Novels · Reviews · The Stephen King Project

The Stephen King Project: The Bachman Books

Hello friends, happy Friday, I hope you’re all doing well! Today I’m back with the next instalment in my Stephen King journey. This week I’ll be talking about King’s first 4 early novels that he published under the name Richard Bachman.

I read this from May 23, 2021 – January 16, 2022 (8 months)

The Book (1986)*

This volume includes 4 novels which were individually published:
Rage (1977)
The Long Walk (1979)
Roadwork (1981)
The Running Man (1982)

*this volume included all 4 novels together published in 1986.

  • Rage: We’re not really sure where this novel is going; thoughts seem to be very sporadic and something is up with the main character, Charles. Meanwhile all the characters introduced have been really angry – hence the title, perhaps?
  • Rage: So we learn that we’re inside the head of a teen school shooter; it’s chaotic, unstable and disturbing. The reader wasn’t really able to connect everything because it all felt so fragmented with short chapters and bursts of things happening.
  • Rage: The story is starting to come together; we’re learning more about Charlie, the main character. He’s set fire to his school & is now holding his classmates hostage. He’s a very angry kid, but we’re slowly learning that his parents, mostly his father, play a big role in that. The alternating chapters make the story interesting.
  • Rage: The story is progressing very slowly. At the end of chapter 20 only 45 minutes have gone by in the whole book. Charlie still blames his parents for why he’s the way he is. He’s now also starting to have his classmates turn on each other. It’s not boring per se, but being in the mind of a psycho masochistic can be really infuriating.
  • Rage: The reader isn’t really sure where this story is going. Charlie still has his classmates in lockdown but now wants to know about their sex lives… so then we have chapters that go away from the plot and talk about kids having sex for the first & second time. If it’s to give these characters more background this doesn’t do a very good job of it because the reader doesn’t care.
  • Rage: Basically all we learn from the next few chapters is how sex deprived Charlie is and the crappy relationship he had with his father and how it has driven him to this point – in which we’ve already figured out. If we’re supposed to feel bad for him, the reader doesn’t. It doesn’t feel like we learn much more about him either, it’s just the same sob story over and over. How will this end?
  • Rage: We reach the end, and the ending was so unsatisfying and such a let down. The reader was expecting more of climatic ending but instead we got 8 pages of the after effects and how it wasn’t Charlie’s fault. The reader was left wondering what they just read; the story was so flat and uninteresting.

Final thoughts: Rage: Charlie Decker, mad at the world, decides to enter school one day with a gun, shooting two teachers and holding a class hostage. This story has been said and done; granted this was written in the 1960s, but there wasn’t anything memorable about it. The plot got boring after the first couple chapters being stuck in the classroom. Then to top it off Bachman had Charlie ranking the girls in his class by their virginity, which was really out of place and uncalled for. Bachman tried to give Charlie a background and a ‘why’ he was the way he was, but it felt forced and so stereotypical to blame the parents for a messed up kid. None of the characters were memorable nor redeemable, most of them were just plain unlikeable so the reader found it hard to want to care or read about them. The ending felt cheap and just didn’t do the novel (not that it needed it) any justice; it just made the story even worse. It’s a good thing this novel is not printed anymore because it’s not worth reading.

  • The Long Walk: This story feels like we’re dropped right in the middle; the reader is unsure what this long walk is, but the main character has been dropped off like it’s school & is expected to walk, without dying. The reader is hoping to get more backstory or explanation in the coming chapters.
  • The Long Walk: The reader is having a hard time caring about anything that happens in this story so far. We get more of these boys walking, yet we still don’t know why. At the end of of chapter 4 we get a glimpse of past Long Walks, but we still don’t know the point of them, but we understand them better. King also felt the need to write more strange sexual urgings of a young boy which felt like lazy writing.
  • The Long Walk: The reader is starting to understand what is going on… slowly. We’re still confused about a lot of things but we’re getting a sense of this Long Walk – it’s strange and that’s what’s propelling the reader forward because they want to know more. They also want to know who is going to win this walk.
  • The Long Walk: We’re slowly starting to get to know the characters with the stories they tell each other, since they have nothing better to do as they walk. Most stories are about sex, which the reader isn’t surprised by anymore. The reader is still curious about the point of the walk; the slow progression is excruciating but still intriguing.
  • The Long Walk: We get pockets of why our main character, Garraty, is part of the Long Walk – but it’s still unclear. It’s also still unclear how the Walk works; with each chapter we learn a little bit more, it’s a slow paced progress. There were also some disturbing scenes that made this slightly scarier, which added and gave some depth to the story.
  • The Long Walk: We get two short chapters that move the story along well. It’s more of what we’ve become used to. The characters we’ve met continue on the walk, while they slowly deteriorate as the walk wears them down. This leaves the reader curious if they will make it to the end; the intrigue is still there.
  • The Long Walk: The walk is slowly coming to a close as some of the characters start to go insane & completely lose it. They are all starting to dream about winning this thing. We get a glimpse into how you get into it & it’s like an army thing where you sign up for it & you get chosen, which gives an edge to the story. These were faster paced chapters this week with less fluff & more substantial info.
  • The Long Walk: Some of the characters are starting to lose their minds as the last day of the walk approaches. This marks the end of the second part; these two chapters were fast paced with anticipation on who will survive and who won’t. Aside from weird derogatory comments King feels the need to add, this left the reader ready for the end.
  • The Long Walk: We reach the ending and it felt a little dissatisfying. We learn a little more about the Long Walk, but we’re given an open ended ending that doesn’t really conclude the story. It left the reader feeling ‘what was the point’. The story was interesting but the ending didn’t hold up.

Final thoughts: The Long Walk: One hundred teenage boys on the first day of May are sent on a walk known as “The Long Walk”. Breaking the rules gets you warnings, getting three warnings gets you taken out in the worst kind of way. This was a fascinating story that really intrigued the reader. The concept of the novel was good and different, something that hasn’t really been thought of and that’s what really had the reader interested, but the way Bachman wrote this kinda left it feeling a little flat. There were moments with really great, picturesque writing, but there were also moments where he would make his characters misogynistic with derogatory thoughts and that took away from the story and wasn’t needed. The characters were interesting, the reader could tell Bachman wanted to be mysterious with them to give them intrigue but it just left us confused and wondering why characters were doing what they were doing. The ending left the reader feeling a little cheated because certain events came out of nowhere and it didn’t feel like a genuine ending; it felt rushed and done just to finish it. This wasn’t a bad story, but it could have been better.

  • Roadwork: This novel starts off pretty good; there’s a lot of mystery surrounding why this guy is buying a gun. It’s fast-paced and easy to follow along. As we move a little further in we get an info-dump of, what we’re assuming, is the main character’s life & how he got where he is, which was a lot to take in. Hopefully it’ll pay off in later chapters.
  • Roadwork: We can see the plot and a subplot starting to form. There’s still quite a bit of info dumped on the reader that they’re trying to follow along with. Also, the main character is talking/having inner monologues with himself or someone of his imagination and this intrigues the reader because where is this possibly going?
  • Roadwork: We now know what the point of the novel is. It took a character spelling it out for us in order to understand but now the reader is curious to see where this story is going to go. This is still very exposition heavy and there is so much telling and no action. This was the end of part 1 so maybe there will be more show in part 2.
  • Roadwork: We start part 2 with Bart feeling sorry for himself. The introduction of another character to talk about his feelings of the roadwork being done was good because we learn a lot about who Bart is as a character. This gave more detail for the reader for hopefully more plot progression to come.
  • Roadwork: We’re starting to learn that there may be more to it as to why Bart doesn’t want to move out of his house but he doesn’t want to admit it to his wife or himself. Instead he wants to blame her. We also find out that she never wanted to marry him; only did because she got pregnant. Interesting developments.
  • Roadwork: Bart is becoming an even more unlikeable character with each passing chapter. Then he goes and does something drastic (and stupid); the reader is curious what the consequences will be, or if Bart will be riddled with guilt. He doesn’t seem to have a conscience, but the end of the chapter seems like he might be growing one.
  • Roadwork: The next few chapters are pretty much set up for what’s to come. Bart is living with what he’s done, trying to figure out how much people suspect. When it’s found out it’ll only set the project back a month, he starts to wonder was it really worth it? It probably wasn’t, but we’ll find out.
  • Roadwork: So we spend the next couple chapters through the big holiday season ending on New Years where Bart is contemplating ending his life (and on drugs). We get more backstory into his late son, which was good to better understand Bart but he’s still very unlikeable. We’re entering part 3 and with that comes him being forced out of his house, one way or another.
  • Roadwork: We are now in part 3 and it’s a bit of a slow start. Bart has all these plans or ideas because it doesn’t seem like he wants to actually go through with anything as his time is ticking down to stay in his house. The reader is left wondering what he’ll do next and that’s pretty much keeping them going with this story.
  • Roadwork: Bart has something up his sleeve; he’s bought explosives and is divorcing his wife, is he going to blow himself up? That’s the conclusion that the reader is picking up on. The reader would like to be surprised if he doesn’t do that, but all signs are pointing to it.
  • Roadwork: The reader is still trying to find the words to describe this. For the most part, it ended the way they thought it would. But then in the epilogue, we find out the real reason why the highway was being put in and it changes the way they see the story… maybe Bart wasn’t as crazy as we thought it was; he was still very unlikable, but he was on to something. Interesting story.

Final thoughts: Roadwork: When the area that Bart Dawes lives on is scheduled to be demolished to become a new highway, Bart isn’t having any of it. Instead, he does everything he can not to move out. For the most part this was a well told story, the reader was gripped by the plot and watching it unfold because as much as it was starting to get predicable, it was also unpredictable. The ending truly threw the reader because they didn’t see it coming and it totally changed the way they viewed the whole book. It made them question Bart’s motives more and wonder if he was really as crazy as he was made out to be. Bart as a character was not likeable in the slightest and that made this hard to read at times because the reader didn’t care about Bart, but they were curious to see what he would do next. The backstory we got on Bart was good and it helped explain why he was the way he was to an extent. Overall, this was a strong story, with a very unpleasant main character.    

  • The Running Man: This novel starts by dropping the reader right into the story with no real context. All the reader knows is that it’s set in the future, 2025, and the main character is being examined and being held somewhere for something, which is intriguing.
  • The Running Man: We find out what the Running Man is – it’s a TV, sorry Free Vee, game/reality show & our main character, Richards is a contestant on. Richards isn’t a very likeable character at present, but hopefully that changes. The fact that this is set in the future is funny because it’s based on old technology with futuristic ideas; the reader is slightly intrigued to read more.
  • The Running Man: After his first appearance on the Free-Vee, which the reader can’t tell if it was good or bad, Richards then goes from city to city in disguise. We’re left really confused as to what exactly the show he’s on is about & what he has to do. Again, the writing is funny because Bachman writes the future with a 80s mindset.
  • The Running Man: Our main character, Richards, is on the run from this Free-Vee reality show and it reads like a fever dream. The reader is unsure what is happening until he meets a family and we get a bit of exposition to tell us. Not sure how this is going to play out, but we’re led to believe that Richards is a dangerous man.
  • The Running Man: Still on the run, Richards is now onto the next city and has met up with someone else to help him out; what the endgame is, is still unclear. Most of this was action-filled scenes; we did get a few exposition scenes of Richards’ past to learn a bit more about him, but he’s still not that likeable.
  • The Running Man: When it said “I’m not a hiding man, I’m a running man” in the book the reader then realized that this is all part of the game, to be on the run. The cop chases and using different people to help him are all for the Free-Vee, interesting. This does help to understand the purpose of the book and now the reader is curious what happens in the end when he’s either caught or not.
  • The Running Man: The end is coming, yet we’re still not sure what is really going to happen. Richards is still running and making the ratings for the Free Vee show, people are threatening to kill him, he’s threatening to kill others and himself… there’s a lot of action happening – the reader hopes that the ending won’t be anticlimactic. So far, this has been a very chaotic, whirlwind of a read.
  • The Running Man: The way this ended felt really random because, like most of this plot, the reader didn’t see it coming. It fit the bizarreness of this story, but we’re still not completely sure what the goal of this story was. The last 20 pages or so were very fast paced and for the most part engaging but we still didn’t care about Richards enough to really like this.

Final thoughts: The Running Man: Set in the future, in the year 2025, Ben Richards finds himself on a reality Free-Vee show where he’s on the run from Hunters who are trying to kill him… all in the name of entertainment. This 100% read as someone from the 1980s writing about the future because the technology was laughable in the year 2022. Basically, Bachaman took technology from the ‘80s and gave it weird enhancements that felt comical. It didn’t really add too much to the story though. Bachman also touched upon an airborne illness that was causing cancer, but he didn’t really explore it more. There was so much potential with the things he briefly touched on that really could have made this story better and more flushed out. Instead, this story read like a fever dream and the reader never really had any idea what was actually happening. It was great that the plot was unpredictable and the reader never knew what was coming, but it also made it hard to stay connected. It also didn’t help that the main character, Richards, was so unlikeable that the reader didn’t care what happened to him. He had no redeeming qualities, nor did he have developments. All in all, this novel had a lot of intrigue with no real follow through.      

The Movie (1987)

The Running Man (1987) - IMDb
  • The fact that this starts with an explanation of the movie and the point of the plot was interesting. Definitely a little exposition heavy, but it gets the point across fast and we’re not left guessing like we were in the book. 
  • The movie actually made more sense than the book did – in the book Richards was doing all this for his sick daughter but now he’s not doing this for anyone, he’s forced to play the game so that he can expose the truth about The Running Man.
  • They actually made this into a game show in an arena, whereas in the book this game show took place across the US, which made it hard to contain and hard to follow. Having the show in an arena made for better storytelling and was easier to grasp what was happening.
  • This was 100% cheesy and full of Arnold Schwarzenegger one-liners that had the viewer cackling. Plus, it was even more funny to see what the future would look like in movie form.
  • This still wasn’t a great movie, it didn’t hold the viewers attention at times. The pacing was kinda wonky. There would be a huge scene with lots happening and then a smaller scene and that’s when the viewer would lose focus because it would get boring. 
  • The premise was still really intriguing, but like the book, it didn’t fully get there. For its time, the movie tried, obviously in the late 80s they couldn’t predict how heavily we rely on technology and phones and how heavily the media dominate our lives. If this were to be remade in the actual year 2025 this could be a very interesting topic to explore (basing it off the movie and not the book).

Up Next: Firestarter

     

3 thoughts on “The Stephen King Project: The Bachman Books

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