This tale takes place in the future, I'm not entirely sure when King has this marked for but it sure as hell isn't present day. You've got 100 teens and you tell them that you have to walk at a consistent pace of 4 miles per hour until you just cannot do it any longer. While you're allowed 3 warnings (you’re never quite sure the length allowed before a warning is issued but I can only assume it's about 30 seconds) before you're eliminated, you need to walk for an hour straight to clear your warning. For those that are not math geniuses, if you obtain 3 warnings, you need to walk for 3 hours to clear your slate.
**Oh, and you're eliminated by having your head blown off by armed soldiers who are forever on the sidelines. So, you're under a wee bit of pressure.
You know, as far fetched as this plot seems to be, it's not that insane that it couldn't happen. I know the thought of this occurring today is going to be as acceptable as Snooki playboy centerfold but for those with nothing to loose, why not give it a shot? It’s not like the prize at the end of the game isn’t worth it? C'mon, it's anything you could ever want for the rest of your life! ANYTHING. How attractive is that?
Hey, I'm not advocating that this event be started, from a society standpoint, I really don't understand its purpose. Yes, it could be interesting to watch provided you're not killing everyone off. That's just destroying a segment of your population that could actually work to achieve something. Then again, it's not like the human race hasn't proven they're capable of murdering large numbers of innocent people in the past.
As the story progresses, King poses to the reader - is the prize really worth it? Isn't escaping with your life enough? The truth is all these characters got into this situation believing that they were going to win - no debating that. The thing is, you couldn't even begin to fathom the sheer amount of pain or exhaustion you would endure. Yes, on paper - it said "walk until you drop" (or something like that) but can your brain really comprehend that? With teens, most have a feeling of immortality; that you would be the first 15 year old that would live forever. Death is just a concept at this point, not an inevitability. The feeling that you were going to confront your own death didn't really hold the type of weight that a person of greater age might feel - besides, as I said earlier, there was no way you were going to loose, right? Probably the reason the contest is marketed towards teens.
As of yet, I’ve yet to come across an author who can write such relaxing prose. Even when putting the reader in high tension situations, you always feel in control of the story. Usually, I’m not one for gore or the fad of “torture porn” but King writes in a way that lets the reader come up with his own vision of the situation rather than beat you over the head with graphic imagery. He’s subtle. That’s what I love about him.
There’s someone I work with who says he just cannot get into King because when I describe a book to him, it always sounds “too weird” for him – he says he has a weak stomach. King just uses the walk and the constant death throughout as a backdrop – he wants to craft compelling characters and ask the reader questions of morality. Could you support the walk? Could you be so selfish to risk your life for the achievement of ultimate greed?
The ending. I didn't particularly enjoy the ending all that much until I read online about what other people thought. If it is what people seem to think it is, I'm immensely satisfied. I must say, I'm 100% turned around on it.
All in all, maybe I’m looking too much into it and it’s just a written adaptation for The Proclaimers, “500 miles”. I swear to God, if that song gets stuck in my head again, I’m going to lose my mind.