This is a great set of early King novels. Before reading this collection, of the Bachman side of King I had only read Thinner. This was a refreshing change of pace from some of his other, more supernatural work. The character development in these four novels seemed to come more organically than in some of his later works. The problems they face are all too real and, therefore, easy to sympathize with.
Rage was an interesting novel about a pre-Columbine school shooting, which dealt with the psychological ebb and flow of the high school mob mentality. I found it to be an interesting "thought piece." It was amazing how King made it believable that the shooter should garner as much peer support as he does. Also, in general King fashion, it was hilarious when the shooter was able to "stick it to the man" in the ways he felt he was being stuck and thus his grievances.
The Long Walk is probably my favorite of the four in this collection. I love the simplicity of the idea. It is the stuff of nightmares. I love the grit and emotion King is able to convey without having to explain the finer points. The premise is that there are 100 teenage boys set out to walk. If they go below the rate of four miles an hour, they receive a warning. Three warnings and the troops trailing the march will shoot you down. The last one standing is to receive fabulous prizes. No prize for second place.
Roadwork could be my second favorite. It starts a little slow, but King develops the protagonist's character admirably. It reads almost like a game of chess. On one hand you have the threatened individual, whose job and home are at stake, and on the other you have the faceless government project of a road being built through a town.
I have mixed feelings about the final piece in this collection, The Running Man. I came to this collection specifically wanting to read this story and having seen the film adaptation. Ignoring the film and the reader expectation, this novel is still pretty good. The problem for me is that it's not as good. I don't think it is strong enough to have been placed last in the collection, though it seems that they are ordered chronologically by release date rather than on strength. If I had edited this collection, I would have suggested switching The Long Walk and The Running Man for effect.