"Warning 47! Warning!" I don't think I'll ever hear that word again without shivers running down my spine and fighting an impulsive desire to get up and walk somewhere - anywhere. The Long Walk is sadistically and brilliantly simple. One hundred teens from a dystopian alternate history America are assembled in Maine and walk...until they die. The competition gets underway quickly and the idyllic pastures of Maine steadily and surely dissolve and narrow into a personal hell that consists of the road in front, caricature bloodthirsty Romanesque revelers on the flanks and the ominous sound of a halftrack loaded with soldiers and loaded carbines pointed at your back. This book was quite literally exhausting to read. There has been some criticism that the middle kind of drags and I did feel myself drifting in and out a bit, feeling hungry and becoming more and more aware of my own breathing, my feet, the shape my arch and the way it felt to place my foot on the ground - all testaments to how involved I was with the story. The feeling of the story dragging out could be viewed as intentional. It feels long, even though it's short and there is great excitement at both the beginning and end, but then again, so is the race.
Not much thought is given to the environment or setting and people looking for all the details of just where this version of dystopian America went awry may be disappointed. It's really tangential to the story. Anything off the road is. The man who runs the games is simply called the Major. The prize for winning the Long Walk is simply called "the Prize." Everything is stripped away but the young men on the road and that's really what it's all about. Why did they sign up? Who are they? and Do they have the will to win it? As the miles wear on we learn more and more about their personal situations, their philosophies, their hopes and their dreams and though you're constantly surrounded by the crash of guns as one after another of them bites the dust and you can't help but feel a sort of paranoid panic as the soldiers eye the stragglers from behind, the story ultimately reminds you of how really great it is to be alive and how important it is to have hope, in all its shapes and forms. The Long Walk
contains so much symbolism and meaning, it definitely bears a second, more thoughtful reading. In my opinion, it is one of the better early King novels. (I personally find the newer stuff more meaningful and engaging).