’s thumb and in a state of constant ignorance.
Richards eludes the hunters and takes us all on a wild ride. The book ends so abruptly and spectacularly that I had to turn back the page to make sure I read it correctly. In addition to the excitement of the chase this is an interesting look at society, what we will believe just because someone attractive on TV tells us to believe it and how different social classes treat and ignore each other.
Conclusion: so much better than the movie that I can’t really even say that the movie was based on the book. It just had the same title.