The Running Man

The Running Man

4.1 211
by Stephen King
     
 

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From the world's bestselling novelist, Stephen King,
comes a gritty tale of a futuristic game of life-or-death! In
2025, the world is sliding towards ruin. Darkness and paranoia
rule the day as economies collapse and violence escalates. In
this madness, Ben Richards is about to take the biggest risk of
his life to save his family. He is about

Overview

From the world's bestselling novelist, Stephen King,
comes a gritty tale of a futuristic game of life-or-death! In
2025, the world is sliding towards ruin. Darkness and paranoia
rule the day as economies collapse and violence escalates. In
this madness, Ben Richards is about to take the biggest risk of
his life to save his family. He is about to play the world's
deadliest game--where he must survive for thirty days--for one
billion dollars. All alone, hunted everywhere he goes, Richards
knows only one thing...he must keep running.


Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Under any name King mesmerizes the reader.”—Chicago Sun-Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9782253151517
Publisher:
Livre de Poche
Publication date:
01/28/2005

Read an Excerpt

The Running Man . . . Minus 100 and COUNTING . . .
She was squinting at the thermometer in the white light coming through the window. Beyond her, in the drizzle, the other highrises in Co-Op City rose like the gray turrets of a penitentiary. Below, in the airshaft, clotheslines flapped with ragged wash. Rats and plump alley cats circulated through the garbage.

She looked at her husband. He was seated at the table, staring up at the Free-Vee with steady, vacant concentration. He had been watching it for weeks now. It wasn’t like him. He hated it, always had. Of course, every Development apartment had one—it was the law—but it was still legal to turn them off. The Compulsory Benefit Bill of 2021 had failed to get the required two-thirds majority by six votes. Ordinarily they never watched it. But ever since Cathy had gotten sick, he had been watching the big-money giveaways. It filled her with sick fear.

Behind the compulsive shrieking of the half-time announcer narrating the latest newsie flick, Cathy’s flu-hoarsened wailing went on and on.

“How bad is it?” Richards asked.

“Not so bad.”

“Don’t shit me.”

“It’s a hundred and four.”

He brought both fists down on the table. A plastic dish jumped into the air and clattered down.

“We’ll get a doctor. Try not to worry so much. Listen—” She began to babble frantically to distract him; he had turned around and was watching the Free-Vee again. Half-time was over, and the game was on again. This wasn’t one of the big ones, of course, just a cheap daytime come-on called Treadmill to Bucks. They accepted only chronic heart, liver, or lung patients, sometimes throwing in a crip for comic relief. Every minute the contestant could stay on the treadmill (keeping up a steady flow of chatter with the emcee), he won ten dollars. Every two minutes the emcee asked a Bonus Question in the contestant’s category (the current pal, a heart-murmur from Hackensack, was an American history buff) which was worth fifty dollars. If the contestant, dizzy, out of breath, heart doing fantastic rubber acrobatics in his chest, missed the question, fifty dollars was deducted from his winnings and the treadmill was speeded up.

“We’ll get along. Ben. We will. Really. I . . . I’ll . . .”

“You’ll what?” He looked at her brutally. “Hustle? No more, Sheila. She’s got to have a real doctor. No more block midwife with dirty hands and whiskey breath. All the modern equipment. I’m going to see to it.”

He crossed the room, eyes swiveling hypnotically to the Free-Vee bolted into one peeling wall above the sink. He took his cheap denim jacket off its hook and pulled it on with fretful gestures.

“No! No, I won’t . . . won’t allow it. You’re not going to—”

“Why not? At worst you can get a few oldbucks as the head of a fatherless house. One way or the other you’ll have to see her through this.”

She had never really been a handsome woman, and in the years since her husband had not worked she had grown scrawny, but in this moment she looked beautiful . . . imperious. “I won’t take it. I’d rather sell the govie a two-dollar piece of tail when he comes to the door and send him back with his dirty blood money in his pocket. Should I take a bounty on my man?”

He turned on her, grim and humorless, clutching something that set him apart, an invisible something for which the Network had ruthlessly calculated. He was a dinosaur in this time. Not a big one, but still a throwback, an embarrassment. Perhaps a danger. Big clouds condense around small particles.

He gestured at the bedroom. “How about her in an unmarked pauper’s grave? Does that appeal to you?”

It left her with only the argument of insensate sorrow. Her face cracked and dissolved into tears.

“Ben, this is just what they want, for people like us, like you—”

“Maybe they won’t take me,” he said, opening the door. “Maybe I don’t have whatever it is they look for.”

“If you go now, they’ll kill you. And I’ll be here watching it. Do you want me watching that with her in the next room?” She was hardly coherent through her tears.

“I want her to go on living.” He tried to close the door, but she put her body in the way.

“Give me a kiss before you go, then.”

He kissed her. Down the hall, Mrs. Jenner opened her door and peered out. The rich odor of corned beef and cabbage, tantalizing, maddening, drifted to them. Mrs. Jenner did well—she helped out at the local discount drug and had an almost uncanny eye for illegal-card carriers.

“You’ll take the money?” Richards asked. “You won’t do anything stupid?”

“I’ll take it,” she whispered. “You know I’ll take it.”

He clutched her awkwardly, then turned away quickly, with no grace, and plunged down the crazily slanting, ill-lighted stairwell.

She stood in the doorway, shaken by soundless sobs, until she heard the door slam hollowly five flights down, and then she put her apron up to her face. She was still clutching the thermometer she had used to take the baby’s temperature.

Mrs. Jenner crept up softly and twitched the apron. “Dearie,” she whispered, “I can put you onto black market penicillin when the money gets here . . . real cheap . . . good quality—”

“Get out!” she screamed at her.

Mrs. Jenner recoiled, her upper lip rising instinctively away from the blackened stumps of her teeth. “Just trying to help,” she muttered, and scurried back to her room.

Barely muffled by the thin plastiwood, Cathy’s wails continued. Mrs. Jenner’s Free-Vee blared and hooted. The contestant on Treadmill to Bucks had just missed a Bonus Question and had had a heart attack simultaneously. He was being carried off on a rubber stretcher while the audience applauded.

Upper lip arising and falling metronomically, Mrs. Jenner wrote Sheila Richards’s name down in her notebook. “We’ll see,” she said to no one. “We’ll just see, Mrs. Smell-So-Sweet.”

She closed the notebook with a vicious snap and settled down to watch the next game.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Under any name King mesmerizes the reader.”—Chicago Sun-Times

Meet the Author

Stephen King lives in Maine and Florida with his wife, novelist Tabitha King. He has written more than forty books and two hundred short stories. He has won the World Fantasy Award, several Bram Stoker awards, and the O. Henry Award for his story “The Man in the Black Suit,” and is the 2003 recipient of The National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Bangor, Maine
Date of Birth:
September 21, 1947
Place of Birth:
Portland, Maine
Education:
B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970
Website:
http://www.stephenking.com

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The Running Man 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 211 reviews.
LaNenaFiny More than 1 year ago
So this would have been the first Stephen King book I read cover to cover. I was REALLY excited with the story line and could not wait to start reading it. The mistake I made was start at the beginning and am warning you about it because during the introduction "The Importance of Being Bachman" King gives away the ending!!! Not just a "Oh, and then something negative happens" but "Blah, blah, and then he blah blah" specifically. If you want to enjoy the book (as I am CERTAIN I would have) DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION!!!! Who does that?? Yes, I get it, it has been republished so you want to add a note, but for those who would have picked up the book for the first time (never had seen the movie either so I don't know if it tells the true ending) the book has been ruined!!!. . . I always pictured Stephen King as a smart man. . . WRONG! So please! Add a HUGE SPOILER warning if you are giving away the ending of a book before the story even starts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is a tense, page-turning, heart stopping chase. I wasn't expecting it to be so suspenseful or so dark. As others have mentioned, don't read the introduction until after you have read the novel since it reveals the ending rather matter-of-factly. The "Introduction" really should be changed to an "Afterward" with a disclaimer that it reveals key plot elements of The Running Man. I'm not sure why the publishers haven't made this change in recent printings. Incidentally, the other Bachman books share the same introduction, so if you are reading Roadwork or The Long Walk, for example, and you haven't yet read The Running Man, skip the introduction. This novel is more tightly plotted and cinematic than the other Bachman books. The 100 short chapters, titled only as a numerical countdown marching feverishly towards 0, contribute to the feeling that time is running out. The social commentary is biting and caustic, and the ending is both sad and chilling. Although I'm a huge Stephen King fan, I neglected to read this book because of my associations to the movie. The book is much better, much darker, and I am glad that I read it. For King/Bachman fans - don't miss it.
Max Richardson More than 1 year ago
You know, I'm sure this book is great, but there's no way to tell from the free sample. It's nine pages long, and eight of them are copyright information and the table of contents. Barnes and Noble, if you're reading this, please lengthen some of your samples to include some of the actual story. People don't buy books for the introductions.
xxSCARFACExx More than 1 year ago
This was a great book and it really lies mention to the difference in social groups, as in poor and rich. It is a fiction and to the extreme. The ending is very unpredictable and you will find yourself wanting to keep reading to finish the book. I will definitely keep for a book I might read again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read 4 of the Bachman Books, by far this is the best. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys other Stephen King novels. Five out of five stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is definitely NOT like the movie! The book is so much better! I just finished reading it, and let me tell you, it is so mind boggling, you'll never put it down! Excellent read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
King wrote this book back when he was still pretending to be Bachman, and it is nice to see that it is being published with the King name on it because it was a great read. I was a little nervous about reading this book because lets face it, the movie was terrible. Thankfully the story is much different, better, from the one staring a certain California Governor. This is not horror story, which may turn off some King loyalists, but more of an action thriller. It's set in 2025 where the rich get richer and the poor die young. The only way to make some money for your family is to enter the Games.
Tannah More than 1 year ago
The Running Man is set in a 2025 American society in which the government is corrupt, pollution is rampant, and the television, or free-vee, runs people's lives. The protagonist, Ben Richards, is an unemployed man struggling to care for his wife and sick six month old daughter. As a last resort, Richards finally enters as a contestant in the game show Running Man, a show in which the contestant is given a head start and is then hunted by professional bounty hunters and essentially, all of America. For every hour he remains alive, money is sent to his family. While this novel sends meaningful messages about corruption, pollution, and social chaos, it was only vaguely entertaining and left me feeling indifferent about the themes and book as a whole. Though it was a bit of a page-turner, by the end, I felt as though I had only wasted my time reading it. I was more optimistic in the beginning of the novel, but the twisted ending was simply unnecessary and unsatisfying. Ben Richards, who, in the start of the novel the reader identified with and was rooting for, was alienated from the reader by the end because of his extreme actions and thoughts. He began as the underdog, but quickly became a heartless man whose only aim was inflicting pain on others. Though some may argue that his actions were justified and necessary for the author to effectively get his point across, I was slightly angered by the time I had finished the novel. Though the novel does communicate some frightening truths concerning the future of our nation regarding pollution and social class separation, it was overall not worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the running man is one of the few books i have ever read in which i could not remove my eyes from the pages. if you were only to read this by stephen king, i think you would have a good summary of his style.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Running Man is evidence that Stephen King is the best action thriller writer around. The book is set in a world of pollution and turmoil, only twenty years ahead of our own. Only a few years ago the government made a law forcing every one to get a Free-Vee, it¿s almost like today¿s television, except for the game shows. The Game Network makes people not compete for just money but for their survival. Ben Richards, out of work and poverty-stricken and is unable to afford a doctor for his seriously ill daughter, Cathy . After watching her suffer with no medical care, he decides to collaborate with the thing he hates most, the Games. He soon gets picked for the deadliest game, if you lost you would not end up in the hospital with a heart attack or loose one or two limbs, you would die. This game name is The Running Man. I thoroughly enjoyed this well written novel it had a perfect blend of suspense action with the numerous plot twists. Besides the action and the main plot, this book illustrates our fears of the future. Stephen Kings writing leaves no room for improvement and demonstrates amazing writing anywhere. If you liked the book you would love, some of King¿s other novels. These include Salem¿s Lot, and the Dark Tower series.
Anonymous 6 months ago
In response to the comment written on july 16, i think your nook may have malfunctioned. I recieved 4 chapters of the running man-Quills
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You must read this book!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read it before and I remembered the story and how it ends. But its One of my favorites. Excellent writing imagery.
ellison61 More than 1 year ago
In 2025 the rich watch TV and the poor compete on TV. Ben has a sick daughter so he applies for a chase-to-the death show. He goes to NYC and then Boston. He eventually car jacks a woman and uses her purse to bluff his way onto an airplane. Swearing, violence, and social commentary. Insightful.
ryanseanoreilly More than 1 year ago
Dystopian thriller of prescient vision Stephen King wrote this novel very quickly under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. He talks about this in the book’s prologue. As many reviewers point out, he also provides a major spoiler. So don’t read that first (unless you don’t care). Ben Richards lives in squalor and because of his refusal to punch it in like other cog fodder for the rich elite, he is outcast and unable to find suitable work. His refusal, as explained, is a refusal to put himself into a horribly unhealthy work environment. Unfortunately his idealism has caused the family unit further financial woes and his wife is forced to forsake her marriage vows to make ends meet. What could be worse? Well, how about a young child who is suffering from a curable aliment, but one which the protagonist cannot afford the medicine. Richards hates this and it spurs him into taking his idealism into full bloom, which he does by signing up for a game show that can earn the family money based on how long the participate can stay alive. If you survive for a certain amount of time, then you are home free, but of course nobody ever has. The game show uses the complete world as its stage. The protagonist literally is a “running man” being chased by man hunters who will kill him when they find him. The whole thing is televised and the general public can earn money by reporting on his location. A further twist, is that Richards has to video record himself twice a day and mail the tapes in by a certain time – otherwise he’s disqualified (oh and the man hunters will still kill him). Although, it’s claimed that the game show won’t use his mailings to track him – it’s highly suspect. Before Richards begins, he is advised by the game show’s dubious host to hide out among his own i.e. the poor (as they are the only ones who probably won’t turn on him). Richards takes this advice to heart. What follows is a maddening thriller of short successive and numerically titled chapters that count down toward the end. You can really picture yourself, as the main character. Where do you go? What do you do? Your face is plastered all over the state-run television system and everyone in the entire world will know your face and likely be motivated to turn you in for money. Do you run? Do you hide? King does a great job of letting you feel the natural paranoia that would accompany such a scenario. Every person the protagonist passes by, every time Richards stops to rest he thinks – they know! They found me out already!! Even if he can’t be sure, he can’t risk sticking around to find out. He must just keep moving. And yet, it would be almost impossible to go it completely alone. You would have to trust someone, somewhere, sometime. Again King does a good job of fleshing out the other people who Richards inevitably comes into contact with and whom he must decide whether or not to trust (sometimes without option). Through Richard’s interactions with others, we get a bigger sense of his world. This story is set in a dystopian future where the government’s manipulation of media and culture gets into 1984 type levels. The divide between poor and rich has become ocean wide, to the point that the “have’s” now even have a different currency system. Not surprisingly, we learn the powers that be are likely furthering the subjugation of the poor by worsening environmental conditions and then lying about it. Which brings out another good thing about this book, there is a struggle in the main character between looking out for his own interest (surviving the game how to provide money for his sick and struggling family) and fighting the oppressive powers dominating the poor. He knows its bad out there for everyone. Oh how he knows, how he has lived it. In fact, it’s so bad, that he’s decided to give up and make a last bid for money as he “checks out”. A sort of giving up. This is what the totalitarian regime wants. Don ‘t care don’t try. Just give in and play along. A classic scenario. And yet, the more the regime tries to get Richards to play along, the more he starts to wake up. To evolve. Suffice to say, the story culminates to a grand conclusion (that won’t be ruined if you don’t read the prologue). As far as Stephen King goes, this is a fast fast fast book! It reads very quickly and is devoid of his usual long-winded descriptions. You know that a Stephen King book (whether written as Bachman or as himself) is going to be written at a certain level – and this book is no exception. I would definitely recommend this story for those who don’t know King outside horror. He’s written in a lot of other genres – and done it quite well. Though, you still get his mastery of scaring. There is a particularly suspenseful and frightening scene involving a sewer pipe and raging fire that kept me quite on edge and is totally classic King. All in all an enjoyable read. Perfect science fiction, dystopian, thriller for a plane ride or vacation trip. And a great introduction to King’s talents for those (few) who might have overlooked him all these years. Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a long time King fan and i was pleased with this book and i am actually going to read all the Bachman series of books. A simple read yet very captivating. You can see the usual King crazyness on certain passages yet in a different view! I enjoyed this novel and like most of King's books I could not put it down! The main character Richards is clever, strong, yet broken. but from what I hear, I will stay clear from the movie version of this novel!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this was the very first Stephen King book i finished it got me interested from the very first page. if you read this and and like it i recommend the long walk by Stephen King.
Cailalilly More than 1 year ago
I just meant to pick this up and glance through it in passing. Next thing I know I’ve skipped three classes and have to finish it. Be careful when you start this thing.
xanaduwongxu More than 1 year ago
This book did not stop once to catch its breath or let me catch mine. It was a breathless race to the end. Best to start this one at the beginning of the day and not before bed.
JULIANN1 More than 1 year ago
OMG I have loved Stephen King since my first encounter with him in 1981. I have never missed buying a single book of his and own The Bachman Books in hardcover. I read The Running Man many years ago, and just finished rereading it this morning. This is a roller coaster ride that is almost physical. Yesterday I had to stop reading midway to come to work, and I was in a heightened state of tension all day. No words can describe how terrific it is. One of the things that makes it so great is King's unmatched way with his characters. This is always true of his writing, but maybe even more in this book, as the stakes are so high. Do yourself a favor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Stephen Kings books and recently started reading the Bachman books, I have found they are not as good as his Stephen King novels but this is deff the best among the Bachmans