The Long Walk

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The Long Walk is a novel by Stephen King published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1979 as a paperback original. It was collected in 1985 in the hardcover omnibus The Bachman Books, and has seen several reprints since, as both paperback & hardback. Set in a near future, the plot revolves around the contestants of a gruelling walking contest, held annually by a somewhat despotic and totalitarian version of the United States of America. In 2000 the American Library Association listed the Long Walk, as one of the 100 best books for teenage readers published between 1966 and 2000.[1]


Plot summary

One hundred teenage boys participate in an annual walking contest called "The Long Walk," which is the "national sport". Each Walker must maintain a speed of at least four miles per hour; if he drops below that speed, he receives a verbal warning (which can be erased by walking for one hour without being warned). If a Walker with three warnings (given for every 30 seconds of being below speed) slows down again, he is "ticketed". The meaning of this term is intentionally kept vague at first, but it soon becomes clear that "buying a ticket" means to be shot dead by soldiers riding in half-tracks along the roadside. Walkers may be shot immediately for certain serious violations, such as trying to leave the road or attacking the half-track. The half-tracks use electronic equipment to precisely determine a Walker's speed.

The event is run by a character known as "The Major," who is implied to have much power, stemming from a possible military or fascist state system. The Major appears at the beginning of the Walk to encourage the boys and start them on their way, and then occasionally thereafter. While the Walkers initially greet him with awe and respect, they eventually realize their admiration is misplaced and ridicule him in later appearances.

The Walk begins at the Maine/Canada border and travels the east coast of the United States until the winner is determined. There are no stops, rest periods, or established finish line, and the Walk does not pause for any reason (including bad weather or darkness); it ends only when one Walker is left alive. According to the rules, the Walkers can obtain aid only from the soldiers. They may request a canteen of water at any time, and food concentrates (apparently similar to the ones developed by NASA's space program) are distributed at 9:00 every morning. Walkers may bring anything they can carry, including food or additional footwear, but cannot receive aid from bystanders. They are allowed to have bodily contact with onlookers as long as they stay on the road. While they cannot physically interfere with one another to detrimental effect, they can help each other, provided they stay above four miles per hour.

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