IT by Stephen King

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 swollen with rain.

– Opening sentence

IT by Stephen King is a beast of a book! At 1,153 pages, it left my arms physically aching when I attempted to pick it up, so I ended up reading the majority of it on my kindle instead (this also made my commute much easier!).

I’d already seen the 1990 miniseries and the 2017 film before I started reading, so I knew what I was getting myself into, but the book had always intimidated me…  Other books this size include a lot of ‘waffle’ and ‘filler’ – and I expected the same in this case and that I would have to skim through some chapters to get to the really good bits.

But I was wrong.

The novel is totally enthralling from the very beginning. It’s clever, disturbing and truly dark – everything you’d expect from a King book. I didn’t find myself getting bored or eager for the plot to advance. Rather, it all seemed to flow at just the right pace, and I found myself desperate to be able to read the next instalment whenever I got a bit of spare time.

For those of you who haven’t read the book or seen the adaptations, IT is set in a fictional town called Derry in Maine, US. To the outside world, Derry is underwhelming – indeed, the majority of people would probably be completely unaware of it’s existence. But, in reality, the town is home to a dark and unexplainable evil. The number of murders, unexplained ‘freak’ accidents, deaths and missing persons cases is higher than anywhere else in the US, but it never makes national news.

The adult residents of this small town live in ignorance and denial of these facts. But every 27 years or so, the children are haunted by their worst fears – and the number of murdered and missing peaks.

In the hot summer of 1957, there is a peak of particularly violent murders. George Denbrough, 6, is found dead in the street with one arm (missing) brutally ripped out of it’s socket. When his grieving older brother, Bill, experiences something unexplained and deeply disturbing in the following weeks… something that haunts and preys on all the children of Derry… an unspeakable evil… IT.

Bill and his friends (who call themselves ‘the losers’), 7 in total, are all haunted by IT. Together, they form a pact to kill IT and so stop it from murdering more Derry children. But 28 years later, in 1985, the friends (now adults) are confronted with their failure, and are compelled to face IT again.

The 1957 and 1985 storylines are intertwined, with King switching between the timelines in each chapter. For this reason, I was glad that I was already familiar with the plot, because otherwise I think I might have struggled to keep up at times, especially as they mirror each other so closely.

And knowing the storyline allowed me to enjoy and appreciate the both novel and the adaptations even more. This book is dark and complex and magical – and I can see why some things needed to be cut and changed for the big screen, in order to make a film that is actually watchable but still remain faithful and keep integrity of the story. But the book is truly enthralling, and I would strongly recommend anyone who’s seen either adaption to read the novel to understand what I mean.

However… I obviously can’t write a review about IT without mentioning THAT scene – even if you haven’t read the book I’m sure you know what I’m on about. For those that don’t (spoiler alert), Beverly, the only girl in the ‘the losers club’, initiates sex with each of her 6 friends in the sewers after becoming lost  (she believe this act will bring them closer together, and indeed they do end up navigate their way out of the sewers afterwards). This has been extremely controversial, and I had braced myself for the shock.

And I’ll admit, I still can’t quite believe it wasn’t removed during the editing process. It’s not the act itself which I particularly take issue with (although I can see why other people have), but to me it just seemed out of place. Everything else in the book is calculated, clever and dripping with metaphor and meaning. And while I can sort of see what King was perhaps trying to translate – the transition from childhood to adulthood and the loss of innocence – I think there were other ways he could have done it, that wouldn’t have felt so jarring.

But maybe that’s the point? The passage to adulthood is more often than not a jolt; a realisation of a line that cannot be uncrossed. So perhaps King purposely made it awkward and different from everything else (I’d love to hear you thoughts about this in the comments)?

Anyway, once I’d finished, I was surprised to read that Stephen King himself described IT as “a very badly constructed book”. As a reader, I disagree. Despite having two mirroring timelines, I thought the book was constructed well. It certainly keep me engaged and wanting to read more – and considering the enormous size of the book, I didn’t find the urge to skim or skip entire passages.

I’d definitely recommend this to fans of King and fans of horror (even though it’s not particularly scary). But if you don’t want to be weighed down, opt for the ebook or audiobook!

Or so Bill Denbrough sometimes thinks on those early mornings after dreaming, when he almost remembers his childhood, and the friends with whom he shared it.

– Final sentence

4 Stars (4 / 5)

1 Comment

  1. I am not a horror fan, so I actually have never read a book by Stephen King. I have caught glimpses of the movies before running away in fear, but I thought that even the books would be too scary for me. I think I might stick with King’s more fantasy books, like The Dark Tower. Regardless, I liked your commentary on the book and the many intricacies it contains.

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