The Running Man – Stephen King

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I had seen the film that was based on “The Running Man” by Stephen King (he wrote it under the Bachman pseudonym) with Arnold S. as the main character and I think it is the classic example of how little content and thought a film can take from a reading piece like a book, novel, or essay. I don’t mean to bash movies but I’ve always assumed it must be incredibly hard to create a movie that is as engaging as a book and this title is a perfect example of how hard it is.
The book was written in early eighties, and now over 30 years after its release it is scary and really creepy to realise how close to the depicted in the novel society we had become. One might wonder if King managed to figure out time travel.
It is 2025, Ben Richards lives with his wife and an ill kid in poverty in slums of an American city. As his desperation due to living standards and lack of resources to get medication grows he decides to take part in a TV show which is organised by big corporate business Free Vee.
The Free Vee receivers are freely available and are in every household of American families. Whole nation follows the live programs that are transmitted 24/7, mainly consisting of the show where the main prize is human life.
A player escapes, moving through the world, from trained head hunters. If he survives for a month, he wins the main prize; a million of new dollars. A player can also earn bonuses for killing his head hunters and coppers, but anyone who watches the show can win some prizes by providing whereabouts of the player making the players life that little bit harder.
The novel is journal of Ben’s travels, from the moment he leaves his home, through series of preliminary tests, eliminations and finally his encounters he faces during The Running Man show and finally the end of it all.
The book is characterised by a speedy action where one keeps on constantly looking behind their backs. “The Running Man” describes the dirty, pessimistic picture of America of XXI century, where an individual can feel completely cornered and trapped by the sick need of society’s desire to experience someone’s pain and struggle and by the never dying greed of individuals hungry for a bit of fame or some silver or gold.
Given the fact we now have so many live shows following people in their “daily lives” it is kind of scary realising that King wrote this title over 30 years ago. If you saw the movie and it didn’t really tick your boxes, don’t give up on the book as it is so much more and so much deeper than what the film was able to represent. It goes beyond Ben’s struggles in the show. It hits you right in your gut when you realise you could be next or you are already one … taking part by sticking to the glass screen to find out who wins in the end. If winning is an option after all.

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