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Posted December 14, 2000
For anyone out there who believes the legacy of Stephen King begins with Carrie and Pet Sematary, this is a must-read. These four stories, Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man show the author removing much of the other-worldly horror and suspense that takes up much of his work. Upon reading Rage, one can't help but be struck by the strange way in which life imitates art, in particular, the string of schoolyard shootings and violence in the 1990's. In this story, a disturbed yet clearheaded student kills two teachers while his classmates sit by unimpressed and sedated. King discusses the violence that fills our daily lives and mentions the impact of media upon a generation of observers, slackers not quite dumb enough for menial work but not intelligent enough to realize the brutal murders being witnessed. The Long Walk is almost as disturbing, featuring a grueling walk beginning in Maine and heading south, while participants who fall behind are quickly shot and left to rot on the hotpavement. The theme of ultimate entertainment for a rage-soaked society appears once again in the form of crowds of families eagerly hoping for a man to fall and his blood to run the streets red. If nothing else, the Running Man is far superior to its movie version, featuring 'Ah-nuld' as the framed murderer Ben Richards. The novel allows Richards to roam all over the country, avoiding his pursuers while millions of Americans watch and chant for his blood. At the time, this may have seemed a bit over the edge, but in the entertainment-obsessed culture we live in, it may not be too far off. Roadwork is far too depressing to be discussed here, basically it revolves around a loser type who enjoys Southern Comfort and seven up. Skip it... The characters in all four of these novels are unique. They are not typical maniacs, rather all of them are disturbed in ways that do not prevent the reader from growing attached to them. One never quite feels comfortable reading Rage, or the Long Walk, but avoiding these stories would be doing a fine writer a great disservice.
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