by Richard Bachman
In the introduction to this edition of The Long Walk, King attempts to explain his decision to create “Bachman,” whom he describes as his dark half, a writer more disposed to gloom and doom than the sunny, optimistic author most people know as Stephen King. But I’m not buying it. I defy anyone – other than King himself – to read any back-to-back Bachman and King books, without knowledge of the “author,” and then confidently declare which book was written by which version of the writer from Maine.
Somehow this distinction seems to be important to King, but I doubt that his “constant readers” give a damn. What does matter is story, and that’s where someone – King, Bachman, or the Ghost of Christmas Past – excels. The Long Walk was published in King’s prime (1979) and chronicles a mysterious march undertaken by 100 boys walking without pause from the Canadian border to Massachusetts. This bizarre societal ritual takes place in some alternate universe, but Walk for the most part steers clear of something that I believe trips up so many King novels: the supernatural.
Walk’s ending is abrupt, and the teenagers suffer a bit from “Dawson’s Creek Disease,” in which the boys are implausibly wise beyond their years – quoting Keats, making literary allusions, debating philosophy – but the story itself is absorbing, suspenseful, and original.
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