Book Review: The Running Man

The Running Man is set within a dystopian future in which the poor are seen more by the government as worrisome rodents than actual human beings. The protagonist of The Running Man, Ben Richards, is quick to realize this as he watches his daughter, Cathy, grow more sick by the day and tread closer and closer to death. Desperate for money to pay Cathy’s medical bills, Ben enlists himself in a true reality style game show where the objective is to merely stay alive


We start off in the living room of Ben Richards who is watching the Free-Vee. The Free-Vee is mandatory in every home even though it’s not mandatory to watch what comes on it. Usually it shows game shows where people will literally die so that their families can have money. For example, there is one show where heart patients have to run on a treadmill. One hundred dollars are earned for every minute he stays alive. Richard is watching these shows and suddenly decides that he needs to try and enter so that his wife and daughter can have the money because his daughter is sick and his wife is selling her body so that they can survive. He can’t get a job because of his temper.

He signs up and goes through a  lengthily selection process where people will get accepted or denied and selected for different game shows. Ben goes all the way to the top of the building and is selected for the show ‘The Running Man’. The rules are there are no rules. Richards has to run for a month. His family gets $100 for every hour he’s alive. If he stays alive for the full month, he gets a billion dollars. He gets extra for every cop he kills. No one has ever made it a month. Will he?


If this book started with the sentence “It’s the year 2025, I’m poor and my little girl is dying so I’m going to enter in a TV show where they’ll kill me for money” it would be only slightly more abrupt. It happens literally in the first 3 pages with very little introduction. So, when I was reading it I was overwhelmed with a feeling of ‘eh.. okay?’.

I think it’s very easy to say ‘omg it’s SK, he is amazing and brilliant and it’s his book so it must be great!’ so I’m not going to do that. I do love SK. Christine and IT were some of the best books I have ever read but I have to admit that The Running Man is not on the list of great books I have read.

I think that it has a good set up but that it wasn’t executed in the best way that it could have been. Like I said, it was very abrupt and not at all like the elaborate writing style that we have come to expect of him. I think this abruptness continues throughout the whole book. I could definitely have been drawn out a little more. I think the part I missed the most is some more information on the world he’s living in because in some ways it’s very much the same and in some ways it’s very different. Sometimes it’s a bit confusing. Like, I didn’t realize there were flying cars until the last part of the book. Stuff like that is easy to miss.

The ending was.. okay. I predicted what would happen as soon as he arrived at the air port. There were some iffy bits in there. Wasn’t a big fan of the ending but it wasn’t horrible either.


In the very last part there is this same abruptness as in the beginning of the book. Like, it started with ‘I’m doing this for my kid because she’s sick and we need money’, and it ended with ‘oh but your wife and kid have been dead for nearly this whole time, sorry’. It’s like.. what? I think it was an easy out for that plot line.

Same goes for the whole story on pollution. It’s a big thing in the book and it’s very important. But then in the end, he literally says like ‘oh well.. the human race will find some way to adapt’. I get that he doesn’t actually think so and it was all part of his plan but still.. didn’t sit right with me.


 Overall it’s not a bad book, but it’s not what I think is SK usual standard. I think it’s my least favourite book written by him. There was a lot of swearing, by the way. It usually doesn’t bother me but I wonder how much of this was actually necessary.

Concluding, I rate this book a 3 out of 5. It is a story with much potential (as we have seen from the success of The Hunger Games, among others) but I don’t think that this book has reached that potential. I would have liked this book to be longer and more elaborate. Why exactly is it mandatory to have a Free-Vee (also, I would have preferred Tee-Free)  in your home. How did that company get so much power? When and why exactly did it become legal to kill people for sport/entertainment? On the other hand, it does keep you interested and it’s very interesting to see a perspective of our present and future (the year 2012 is mentioned a couple of times) written in 1982.

I recommend this book to people who like action packed, thrilling reads with lots of fighting and violence. Interestingly enough, I liked the bit where he gets tested for which shows he will compete, in the best. What does that say about me?

Oh, and don’t watch the film. I hear it’s crap on a cracker.


Author: EMK

Just blogging away in my free time while I try to make something of my life

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Running Man”

  1. I think I saw the movie. Can’t confirm what you’ve heard as I can’t really remember it, and I tend to remember the good ones.

    He probably knew it wasn’t as good as his regular fare, that’s why he wrote under a pseudonym.

  2. I agree, it was far too abrupt which is strange when you consider that Carrie is an equally short book but has far more build-up and character development as opposed to throwing you into all the chasing and blowing things up.

    I also enjoyed the testing scene most and felt the rest of the book let it down.

    Can you guess where I read it now?

    1. Haha I’m guessing you were on a plane?

      I do agree on what you said about Carrie. I liked it way better than The Running Man for exactly the reasons you stated. There’s no development, like you said. It’s basically ‘this is the situation. He’ll live or die. That’s it.’ If he had started a revolution or something it would have been way better.

      1. Yup! And with my fear of flying it was not good at all!

        I sort of liked that he didn’t start a revolution – it’s a bit 1984 in that way but it definitely lacked depth and almost felt like writing the notes for the better novel he would write if he had time.

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