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The Running Man Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) crafted The Running Man early in his career, though after such mega-hits as Carrie and The Shining. A bit of a departure from the supernatural horror that is most frequently associated with his work, the novel describes a science fiction dystopia where market capitalism and television game shows have spiraled out of control, and the separation between the haves and the have-nots has been formalized with separate currencies. King establishes characters quickly, creating sympathy in the first few pages for Ben Richards--whose 18-month-old baby girl is suffering from a horrible cough, perhaps pneumonia. Not able to afford medicine, Richards enters himself in the last-chance money-making scheme of the Free-Vee games. The games include Treadmill to Bucks, in which heart-attack prone contestants struggle to outlast a progressively demanding treadmill, or the accurately named Swim the Crocodiles. After a rigorous battery of physical and mental examinations, Richards is assigned "Elevator Six"--the path of a chosen few--that leads to The Running Man game. In this game, the stakes and the prizes are raised. Success means a life of luxury. Failure means death. Unfortunately, few ever win the game; in fact, as the producer tells Richards, in six years no one has survived.

The Running Man is a short book, tightly written to be read and enjoyed quickly. The future world it depicts is vividly captured with a few essential details. The action is also fast paced and, though the novel differs from much of King's other work, the sardonic social commentary reveals a pleasing glimmer of King's characteristically twisted sense of humor. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Under any name King mesmerizes the reader.”—Chicago Sun-Times

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (August 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451197968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451197962
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (310 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 103 people found the following review helpful By bonsai chicken on November 15, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It is the year 2025, TV is truly the opiate of the people, and society is divided sharply between the haves and the have-nots. Ben Richards' family is in the latter group. He's been unfairly blacklisted and his wife has had to resort to hooking to pay the bills. Meanwhile, his baby daughter lies ill with the flu - perfectly treatable if only they could afford it. Desperate and at the end of his rope, Richards opts to participate in a game show called "The Running Man." He is to become the quarry in a deadly hunt that will last no more than thirty days. For each day he successfully evades his pursuers, his family earns a large sum of money.
No one has ever lasted more than eight days.
The games network, of course, hardly plays fair. The rules require Ben to periodically mail in videos, thereby running the risk of giving his location away. And rewards are given for any information leading to his apprehension, so Richards is also playing against a bored and bloodthirsty public -- in other words, everyone. The ongoing hunt is very suspenseful, but it's when Richards finally confronts his true nemesis that things get really interesting.
As I was reading I couldn't help thinking that this story was ready-made for film. It moves along at a rapid pace, especially once the game is underway. It's not simplistic, but neither is it complicated enough that it should require much tampering. (I've not yet seen the movie, but from what I have heard they somehow dropped the ball. Too bad.)
The concept of reality TV probably seemed outrageous or at least far-fetched in 1982, when The Running Man first appeared. Now it seems disturbingly prescient. Though the book belongs in the science fiction genre, it is more frightening than many of his horror stories.
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133 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 27, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am only leaving this review for one purpose, to warn you about a spoiler in the intro. Don't worry I am not going to spoil it for you to. In the intro by King called The Importance of Being Bachman, he quite literally tells you the ending. It took a lot of the fun out of the book, and I just wanted to let others know that the spoiler was in there.
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90 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Jo Garcia on July 5, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
So this would have been the first Stephen King book I read cover to cover. I was REALLY excited with the story line and could not wait to start reading it. The mistake I made and am warning you about is that during the introduction "The Importance of Being Bachman" King gives away the ending!!! Not just a "Oh, and then something negative happens" but "Blah, blah, and then he blah blah" specifically. If you want to enjoy the book (as I am CERTAIN I would have) DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION!!!!

Who does that?? Yes, I get it, it has been republished so you want to add a note, but for those who would have picked up the book for the first time (never had seen the movie either so I don't know if it tells the true ending) the book has been ruined!!!. . . I always pictured Stephen King as a smart man. . . WRONG!

So please! Add a HUGE SPOILER warning before you give the ending of a book before the story even starts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joe Kenney on December 20, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read online reviews of Richard Bachman/Stephen King's novel The Running Man, and some of them claim that this book lacks a certain something that relegates it to being the worst of the Bachman Books. For the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would think that. As far as I'm concerned, The Running Man is not only one of Bachman/King's best books, it's one of the best straight-up action novels I've had the pleasure to read.
When you think about it, there are a ton of action movies out there, but not very many action novels. Sure, you have a plethora of low-grade action series, such as Mack Bolan, Remo Williams, etc, but there aren't very many stand-alone, pure action novels. The Running Man is one, though, and from beginning to end it's a thrill a minute.
I grew up in the `80s, and of course loved the Schwarzenegger film, loosely based on this book. Matter of fact, I still do. But the movie just doesn't compare; whereas it's goofy, WWF-type fun, the novel is dark, brutal, and brimming with mean-spirited, hardcore action. Ben Richards, the scrawny, underfed, cynical protagonist of the novel, is a far cry from Schwarzenegger's he-man. This is one of the best features of the novel, witnessing the "pre-tubercular" Richards (per King's description, in his "The Importance of Being Bachman" foreword) take on the forces sent against him.
According to King, the novel was written over a 72-hour period, and the published version supposedly isn't much different than that first draft. This speed of writing is reflected in the novel: it chugs along like a No Doze-popping trucker.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A. Proctor on July 8, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you have ever wanted to read a book purely for the sake of enjoyment, then "The Running Man" is definately for you. Written by King in his early days, this work displays all of the author's talents outside of those involving horror to create a story that is impossible to put down, and prone to numerous re-readings, especially because of its size (just over 200 pp). Just to warn you, this book has NOTHING to do with the motion picture that starred good 'ol Arnold quite a few years back. If the movie did have anything to do with this book,...well, let's just say that it would have been much, much better. The story revolves around one of King's simplest but best literaty characters, Ben Richards, who exists in a futuristic world of disease, capitalism and the all-important "free-vee" that has brainwashed the planet and caused massive seperation in the classes. In order to save his wife and young daughter from a terrible fate, Richards enters the free-vee's most popular game-show, The Running Man, where he voluntarily becomes the most wanted man on earth in order to survive 30 days and receive his billion dollar prize. ANYBODY is capable of turing him in, and trust me, this element alone adds to the story in such a way that causes the pace becomes frantic and the excitement to reach a fever-pitch numerous times throughout the story. Whether or not you a King fan, this book is a DEFINATE MUST-READ. If you want to read a book for yourself and just for kicks, than look no further. Read "The Running Man!"
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