I’ve been planning to read this book for years. In fact I did start reading it once back it Junior High, but it was on loan, and I had to give it back before I got to far. This was my only exposure to Stephen King’s writing until I listened to The Green Mile as it was serialized (yes, it was serialized on audio as well). Since then, I’ve read and listened to a lot of King’s work, and I finally found the time to get to It. I’m not going to do this work justice in such a short space, but I’ve collected some of my thoughts here. I’ve been failing to write reviews of things as I read them, so I’m going to try this to see how it goes.
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.
This, the opening sentence, sets things up quite nicely. The story, which carries on for over 1100 pages, switches back and forth between the present (1985) and the summer of 1958. The device is well used. The characters in the present slowly begin to remember that summer as the events are presented to the reader. I was skeptical of how well this would work at first. I mean, how much suspense and terror can there be in the tales of 1958 if we already know who survives to 1985? Well, a whole hell of a lot.
There’s something wrong in the town of Derry, Maine. In 1958 there are a series of horrific, unexplained child murders and disappearances. Seven children, who dub themselves The Losers Club, unite to defeat It, the creature they know to be responsible. The creature takes many forms, most taken from the mind of It’s victims. The most universal form is that of Pennywise, a demonic clown. Twenty-eight years later, as adults, the Losers have forgotten what it was that they did that summer. All but one of them, who calls them all back when it starts happening again.
King does an amazing job capturing the mindset of these children. The Losers know there are terrible, horrible things going on, but they are able to go about their normal lives is spite of it. It seems odd, but I can remember similar situations when I was a child (nothing so extreme, mind you). When your a kid, having fun is serious business, and you really have to keep at it no matter what else is going on, but at the same time children do have the ability to be far more serious then they are ever given credit for.
There are a lot of great bits where strange, creepy, terrifying things happen, but for me King’s books are always about the characters, and how they deal with the disturbing situations. One of the creepiest things, to me, was the fact that almost all of the Losers were being abused in some way. It’s not out in the open in all cases, and in some it remained very subtle, but as the book progresses, there is a very real world horror underlying the supernatural. Perhaps that’s part of why these kids were able to stand up to It.
For such a long book, parts of it seemed to fly by. Sure there were sections that seemed to have little impact on the story one way or another, but none of them were boring. Were they necessary? No. Would I have liked the book so much without them? No way.
The overall story seems to have some of it’s roots in Lovecraft’s cosmic horror work. If you need everything to be tied up neat and tidy, this book might not be for you. That’s not to say things aren’t explained, but the explanations aren’t all that important to the story, really. The characters are what matter, and they shine here. To me, the real story is about childhood and growing up. How people change, and what they loose in the process without even knowing it.