Book Review: It — Stephen King
Is there really anything more about this book that can be said? So much has been said already in regards to it. It is probably one of the most instantly recognizable and treasured books that King has written in his career, right along with The Shining, The Stand, Carrie and Misery, not only for it’s character as a story, but also for it’s immense size. But for the sake of review, we’ll give a quick synopsis.
It is a book that takes place in Derry, Maine, where a pathological malevolent being with the ability to tailor it’s shape and form to whatever the victim fears the most, is systematically and brutally murdering young children and terrorizing the ones that are left alive. The book takes place in two timelines, that of 1958 and 1985, where a group of seven misfits known as the Loser’s Club face It as children, and then are called upon again to stop It as adults. The two timelines are unfolded simultaneously, and woven together in the narrative as the adult Losers regain the memories they lost from the summer of 1958 when they first faced the monster of their and our, worst nightmares.
The book is written in a white-heat pace. In fact, I could see King perched over his word processor late into the night writing this massive work easily. This is just that kind of book, and while it moves fast, it also doesn’t hesitate to stop and smell the roses every now and then, which made for a balanced and enjoyable experience.
There is a heavy presence of King’s probably biggest strength and weakness, which is his manner of writing in a lot of words what could be said in much fewer. This oftentimes works for King, and is something that can keep you cringing in expectation for about a hundred pages, or it can have you cringing that there’s still a hundred pages to go, it really just depends on how you take it. It was a help in this one mostly, because it left room for the characters to breathe and move around within the story, making them rich and real. This also in some cases shoot’s King’s story in the foot and makes it a trudge through a lot of words with little meaning sometimes.
The book takes place mostly in the minds and hearts of seven children who are joined together by an outside force to face a dark and destructive enemy. That’s something that may seem a little exhausted, but the writing of the characters in this book breathes wonderful, sweet life into the tired convention. The kids are about as real and believable as the ones who live down the street from me, and in so many ways, they are just like me. Which is the beauty of King’s writing in so many ways, and it is exemplified in this book, and it is that he characterize anything in such a way that you feel like these were your friends that you ran with when you were a kid, and you used to pretend that way and used to be scared that way. But then, that’s exactly what the book is about.
Contrary to popular opinion, It, is not about Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Not in the slightest, and it’s also not about Stan Uris, Beverly Marsh, Ben Hanscomb, Bill Denbrough, Mike Hanlon, Eddie Kasbrak, and Richie Tozier — well, in a way. The book is about all of them as characters, but the book frankly goes much deeper than that. It’s about childhood, wonder, amazement, fear, love, hate, bigotry, growing up, the loss of innocence, forgetting, remembering, friendship and freedom. It, though titled after a monster, is about humanity: our humanity. That’s what makes the book a masterpiece. While the book is populated by malevolent spirits, it is also a book filled with living, breathing people who are capable of the most disturbing and wretched evil. There are heroes as well, and while there are supernatural entities that help our heroes along, the greatest courage and integrity shown is from a group of friends that really love each other in a way only kids can.
That is what keeps me thinking about the book long after I put it down, and what will probably follow me for a long time. I have tried to explain to people the value of the book, but as the old proverb goes, some things are better felt than telt. This is one of them, you can’t appreciate the full and beautiful scope of the book until you read it, and feel it’s humanity.
There are some pretty glaring flaws in the plot, and some things that were frankly quite over the top and morally objectionable, but the book itself stands as a masterpiece in literature, warts and all. In a few years I might give it another go.
On my second go-around with this book, I have found it to be every bit as good as when I first ventured through it’s pages while in high school. This was the third King book I read originally, and after a while of collecting and reading his work, I still see this as one of his greatest, not just because of it’s scares, but because of it’s scope and meaning. This is a book that has reached deeply into the soul of many people and affected everyone who has let it. IT, has certainly done so with me.