"We all float down here..."
Here it is – a re-read of IT, one of the most haunting and popular horror books of our time. It does deserve this honor, it really does, for King does talented things here – he takes a small town in the grip of its own horrors, its own secrets, and lays at the heart of the town a monster that has no true face, but that does have true intent, intent to feed on the fear and the lives of its towns residents. People in the town belong to IT as the monster itself belongs, in a way, to them through their own creepy makings and acceptances.
I never realized until reading a review recently (duh is me) that King started this book with two prologue introductions to both time pieces. They avoided doing this in the movie, opening with made-for-film scenes, but keeping the ultra-disturbing Georgie boat opening. Here it opens for the adults too in the form of what happened to the tragic homosexual couple by the disturbed and ignorant townsfolk who, through their homophobic violence, joined in without their knowledge with the clown.It was clever for King to begin the book with two openings – one for the adult stage of life, one for the childhood stage. From there it keeps mixing and going back and forth, flashback to reality, reality back to memory.
Some stories were more interesting than others and the first half of the book, after the initial two openings, is consumed by the current adults getting that epic phone call, only to start on their journey back, accompanied by returning memories of past horrors faced. At times I think it grew too long in duration and at times I grew impatient with it, but overall it was an effective opening with the book and helped explain not only the characters as adults, but the characters as children and how they came together.
King always had a great talent with writing childhood, friends, and the magic of youth and coming of age. One does have to raise an eyebrow with the weird way to escape the tunnel with Beverly and all the boys – didn’t make much sense to include that to me – but overall the children’s interactions is believable and is the heart of the story. As adults they’re interesting but they lack the magic of their relationship as compared to when they were kids.
The clown is just creepy – he is one of the most imaginable monsters invented. There were some genuinely disturbing scenes in the book that make this stand in a sobering reality. What always comes to my mind of creepy scenes are small flashbacks rather than the events as they happen – for instance, when in the police station the man is recounting the tale of the clown dragging the body, looking up at him, and then appearing to bite into the guy’s armpit. That was genuinely creepy.
And the other horrible story is told from Mike as adult, of the 2 year old being murdered and the mother hearing the sound’s from downstairs, the maniacal laughing and the toilet flushing, to come and find her child drowned and his back broken. Terrifying stuff.
And of course the story of Georgie is just disturbing and sad. I got teary eyed when it happened, and teary whenever it was brought through with memory. I think Georgie is the trademark of the both the novel and the movie version for how horrible it all really is.
My favorite character is Ben. He was fascinating as a child, struggling with his weight and pining for a girl he never thought he would have, spending the best moments of his childhood in the library, devouring books and losing himself in their worlds. It’s suiting he grew up to be an architect.
King puts the main character, or at least the strongest leader, in Bill. I did like Bill but he was definitely NOT my favorite and I found him lackluster when compared to the rest. I also didn’t feel much for Eddie, who I found whiny and weak but cared more toward him as a child. The same can be said for Richie, who could get annoying with the voices – really. Beverly was interesting to read about as a child but, unlike the others, came alive more as an adult. Stan wasn’t delved into much for obvious reasons, nothing was told through his viewpoint, even when he hears the news at the beginning; it’s told through his wife’s POV. Mike is another big favorite with his love of books, history, the group, the town, and his depth.
So King wins with creating a truly unique and disturbing villain, injecting some disturbing scenes, some truly eerie ones. He wins with character formation and giving each child a sense of isolation because of parental abuse, parental absence, or their own psychological limitations. The town of Derry is so strongly formed it becomes a character in its own right.
I don’t give it a perfect rating, however. As with many of King’s works, I think the book would have been better with more trimming. The story's complex and a lot goes on with it, but not enough for this duration. One of the flashback stories Mike hears from his father took several pages for that story alone.
Also, I didn’t care for the ending. I don’t like how IT ended up being explained (some of it I dug, some of it I didn’t.) Just like in the Shining, I think King made a mistake by giving the villain an internal monologue voice at the end. It ruined a lot of the mystery and horror of IT to me and didn’t feel convincing. Frankly, I do find the ending weak for so many reasons – the strength of the fight with Bill and others, the lack of tragedy, the explanation and dealings with the monster. The character of Tom a bit weak and unconvincing as well. The other human villains, as the bullies, were particularly fascinating in the story and King excelled with writing Henry and the gang. However, I hated the two cycles of animal deaths or cruelty *shudders*
Finally, I really disliked the memories starting to change again. Felt cheated by that. I can understand the first time, but not the second. The second makes little sense to me.
Overall IT is an epic, excellent book that any horror fan should read. It’s awesome in its scope of terror, it’s inventive, original, shattering, and captures the strength of youth being forced to come together to fight something that seems bigger than themselves. Perhaps a bit too long and rambling, perhaps a bit weak at the end, it shines with its beginning, and it shines with its content.
“We lie best when we lie to ourselves.”
“Maybe there aren't any such things as good friends or bad friends - maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you're hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they're always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that's what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.”
Some other King Reviews: