The Running Man

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $60.99
Paperback $12
Hardback $18.40
Kindle $8.99
Associated ISBNs 9780451115089
9780451197962 — Paperback
9780451230621 — Paperback
9781101212141
9780340952283 — Paperback

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 4P

This Bachman book is pretty great (especially in audio where the countdown becomes just that more visceral) but its not perfect.

This should be bouncing back in popularity due to the popularity of dystopias in general and the political climate.

Readers Annotation

He’s on the run for money… he’s on the run for his life.

Summary

SPOILERS BELOW! HIGHLIGHT TO READ!!

Welcome to the Dystopian future USA. This particular future has television ruling the world (practically). Ben Richards has no job, his wife is hooking to make money, and his daughter is sick with pneumonia. They cannot afford to get her medicine. Richards decides to try to get on a game show to get money. He’s hoping to get something like the show where people with heart conditions run and get asked questions until they have a heart attack, or the one where you swim with alligators.

Richards heads to the studio and stands in line to be interviewed. He takes an aptitude test, gets psych evaluated, and examined. All the while he is thinking unkind thoughts about the whole process, the interviewers, and the system at large. In the end, he and two other men are selected for a show that no one will tell them. They go up an elevator and one of them says that he thinks they’ve been selected for THE RUNNING MAN. When they reach the top, they’re called one by one into the executive Killian’s office. When Richards comes in Killian (a big black man) tells Richards he’s been selected for THE RUNNING MAN. Richards signs the contract, tells Killian he doesn’t want the hookers, and Killian gives him an advance on his winnings (with strings that if he doesn’t earn enough the studio will got after his wife and daughter). He is given a day before he will be set loose. Killian gives him one piece of advice: stay with his people.

Richards spends his day reading books, and sending his advance to his wife. He is told that his wife and daughter are being guarded so that no one will come after them.

The next day, Richards is taken to the studio. He’s given the rundown: twice a day he must video tape himself for 10 minutes and send the tapes to the studio. If he fails to send in the tapes, they will kill his wife and child. He is given some money. They do his intro: Ben Richards: non-conformist, jobless, and societal fighter. His wife: whore. They doctor his wife’s photo and Richards gets pissed. Security guards Killian as he laughs at Richards impotent rage. And then he’s set loose.

— important note on the game: in THE RUNNING MAN, the runner is set loose in the general population. His job is to survive as long as he can. He earns money for getting away and for every “hunter” and person he kills. Regular people can phone in tips for cash rewards. “Hunters” are basically law enforcement, though the studio has its own special “hunter” who coordinates the law enforcement. —

Richards takes a taxi, and the driver says he’s going to send in a tip to get the $100 reward. Richards doesn’t care. He sneaks to a shop where a “friend” can doctor up some fake ID. Then he travels to New York.

In New York he rents a hotel room. He tapes himself with a pillowcase over his head and any identifying marks covered. Every day he wanders out in his disguise. He starts to feel antsy and thinks that someone has figured out where he is. He pays for a few extra nights, leaves as usual and travels to a different part of the city.

He rents a room in the Y(MCA). He’s only there for a few hours when he realizes they know where he is. He flees to the basement, and ends up setting the place on fire as he leaves through the tunnel. He comes up in a different part of town and runs into a black kid.

The kid brings his brother to Richards. They go back to the kid’s home. There Richards learns about the air and how polluted it is as he listens to the kid’s sister dying from lung cancer in another room. They brother knows how to send the tapes without them being traceable. The brother takes Richards to a different part of the state. He tells him of a contact that can help him.

When Richards finds the contact’s home, he discovers he’s not home. So Richards waits with the kid’s mother. She slowly realizes who he is and threatens to call the police. The kid comes home and tries to reassure his mother that Richards is ok and that she shouldn’t call the police. The kid goes to hide Richard’s car.

When the kid comes back he discovers his mother has called the police. Richards and the kids flee. The get to the car and then are chased by the police. They get shot to hell, but temporarily lose the police when the kid takes Richards to an abandoned mall. The kid (mortally wounded) goes off to lead the police on a chase and his inevitable death.

Richards stays the night in the abandoned mall. In the morning he treks through the overgrowth and finds a gas station. He needs to mail his tapes. But he knows if he goes to the gas station he’ll be spotted and then caught. Luckily, a kid and his dog come by. Richards convinces the kid to mail his tapes.

Richards hijacks a car on the road that a woman is driving. He forces her to drive him to the nearest airfield. 

The “hunters” beat them there. Richards threatens the woman’s life and bluffs his way to obtaining a plane and crew. He takes along the big bad “hunter” (whose name I forgot). On the plane Killian contacts them. He tells Richards his wife is dead and that the studio wants to hire him as lead “hunter.” Richards kills the “hunter,” the pilots, and shoves the woman in a parachute out the door. He drives the plane into the studio’s building.

Evaluation

I’ll be honest. I read this because I love the movie. I know what you’re thinking: “What a horrible movie that movie was!” Yes. Yes it was pretty bad, even for an ’80s movie, but it was pretty epic. I love the camp of it all. And while its not great, it did have a message that I appreciated.

Anyway. On to the book.

Let’s start with the obvious: the book is better, and the book is different.

Of course it is! No book is exactly like it’s movie (unless its a book based on a movie… maybe). I remember watching Interview With the Vampire after I had read the books… and even though Anne Rice had helped with the screenplay, it was still different. Point being: DIFFERENT!

The obvious difference is the setting. Book!Ben Richards has full run of the world (though he really probably won’t be taking a plane ride). Movie!Ben Richards has the game arena. Book!Ben’s world is much more scary than Movie!Ben’s. Book!Ben has to be wary of every person he meets. Anyone could turn in information about him for cold, hard cash. Book!Ben hangs out in New York, goes to the sticks and then hops a plane. Movie!Ben hangs on in the arena, which has several themed areas.

The circumstances are different: Book!Ben is trying to get money for medicine for his sick kid and the only way left for him is to be part of the games. Movie!Ben said “no” to a direct order and was captured and forcibly put into the game. These circumstances have huge impacts on the characters and their actions and motivations. Book!Ben volunteered. He needs to stay alive as long as he can to help his wife and baby. He hates the system (and because he does he ends up on The Running Man) and along the way he learns that the air is poisoning the people. Book!Ben has a set of complicated morals and circumstances. Movie!Ben is aggressive and while he’s “fighting the man” it doesn’t really seem like a cause he believes in.

Movie has crazy costumed hunters. Book has regular people and law enforcement hunting the runners.

Movie has constant surveillance. Book has mailed in tapes and news coverage.

Movie has cheesy good guys win ending. Book has much more complicated ending with no clear winner.

I love this book.

This book is a believable dystopia (given antiquated technology), with a set of compelling characters and a disturbing setting.

Ben Richards is a layered character. He’s not necessarily good, he’s not bad. He’s a man put in a difficult situation trying to fight an oppressive system which put him in the situation he finds himself in. He feels bad killing people. He cares about other people even when he shouldn’t. He’s not entirely smart. He’s thrown in a situation that he doesn’t know what to do in.

Yes, Killian is evil, but he’s not a cartoon-y bad guy. He knows what will get ratings, he knows what buttons to press, and he knows how to manipulate a situation.

Every place Ben Richards goes to is detailed. We know the situation, we know where we are, and we know what to expect.

The chapters get shorter and more intense as the clock counts down (which is pretty darn brilliant).

Look, I could break it down for you, but I won’t.

This book is a must read for me. Its a great piece (sure its not perfect) that makes you think. Its a heart-pounding thrill ride. It’s…

THE RUNNING MAN

Genre

Science Fiction

Dystopia

Readalikes

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Distraction by Bruce Sterling

Significance

A dystopia where the government is your enemy, the media is your enemy, and your neighbors are your enemy.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Do you think this is a possible Dystopian future?

Talk about the prevalence of media in life.

What would you have done?

Author’s website

Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

Awards

none

Reviews

Amazon

The Guardian

Why I Chose It

I wanted to read this because I love the awesomely cheesy (and incredibly bad) 1980’s movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Other Information

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