Pro: Solid story, unexpected finish
Con: Nothing, really. Unless you prefer happy endings.
The Bottom Line: This isn't the movie. And that's a good thing.
For some reason I got a weird desire to read The Running Man. It might have been a combination of wanting some dystopia and the fact that Stephen King is actually the author of the story – Richard Bachman was just a pseudonym. Whatever the case was, I read it, and it was good.
In the hopes of gaining his wife and sick child some money and the ability to survive, Ben Richards decides to risk his life in the ultimate hit reality television show – The Running Man. If he can survive 30 days, he wins it all. Except no one has ever made it past 8. But Ben is an unexpected wild card, and he's going to give the all-knowing Games Network a run for it's money.
A lot of other dystopian novels – especially those in the teen areas – are all about bringing down The Big Bad Society and changing things for the better. This is not one of them. This is, in a way, more realistic in that you could be reading about any poor sonofabitch on the run, traipsing through the woods and hoping to find help where there isn't really any to be had. Yes, this is in the future so we do see splashes of future-tech and hear future-talk, but things are darker, grittier, and Ben sure as hell isn't zipping around in a silvery, flying car to escape pursuers or anything like that.
And rather than be stuck in some arena, he actually has the entirety of the country to run around in. From lurking in old buildings to seeking a way to maybe escape the country entirely, you keep wondering how long Ben can keep up his lead and just how things are going to end. And let me tell you, they don't end the way you might think. At all. I was left there sitting at the final page for a long moment thinking, "Wow. That's it. Huh." Not disappointed, mind you, just surprised. But I also like it. It's a very stark contrast to something like The Hunger Games, or even something like 1984. While it may not be wholly satisfying in that you don't see the whole crap society crumbling and rebuilding itself, it's more realistic anyway since that wouldn't be likely to happen. In fact, I almost wonder if anything would change at all, but in the end, Ben won in his own way, and that's something I'm good with.
The funny thing (and I mean that very tongue-in-cheek) is that this particular dystopian is more relevant today than ever. And not like 1984 in terms of free-speech suppression or cameras everywhere. But in terms of the language used and the way people are looked at and spoken to. A prime example? "They were queer-stompers. Queers, of course, had to be eradicated. Save our bathrooms for democracy." And this was written in 1982. Funny how well science fiction authors can so easily peer into the future, no?
Definitely something worth reading, if you feel like something slightly off the beaten path, or just need another solid story to bulk up your dystopian library.