Thursday, March 19, 2015

Don't Touch That Dial

#27 – The Running Man – Richard Bachman
Recommended by: PG-R

I used to love Stephen King. As a young teenager, his books absolutely scared the ever loving shit out of me. I can well remember calling down to my dad to turn on the light in the hallway because I was too terrified to walk out into the semi-darkness and do it myself – and the switch was probably only two steps away. Pennywise the Clown from IT and the vampires in ‘Salems Lot and just about everything about The Shining, etc., were all seminal reading moments in my early years. Uncle Stevie knew just how to hit all the right notes. His monsters were real because they were right outside your window. When it’s foggy out, I think of King. Shudder. Then I read Gerald’s Game and my love affair abruptly came to an end. It might just be the worst book I have ever read and I’ve read all four Twilight books. I went off Stephen King and I don’t think I’ve read any of his books since. I came back to admiring the man, if not the writing, when I got to hear him read the pie-eating contest section out of The Body at Radio City Music Hall. He was wry, and witty, and was well aware that not everything he has ever written was a masterpiece. I had to admire that. His book On Writing should also be required reading for anyone who has ever attempted to put pen to paper.

So, when my darling youngest BIL selected yet another book for me to read (five in total because we had a misunderstanding about the rules), I was pretty excited for this one. I thought I read it ages ago, but it turns out all of my memories are of the 80’s movie, not the book. The central premise – a man desperately in need of money agrees to go on a bloodthirsty game show to save his family – has become almost commonplace now. Many authors have stolen heartily from this book and sadly, I think they’ve done it better. The book doesn’t age well. At all. The homophobia, racism, and extreme violence are bad enough –but the ending, in the post 9/11 world, is almost impossible to read. My spoiler policy prohibits me from going into further detail, but this book is not for the faint of heart and very far indeed from the movie. I’m curious as to how long ago Youngest has read this, and what he would think if he reread it now. It’s not quite what I expected, that’s for sure. 

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