Skip to main content

CR3 #13: The Bachman Books by Stephen King

The Bachman Books consists of four novellas that were published by Stephen King under the assumed name "Richard Bachman." Bachman was King's escape hatch--he could write non-supernatural thrillers without "tarnishing" his brand. Three of the four pieces in this collection are stories that I consider some of King's best work.

"Rage": This is actually out of print now, I believe, since one of the Columbine shooters allegedly quoted it as an inspiration and King asked that it not be printed again. It's the story of Charlie Decker, a high school senior who--on a bright spring day--shoots his algebra teacher and takes his class hostage. The story is told from Decker's point of view, as he tries to explain what drove him to this point. However, the truly surprising part is the reaction of his classmates to the situation, and the way that the tables unexpectedly turn on Charlie and on Ted, the BMOC. I like this one because the reactions of Charlie's classmates are truly surprising. Although it is at sometimes uneven, and is obviously the work of a young writer (Stephen King wrote this when he was 17 himself, and it shows...nowadays, he'd probably be expelled for writing something like this!) it certainly has its moments.

"The Long Walk": Ray Garraty is a sixteen year old from Maine who is participating in his society's big yearly event: the Long Walk. One hundred boys from around the country gather to walk as far as they can without stopping, starting in Northern Maine and maintaining a pace of at least 4 miles per hour. Ray starts out excited, but soon realizes that the walk is no laughing matter: walkers who drop below 4mph more than three times are summarily executed. It's a battle for survival and sanity. This is a great story as far as character development. The plot is fairly static (boys are walking, talking, and dying), so we'll probably never have to worry about this being made into a movie, thank God. However, the interplay between the characters and their gradual realization of what they've gotten themselves into is gripping.

"Roadwork": This is my least favorite of the four. It's basically the same original premise as Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, except instead of being zipped off the face of the earth when it turns out a new freeway is going to be going directly through his house and business, the main character of this story tries to fight the man and eventually loses his mind. It's trying very hard to be "deep" and "serious" but instead it is just deeply and seriously "no fun."

"The Running Man": The movie of the same name starring the Governator is VERY VERY loosely based on this story, but the novella is 180% better. In this story, a healthy but extremely poor man living in a dystopian future needs money to provide for his sick child. He applies and is accepted for a part on the television show "The Running Man." The idea is that he has to survive for thirty days while being hunted by both trained assassins and the viewing public. As he runs, he discovers that there is more going on in the world than he could have imagined, and the giant TV conglomerate has its own dirty secrets. This is another really great story, with both a lot of action and a certain amount of character development. This would actually make a great movie, if it were done properly instead of becoming a campy cartoon.

On the whole, I'd definitely recommend getting copy of this collection -- make sure you get an old version, though, so you get all four stories.


Ciara said…
The only one I read was The Long Walk, which I had an individual copy of for some reason. It was the first Stephen King book I ever read and it was so unnerving that I had to find some more of his books. I'll look for the others now.
Tara said…
I love this book! Three of them are some of my all-time favorite King books, but I also couldn't get into Roadwork. I found an old copy in a thrift store that included "Rage". I didn't know it was out-of-print!
Figgylicious said…
I felt almost exactly the same way you did: the first is meh, the second's great (and still haunting), the third is completely forgettable and the fourth is just flat-out amazing.
No Pithy Name said…
Great book, but I couldn't disagree more with your opinion of "Roadwork". The comparison to "Hitchhikers" must be a joke. The stories are similar because they both have bulldozers? Are you serious? The tale is about a father's decent into madness, juxtaposing the loss of his home and business with the death of his son. Damn good straight fiction from the King of horror.

Popular posts from this blog

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CBR9 #5 Borgin Keep by Ron Ripley

I've read the entire Berkeley Street series, as well as the Haunted series, and I think this was definitely one of the better offerings. This time, former Marine Shane and his slowly growing band of willing (and unwilling) ghost hunting allies face their biggest challenge yet. While the ghosts of Borgin Keep are both very dangerous and very evil, Shane also must keep one step ahead of The Watchers, a ruthless and powerful organization who find him to be a threat to their shadowy goals.

As always, for me the best part are the characters. Shane and his ghost-hunting partner Frank (a former soldier/former monk) are joined once again by police detective Marie LaFontaine, who is a very tough woman determined to avenge a dead friend. I'm not as fond of Shane's girlfriend Courtney, but I understand her uses as far as character development.

The plot moves along quickly, and I found this book a little better fleshed out than a few of the previous ones in the series -- while I enjoye…

CBR9 #3: Missing Wives, Missing Lives by JJ Slate

There's a lot of discussion these days about things that are dangerous to women--is it heart disease? Is it stress? Car accidents? Drugs? Serial killers? Trans women in bathrooms?--but it seems like one of the biggest hazards to women are the men in their lives.

This book details the cases of thirty women who vanished. Stretching back to 1976, and with cases as recent as 2007, the women featured in this book seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth, never to be seen again. For some, the legal system was able to prove a case against the men in their lives, but for others, the search for justice may never be resolved.

The amazing thing to me was the stories that the husbands gave upon their wives' disappearances. "So, you had a fight, and she just left the house--at 3am. In her pajamas. Barefoot. Without her purse, or her glasses, or her car, or her TEETH? Leaving her small dependent children behind. And you decided to say nothing for three weeks? And while she was gon…