I first read "The Long Walk" about three years ago, and found that it stayed with me for nearly every step I've taken since then. Any walk of a mile or longer invariably brought up memories of the deadly Long Walk taken by a hundred fictional teenagers in the alternate-history Earth of this early King classic.
As other reviewers have noted, just to read this book is to feel physically tired. The characters start walking, at a grueling pace of four miles per hour, early in the first chapter, and never stop. There are only two ways out of the contest: death or victory... and, out of the 100 contestants, there can only be one winner. "The Long Walk" takes place over five days in May, and by the final day, the Prize may no longer seem worth winning.
As painful as your legs will feel by the final chapter, you'll be equally intrigued by the little alternate-history hints King drops throughout the book. With references to John Travolta and the handover of the Panama Canal, "Long Walk" is still very much a product of the 1970s. But when the characters mention "April 31st", or New Hampshire's provisional governor, or the German bombing raids over the East Coast in World War II, you'll find yourself wondering just how the world of the "Long Walk" came to be. Most intriguing is a fictional quote from the "second Clay-Liston" fight, which ends even worse for Sonny Liston than did the actual Ali-Liston fight in our own 1965.
The only thing that disrupts "The Long Walk" is the ambiguous final page. King points out in the introduction to this edition that his Bachman persona did not specialize in happy endings, and of course we know that King writes insanity quite convincingly. I've beem vaguely dissatisfied with the ending after both my readings -- but, taken by itself, the final line is still a creepy finale to a very creepy book...