So even though this might be a blog about my book, there is only so much one can say about it before giving the whole plot away, so from time to time I will do brief reviews of books that I’ve found interesting as it’s something I’ve always really wanted to do anyway. Plus it gives me a chance to discuss them with other people that might have read them, like a bit of a bloggy reading group of sorts. This blog was always meant as a medium in which to churn my thoughts anyway so here goes nothing.
Stephen King’s “It.” (Contains spoilers for those that haven’t read it!)
Never has a book (at least from the ones I’ve read) captured childhood so vividly while at the same time wrapping it in a veil of mystery and terror. You go through more than half of the book not even having a vague idea of what It is and all the while you are given clues in such a masterful way that you are left doubting whether they were ever clues at all or just the musings of children, so much has Stephen King managed to transfer their thought processes to the reader.
In all the book is a wonderful journey back to what it means to be a child, the magic tapestry that makes up the world when you’re a kid and the invisible well of strength as well as fear that children draw from without much thought and which defies logic, which is of course not fully developed when you’re young, though as grownups we tend to underestimate the wisdom of children. It’s still there, it’s just harder to see through our jaded goggles of life’s everyday problems.
The book is set in the fictional town of Derry in Maine, a town so vibrantly described and so well structured that you see it in your mind’s eye. Not only in the book’s main time period which is 1958 but also the 1930’s which Stephen King uses for his backstory but also in 1985 which is when the story concludes. The characters, and not only the children which are the book’s backbone, are made real with their quirks, habits, human frailties and obsessive behaviours that you get to know them, realise how they would think and even recognise some of them in people you know. Eddie Kapsbrack’s neurotic hypochondriac mother a true case in point.
The Monster It is the major protagonist of the book starting out very vaguely to begin with and finally coming to “own” Derry, revealing It to be the town’s very soul, using it as It’s feeding pool since time immemorial, which helps to make you wonder, what chance do a handful of people have against a monster of such magnitude? Finally the symbolism of It’s demise is reflected in Derry’s own ruin by the end of the book, which though disappointing, it is also reassuring as It really is dead now. It is one of the most fun monsters I have ever read about. It transforms based on the person’s fears, showing them what they are most frightened of before it kills them, but mostly It appears in the form of Pennywise the Clown, who is made so real, his description could give you goose bumps. Never before has a fictional monster come alive so successfully and so realistically that he would pop into my mind at random times even after I finished it. He is so multidimensional, deep and unbelievably terrifying that I could virtually see him in the dark when I closed my eyes every night after I stopped reading and went to bed.
The Conclusion of the book happens in true Stephen King style over several end chapters and in a parallel action between 1958 and 1985 where the kids, now grownups, go through the same experience to defeat It, like they almost managed to do but failed in 1958. Stephen King is a master at building suspense and he doesn’t disappoint here; at times I caught my pulse quickening as I read it. It is fully engrossing and keeps you at the edge of your seat throughout.
Now, for the down side. One of my criticisms of this book (maybe anathema to some) is that it is a little too long winded. 1376 pages (kindle version) is a little too much if you consider the fact that it mostly deals with the adventures of seven kids as there’s only so much chasing by the book’s Bully Extraordinaire Henry Bowers one can read before it gets a little tiring especially as there’s a lot of violence. Nevertheless, it is all done with that Stephen King magic that keeps you engrossed, fascinated and terrified throughout that you humour him, if that is the right word.
The other bone I have to pick with this book, is that Stan Uris, one of the seven main children that make up the group, was never fully developed as a character. Other characters that were mentioned much more briefly and which were not as integral to the plot, sometimes felt more detailed and given much more backstory than Stan who seems to pepper the book but not be as explored as the story demands, especially for one that goes into so much length about practically everything.
Generally, in order to wrap this up, some situations left a lot to be desired, such as Tom’s (Beverly’s hateful abusive husband) demise or even that of Henry Bowers, the little adolescent sex scene in the sewers or the culmination of It’s life with Richie and Bill actually killing It, with the rest each having their part in It’s passing but in a supportive role only. In all you don’t get to see as much unity between the group at the end as it is implied throughout.
That having been said, this does not cease to be one of Stephen King’s masterpieces. This book in general feels like the forerunner of every classical horror trick in the proverbial book and I think sometimes we forget how many of the tools that have become cliché in the literature and of course movie world owe their origins to the mastery of Stephen King