Continuing my Stephen King binge I decided to read ‘Salem’s Lot’ and ‘Pet Sematary’ both of which were brilliant. However the increasing hype for the new remake of IT couldn’t be ignored and so I decided to read the book ahead of it’s release.
IT is a pretty large book of 1392 pages, making it one of the longest books I’ve read in a while. But unlike many big books (I’m looking at you The Casual Vacancy) its content was consistently gripping and did not feel dragged out.
The plot follows seven kids who live in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. They are brought together by an evil force which thrives on the town, causing numerous peculiar murders. This evil thing they refer to as ‘IT’ lives in the sewers and can shift its form to impersonate the deepest fears of the children it feeds on, the most popular manifestation being Pennywise the clown.
Through the use of flashbacks we follow their story as their adult selves try to piece together what happened during their forgotten childhood and what exactly they had promised to return to 27 years ago.
This skipping between the past and the present was what I liked most about this novel, especially when a character would begin a sentence in 1985 and finish it in 1958, for example:
‘I think it was the same knife he had that day. When we went into the sewers. Do you remember?’
‘I r-r-remember’, Bill said grimly. “Eddie listen to me. I want you to
g-g-go back and tell B-B-Ben to c-come up h-h-here.’
Because of the length of the novel I could connect to the characters and thus ‘root’ for them to defeat IT. I think King has mastered the art of writing and understanding the inner workings of people, especially those of the ‘bad’ characters, for example Bev’s husband. He is abusive to Bev and even recounts a time where he raped her, however we also see his genuine love for her and how he helped her grow her fashion label, reminding us that nothing is always black and white.
The characterisation of the ‘Losers’ was very well done as the children’s’ voices conveyed ‘authenticity’. What I mean is that I believe that eleven year old kids would behave like they do in the novel, and unlike Danny Torrance in The Shining, I felt as if they used a lexicon appropriate for their age group. I enjoyed the idea that only children could see IT’s tricks, for example when blood bursts out of Bev’s sink and all over the bathroom her parents cannot see it. King really plays with the idea of the childish imagination. This is also why IT chooses mainly children as it’s victims as their fears are easy to manifest. Becoming a werewolf or a witch is a lot less complicated than impersonating a fear of rejection or of failure for example.
I also found it interesting that it was the children’s belief in magic that allowed them to defeat IT; Bill had faith that he could defeat the monster which gave him the power to kill it, just like when Eddie convinced himself that his inhaler contained acid so he could burn IT’s face with it.
I love the juxtaposition of the children’s fear of a monster with the evil force that causes the town to turn on each other every 27 years. At first the reader is led to believe that a creepy clown is stalking children, but as the book continues they realise that its more than that, it is an energy that has been a part of the town since the beginning of time. IT is Derry. Although trippy at first I really enjoyed this concept; Here was a novel that didn’t just follow the conventions of horror but completely turned them on their head.
Thus I found IT (especially as Pennywise) absolutely terrifying in his relentlessness to kill the children and its ability to cause the town’s folk to look the other way at their cries for help.
The book isn’t just about murders and evil though, it also demonstrates friendship and the love between childhood friends, as well as a lot of humour. Richie in particular was my favourite and really reminded me of some of my old school friends. For me he completely steals the show which makes me incredibly nervous for the film adaptation of his character. I think the portrayal of Bev was very well done, as I have mentioned before King is very good at creating young female characters. I was glad to see a girl who was ‘one of the boys’ without compromising her femininity. She was just as physically able as her friends and was in fact better at using a slingshot. However, she still wore dresses and skirts and did not reject any references to her gender. Overall she was a fully developed female character whom I could relate to. However what ruined this for me was what occurred in the sewers with all the boys (if you’ve read it you will know what I’m referring to). I really did not enjoy that part and to be honest didn’t really understand its purpose other than to sexualize an eleven year old girl, especially as she appeared to enjoy it. However King has since stated that he regrets that part of IT so I’ll do my best to ignore it.
Overall I really loved IT and am honestly sad to have completed it. Although there was that one part that I despised, I thought it was a genuinely incredible book with enough great content to remain a favourite. I cannot wait to see the film adaptation on Sunday!
Beep Beep Richie!