- C. S. Lewis
The Long Walk is the first novel that Stephen King wrote. He started it when he was just 18, but it didn't get published until after he had achieved some success. It was the second book published under the pseudonymn "Richard Bachman".
I have only read it once...when I was in High School and I have never forgotten it. A classmate loaned me a paperback compilation of "The Bachman Books".
Set in a dystopian-future Alternate America, 100 teenage boys are selected for the most popular sport in the country. Everybody tunes in on TV and large crowds come watch. From the starting line the boys must keep walking until only one remains. There is no finish line and there is no stopping. If one falls below 4mph, he gets a warning. After 3 warnings, the 4th time he falls below 4mph, the soldiers following along next to the road shoot him. They will walk until there is only one left. The winner gets "The Prize", which is anything he wants for the rest of his life.
It's a brutal book. As the characters walk, and their numbers dwindle, you get to know them. I still remember being so amazed by how much I came to care about these characters. I felt like I was there. A helpless and invisible participant to the story.
So when "Hunger Games" came out, I wasn't exactly impressed by the premise. It had been done. The satire of the bloodthirsty public watching "reality" TV. People cheering at the deaths of others. Characters who are too young to fully understand their own mortality or what "there can only be one winner" really means. It's a story of perseverance against brutal circumstances.
I'm not recommending it to you. I will never read it again. If it is that real to me now, a quarter century later, I can only imagine what it would be like to read it again. I don't know how to describe how I feel about the story. The experience of reading it (and remembering it) was wonderful and terrible all at the same time. It haunts me to this day.
What about you? Is there a book or story like that in your past?