Another chilling novel from Stephen King under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, The Running Man takes place in a dystopian future (the year 2025) in the United States where people are hooked on reality tv shows! The government controls everything including entertainment. As such, the government-sanctioned “Games Network” showcasing ultra-violent game shows (where contestants end up being maimed if not dead, all for a chance at the prize money) broadcasted on Free-Vee (Television) which are pretty much located everywhere – from the streets to the Development apartments – and going off the name, we can surmise that Free-Vee is free (they want you to watch). The differences between the rich and poor are vastly disproportionate; the rich being ridiculously rich whereas the poor are desperately poor. Life is very bleak for the poor. Even air is poisonous on ground level and isn’t breathable but the rich live in a high Tower and are therefore unaffected. The sadistic game shows are the only chance the poor have at changing their lives for the better.
The main character of the story is Ben Richards who is out of a job, has an infant daughter sick with pneumonia and a wife who has has to turn tricks at the corner just to provide for their daughter. Out of desperation, Ben signs up to be a contestant on one of those messed up reality tv game shows, hoping to end up on the one of the deadliest but also the one with the biggest jackpot, The Running Man “a no holds barred 30 day struggle to stay alive as public enemy #1, relentlessly hunted by an elite strike force bent on killing him as quickly as possible in front of an audience all too eager to see that happen. It means a billion dollars in prize money if he can live for the next month, but nobody has ever survived longer than 8 days.” The contestants are always portrayed as horrible criminals (creative editing) so the public generally wants to see them captured or killed. Between the professional hunters hired to track him down and the locals who are rewarded with cash for reporting a sighting of him, Ben Richards is The Running Man.
The story is fast-paced with non-stop action! Not once did my neurotic mind wander as I found The Running Man clever and engaging! In fact, if I’m being honest, I felt it was a bit short as I wanted more. Once again, I find myself wondering just what the heck happened to Stephen King for him to be able to think up all these dark stories? I find it chilling that he so accurately predicted today’s society’s obsession with reality tv shows, straight up decades before it ever happened! The Running Man was published in 1982. I’d say they should definitely turn this into a movie (it’s like I learned nothing from the book lawl) but apparently they already have and the movie bombed which is why I think I’ll pass on watching it. The Running Man (1987) movie starred none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger as the lead character Ben Richards (Stephen King was unhappy with Arnold’s portrayal). Sooo… reboot? Apparently, The Running Man was also the inspiration for Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. This was my second Stephen King novel but definitely won’t be the last!
I’m not quite sure where I picked it up (probably from one of the many Roman-period shows I watch) but the quote “Give them bread and give them entertainment and you will control them” comes to mind. I dunno’… just thought it was fitting.
Bread Food for thought, no?