Whew! This has been quite a journey. It took me the better part of a year to read this book. I devoured 500 pages in two days, then set it aside for months at a time. Which does not mean it was a bad read or got boring, but it’s a lot to take in at once. And Stephen King’s masterful story-telling made it very easy to remember even the smallest details of something read half a year ago. It creeped me out, it made me laugh, it made me cry – the Master did it again!
published in: 1986
copy: paperback (huge!)
My rating: 8/10
First sentence: The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years – if 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 shell swollen with rain.
Anyone who has seen the movie – and who hasn’t? – will be familiar with the basic plot of this chunky King story. It, a strange force usually appearing as Pennywise the clown (though It has a range of other creepy shapes) is wreaking havoc on the little town of Derry, Maine. Children disappear, are killed brutally, and nobody seems to know what’s behind the killings. Except for a group of child misfits who know that Derry is being haunted by a monster. Apart from running from bullies, trying to stay alive and simply being children, they decide to destroy It, no matter what.
Stephen King’s ability to make characters, especially children, come to life, is uncanny. I’ve said many times that my favorite aspect of his books is the way he talks about childhood friends. But it’s not just that romantic 50ies playing-out-in-the-sun, riding a bike, and secretly smoking kind of thing that I enjoy reading. Every single person in this story seems to leap off the page with a life of their own. Stuttering Bill, fat Ben Hanscom, Eddie with his aspirator, and beautiful Beverly Marsh, along with the rest of the Losers’ Club and the bullies and side-characters, seemed so utterly real that it made the events of the story all the more scary.
Which leads me to the horror bit. I’m not one to be scared by monsters but I do admit a dancing demon clown is not my favorite subject to dream about. What scared the living daylights out of me, though, was the very human horror. Patrick Hockstetter’s story managed to make me cry in desperation, shake my head in disbelief and run to get a hug from my significant other because I felt so scared. So yes, It may be ablet to look like a werewolf or a leper or a clown with razor teeth, but It acted through humans and it was those actions that made this a true horror novel for me.
I feel silly trying to judge Stephen King’s writing. It’s impeccable, it grabs you and keeps you hooked. The ending held a few surprises for me so if you’ve seen the movie, don’t be put off – the book is bigger, not only in pages, but in scope and backstory. And it’s well worth the read.
THE GOOD: Well written, fantastic characters and great creepy moments.
THE BAD: It’s a big commitment. If you don’t want to read 1500 pages in one go, do it like me and put it aside for a while.
THE VERDICT: Essential Stephen King, I also suspect a lot of connections to the Dark Tower series.
MY RATING: 8/10