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A novel by Stephen King under the pen name of Richard Bachman.

ISBN: 0451196716

100 teenage boys are taking part in a gameshow where they have to walk until only one remains. Each contestant must maintain a speed of 4 mph or they will get a warning. They are given one warning each time they fall below the required speed, but no more than one per minute. It takes one hour of walking at or above the required speed to have one warning written off. They are allowed three warnings, but if they lapse for a fourth time they are shot dead on the spot.

The story follows the boys as they progress on their journey, through day and night, across state lines and past significant landmarks. King examines what motivated each contestant to take part in such a trial that will leave 99 of them dead and in doing so he shows how friendships can form between competitors. He also demonstrates how the human mind can find humour in the utterly morbid as the boys make jokes along their way.

An interesting read for its premise, the book is also fascinating for the characters within. The main narrative is from the point of view of just one boy, but King also brings to life many of the other walkers before killing them off ruthlessly. Add to that the General who runs the show, the stone faced soldiers employed to do the dirty work and Crowd, the amalgam of spectators that blends in to one as the boys depart from reality.

Now seemed the time to write this node as it serves as an extreme example of the survival gameshow popular on TV today.

Where are we going?

The Long Walk was the term used to decribe the emigration of the Navajo Indians and other tribes to the Bosque Redondo Reservation along the Pecos River in New Mexico. Colonel Kit Carson told the Navajo that the trip to the reservation was preferable to their annihilation by the U.S. government. About fifteen hundred Navajo were originally sent to the reservation and more were soon to follow.

Although the Navajo were starving and exhausted, the Indians were sent by the U.S. Army on a long journey by foot to the reservation. Many Indians died en route and even more died at the reservation.

The reservation land was barren and couldn't come close to feeding the 9,000 Indians who were forced to live there. The drinking water was rich in alkali and gave the Navajo diarrhea. The Mescalero, another tribe of Indians, and enemy of the Navajo was added to the reservations growing population. This led to many fights occurring between the tribes. Eventually the Mescalero escaped and went to live in the mountains.

The government, in its infinite wisdom, tried to make the Navajo into farmers. Needless to say, the Navajo weren't interested since they had no farming experience and lived more of a hunter's lifestyle. The Navajo stayed on the reservation until 1864 when they were eventually allowed to return to their homeland. Many of them also died on the return trip.

The Long Walk, a book by Slavomir Rawicz

Cavalry officer Slavomir Rawicz was arrested by the Red Army in 1939 during the German-Soviet partition of Poland and was charged with espionage against the Soviet Union. He was tortured badly, convicted in a farce of a trial and sent to the Siberian Gulag along with other captive Poles, Finns, Ukrainians, Czechs, Greeks, and even a few English, French, and American unfortunates who had been caught up in the fighting. He endured about a year in the prison camp before he and six companions made an escape attempt. This book is a detailed description of their trials and hardships as they journey south through Asia, on foot, for thousands of miles. This brings them through the blistering heat of the Gobi desert and the chilling winds of the Himalaya.

Some doubt as to whether Slavomir's account is true or not has arisen. At one occasion the group of escapees is claimed to have gone through the Gobi desert without water for almost 12 days, which would be a feat even without the scorching sun overhead. At any rate the book is an amazing tale of what man can do for freedom, and definitely a recommended read.

An interesting tidbit found in the later part of the book is when Rawicz and group come upon two creatures that, unmistakably, are Yeti, or Abominable Snowmen. They watch the creatures at a distance for over two full hours, before leaving them to continue the journey. Whether this adds or detracts from the books credibility is up to you to decide.

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