It's a grim and unrelenting short novel set in the near future in which there's an actual "long walk," undertaken by teenage boys deemed the fittest and healthiest. There is no finish line, no half-time, no fouls and no timeouts. Military men in tanks follow them to make sure no one walks slower than 4 mph; anyone who does is shot dead on the spot. The winner literally gets anything, everything, he wants. Like another Bachman book, The Running Man (1982), it posits a terrifying world in which games are played to the death while an enraptured populace looks on. The boys themselves succumb to their physical and mental limitations as well as the psychological tensions that arise between the last few Walkers. Its allegorical nature and ambiguous ending align The Long Walk with such maddening young adult fiction as I Am the Cheese and Lord of the Flies.
I was probably 14 or so when I read it, and it was a disturbing read, totally unlike King's horror novels. Probably not even fair to compare it to King's books because at the time, no one knew Bachman was his pseudonym. Now the book I really want to track down is an original copy of Bachman's Rage (1977), which King has let go completely out of print. Anybody got a spare $200 for an old paperback?