“Some of these guys will go on walking long after the laws of biochemistry and handicapping have gone by the boards. There was a guy last year that crawled for two miles at four miles an hour after both of his feet cramped up at the same time, you remember reading about that? Look at Olson, he's worn out but he keeps going. That goddam Barkovitch is running on high-octane hate and he just keeps going and he's as fresh as a daisy. I don't think I can do that. I'm not tired -not really tired- yet. But I will be." The scar stood out on the side of his haggard face as he looked ahead into the darkness "And I think... when I get tired enough... I think I'll just sit down”
Pretty ballsy title for the review, right? Or audacious/outrageous, whatever floats your boat: Most critics or even Stephen King fans point to It or The Stand or The Dead Zone or even 11/22/63 as his best.
I disagree, of course, and I state my case as this: The Long Walk, written during Stephen King's freshman year of college, has more power and verisimilitude than any other Stephen King novel.
In this novel, Raymond Garraty and other teenage boys like him undergo the most arduous of tests: These teenage boys have to walk from the start of the Maine/Canada border until only one remains alive, which goes so far as the East Coast of the United States of America.
It's the old quest of willpower and outlasting others, even if they're your fellow human beings: All of the characters succumb to the problems of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, hunger, and emotional/mental/spiritual pain as they continue on the Long Walk.
The book speaks for itself: Unlike a lot of Stephen King standard horror fare, this is humanity at its basest, truest form; Fighting to survive, even if it means seeing your friends die and not being able to save them, unless you want to die, too.
Buy The Long Walk. You won't regret it.
The good folks mostly win, courage usually triumphs over fear, the family dog hardly ever contracts rabies: these are things I knew at twenty-five, and things I still know now, at the age of 25 x 2. But I know something else as well: there's a place in most of us where the rain is pretty much constant, the shadows are always long, and the woods are full of monsters. It is good to have a voice in which the terrors of such a place can be articulated and its geography partially described, without denying the sunshine and clarity that fill so much of our ordinary lives.