BOOK REVIEW: IT BY STEPHEN KING

IT cover

GENERAL INFORMATION

TITLE: IT

AUTHOR: STEPHEN KING

PAGES: 1116

PUBLISHER: NEW ENGLISH LIBRARY

YEAR: 1986

GENRE: HORROR FICTION

COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_(novel)

www.stephenking.com

IT happens to be not only one of my favourite Stephen King novels but my favourite novel of all time. This re-read was my eleventh or twelfth. I haven’t read IT for many years and it was a joy to revisit King’s masterpiece.

IT won the British Fantasy Award in 1987 and was nominated for the Locus and World Fantasy Awards that same year.

IT was adapted as a TV mini-series in 1990 starring John Ritter, Annette O’Toole, Richard Thomas and Tim Curry among others (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_(1990_film). I have the DVD and have watched it more times than I can count.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live.

It was the children who saw – and felt – what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing…

The adults, knowing better, knew nothing.

Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more, to confront IT as it stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.

EXTRACT

The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years – of it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

OVERALL IMPRESSION 

IT is my favourite novel of all time. I’ve read thousands of books over the year and nothing has come. IT is a magnum opus. The Stand is as well. IT shows the impressive range of King’s imagination and skill as a writer. I loved the creepy world of Derry. I loved the Loser’s Club and friendships created by shared terror. It loved IT, the monster with a million faces. I loved IT all.

REVIEW

I think the title IT fits this novel perfectly. What else is the monster who takes on the shape of childhood fears and eats children but IT?

I love the way King structures IT. The novel contains four segments. The first segment deals with the Loser’s Club confronting and almost killing IT when they’re children. The second segment deals with the Loser’s Club reunited as adults because IT has come back and they need to make sure the monster is dead this time. These are the ‘main segments’. These are alternated with extracts from Mike Hanlon’s journal named Derry: An Interlude where he writes about Derry’s dark and disturbing history and the recent murders that make him realise IT has come back. The fourth segments are titled One of the Missing and deal with telling the story of some of IT’s past and present victims. King alternates between each of these segments offering a non-linear narrative. This structure urges you to read on until all the threads connect. King makes this work really well.

The characterisation is spot on throughout IT. King offers us the Loser’s Club, a group of children who are outsiders for one thing or another. Ben because he’s fat, Bev because she’s white trash, Mike because he’s black etc. King instantly makes you feel empathy for these misfits. I wanted them to kick IT’s ass. I was an outsider in school for various reasons including the facts I was fat, I was good at my school work and I liked to read. I saw my 12-year-old self reflected in the Loser’s Club. King would not have created such great characters if he’d chosen to make the children rich and popular. I felt the characterisation of the children was better than the Loser’s Club as adults but by that point in the novel I was in love with each of them so it didn’t matter. Even the villains like Belch Huggins and Victor Criss are well written. Every school has means kids like Belch and co.

IT is set in the fictional town of Derry in Maine. Derry is instantly recognisable at Stephen King Country. He uses this setting a few times mostly notably in Insomnia. King brings Derry to wonderful life in IT. I got a real sense of place as I read this massive novel. I could picture the town perfectly. King makes Derry real in a few sentences. I loved the little details King adds to give the impression Derry is wrong. A man folding his paper and walking away as Bev is waylaid by Belch and co. who make it clear they want to kill her. Mike Hanlon’s journal entries paint a very black picture of the town. His statistics that show the crime rate in Derry for terrible crimes including rape, murder and child abuse are excessively high. Over 100 children go missing during one of IT’s cycles. I got a real sense of place from IT.

King’s writing style is on top form in IT. The novel is massive, over 1000 pages long and almost twice the length of most novels. IT never felt as long as that. The novel is fast paced. I read IT fairly quickly considering the length. King doesn’t waist a single word. His descriptions are perfect. I’ve read much shorter novels that are much clunkier. IT races along. King is a damn fine writer and IT shows his skill in great light.

I love the plot of IT. The storyline is fairly simple – a bunch of kids confront a monster preying on the children in their home town. They fight and believe they have killed IT. Almost thirty years later IT returns and they need to take it down for good. King uses this fairly simple storyline to create a brilliant, terrifying yet imaginative novel. He’s that good.

The children get lost in the sewers after they believe they have killed IT. Bev decides the only way to get them out is to have sex with her friends so they have a sort of gang-bang. I really don’t understand why King felt the need to include this. I just found this chapter icky and tactless. King would have been better off ending this section with the Loser’s Club starting to make their way back outside. I don’t think anything else is needed especially not group sex.

The ending of IT is heart-breaking. The adult Loser’s Club defeat IT but there’s a high price to pay. The town of Derry is destroyed as the massive maze-like sewers beneath crumble. Eddie is killed which is sort of awful because he’s such a little sweetheart. Stan killed himself when Mike phoned and told him IT had come back. Bill’s wife Audra is catatonic because she came after Bill and was abducted by Bev’s husband Tom and saw IT’s real face. The Loser’s Club start to lose their memories, not only of the monster they killed but of each other. I found this incredibly sad. I felt it was realistic. It’s rare for childhood friends to remain friends as adults but it broke my heart. I wanted them to be friends forever. On a plus side Bill is able to bring him wife back by racing through traffic on Silver, the bike he loved as a child. Aww. Boo-hoo. I have tears in my eyes just writing about this.

FINAL THOUGHTS

IT was brilliant. King shows the impressive range of his imagination and skill as a writer with his massive novel. IT has that great good vs. evil and kicks evils ass feel about it. A bunch of misfits take on the ancient, primeval monster that’s been using the children of the town as dinner for millennia and kicks its ass. What’s not to love? I actually cried for a good twenty minutes when I finished IT. I remembered why IT is my favourite novel and fell in love all over again. IT is one of the best things King has ever written.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

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One thought on “BOOK REVIEW: IT BY STEPHEN KING

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