Tel: (0113) 244 1500 Discussing: The Running Man - Richard Bachman/Stephen King BLURB
The Running Man is set within a dystopian future in which the poor are seen more by the government as worrisome rodents than actual human beings. The protagonist of The Running Man, Ben Richards, is quick to realize this as he watches his daughter, Cathy, grow more sick by the day and tread closer and closer to death. Desperate for money to pay Cathy’s medical bills, Ben enlists himself in a true reality style game show where the objective is to merely stay alive
This was a wide-reached and
rambling conversation that touched on so many different societal aspects that I
can’t possibly reflect it all here. Additionally, we all had our
pop-culture-referencing heads on and we mentioned a plethora of other books, TV
shows and real life events from Jasper Fforde to Alan Partridge; Al Jazeera to
Fox News; X Factor to CPS so apologies in advance if I missed out on something
For the most part, we quite
liked Ben Richards. Although his life was far removed from our own; we
understood his motivations. He was a sympathetic character despite his
personality (and behaviour) but more importantly he was an excellent guide to
his world for the reader. Of particular enjoyment for the majority of us were
his daily video updates which were amusing and informative in different
measure. His set up was so pathetic and
tragic – yet we could also recognise that there are thousands across the world
that live under very similar and worst circumstances. Ironically, in real life
where people live in such vulnerability; there aren’t really any opportunities
like the game to better your lot in life. It's never a good sign when you consider adding things from a DYSTOPIA into the actual world.
Regarding his treatment by
the state – fitting him up as a criminal mastermind, portraying his wife in a
less than flattering light nationally, using him as a vent for a society that
seems to have no outlet – we barely commented on it. It would appear that our
little group members have become inured to our politicians and journalists
being consistently less than honest with us on a daily basis. At this we HAD to
head off on a little Leveson rant!
To be honest, we were more
surprised that there were any willing to assist Ben on the run at all. While
there were clear lines of delineation between the have’s and have nots; there
were many incentives beyond the purely financial to reporting him. Having said
that; I personally enjoyed the idea that those under the bread line were
incentivised to work against ‘the man’ and would offer him what little support
As afficiaonados of the dystopian
genera; we shared a wry smile as the contrasting way that books or libraries or
literature were portrayed as opposed to television. Libraries – therefore knowledge – was reserved for the wealthy.
It was only by ‘liberating’ this knowledge that the resistance in Boston was
able to develop nose filters for the toxic air, for example. This appears – understandably – to be one of
the hallmarks of dystopia and while we do enjoy the feeling of kindship with
other readers, we also saw it as a sign of narcissism – in this future –
authors remain relevant and part of the solution. It’s obviously not as clunky
in the book as I’ve phrased it here, but we still picked up on it!
We couldn’t quite agree on the
air filtration sub-plot. For some of us, the state of the air was seen as an
example of all the things going wrong in that nation – air in Boston, perhaps
water in New York, transport in Washington? For others it felt like an
un-necessary element tacked on to enforce the ‘badness’ of the ruling elite and
social conditions. The book was already relevant; it felt like over kill.
Throughout the book, there
are repeated derogatory references made towards race, gender and sexual
orientation that struck each of us differently. For some; the terms used
quickly create a social framework – and the offensive wordage was effective in
allowing us to see a bigger picture, beyond the mis-adventures of Ben Richards.
For others – notably those who were more familiar with Stephen King – the
language used repeats a pattern utilised in other of his series such as Dark
Tower. This could be a stylistic foible of the author – though as he was trying
to write as Bachman not King there were a few book clubbers who found that
Throughout our conversation,
repeated references were made to the Arnie film version. Those that had watched
the film were staggered by how different a vision of the world it was and yet
how many of the essential concepts were successfully translated from the page
to the screen. In fact, I wasn’t alone in finding a new found appreciation for
the 1987 production. Ben Richards might be ‘as far away from the Arnold
Schwarzenegger character in the movie as you can get’ (Stephen King); however those
secondary aspects that were included seem more or less the same, though with
far less emphasis on screen.
It was hilarious trying to
explain the set up to those who had only encountered the book. After all, the
starting point must be ‘so it’s Arnie - wearing this mad shiny yellow one-piece
– and he is forced to compete in a deadly game; punishment for a crime he did
not commit and everything is put on telly…’ dum dum DUM!!
Only one person guessed the
outcome from the outset – which was a touch disappointing for them. The
majority of us responded well to the countdown style structure of the book;
seeing it as an effective way to build up tension and momentum as the book
reaches its inevitable and explosive conclusion. However, there were some
moments that seemed very unrealistic which jarred with the flow.
We had a great discussion
about the political apathy of our age – recognising that we are far more likely
within this society to vote for the outcome of a reality tv show than in our
political elections; though we couldn’t quite agree on whether we were quite as
callous as is described in the book! Once again, Black Mirror was used as a
great companion/comparison piece during our chat.