book-review-itStephen King
Viking Press
1986

Eddie discovered one of his childhood’s great truths. Grownups are the real monsters, he thought.

It began for the Losers on a day in June of 1958, the day school let out for the summer. That was the day Henry Bowers carved the first letter of his name on Ben Hanscom’s belly and chased him into the Barrens, the day Henry and his Neanderthal friends beat up on Stuttering Bill Denbrough and Eddie Kaspbrak, the day Stuttering Bill had to save Eddie from his worst asthma attack ever by riding his bike to beat the devil. It ended in August, with seven desperate children in search of a creature of unspeakable evil in the drains beneath Derry. In search of It. And somehow it ended. Or so they thought. Then. On a spring night in 1985 Mike Hanlon, once one of those children, makes six calls. Stan Uris, accountant. Richie “Records” Tozier, L.A. disc jockey. Ben Hanscom, renowned architect. Beverly Rogan, dress designer. Eddie Kaspbrak, owner of a successful New York limousine company. And Bill Denbrough, bestselling writer of horror novels. Bill Denbrough who now only stutters in his dreams. These six men and one woman have forgotten their childhoods, have forgotten the time when they were Losers . . . but an unremembered promise draws them back, the present begins to rhyme dreadfully with the past, and when the Losers reunite, the wheels of fate lock together and roll them toward the ultimate terror.

At the risk of sounding like some kind of pop literary hipster (although, actual hipsters wouldn’t be caught dead reading Stephen King…except “ironically”, I think…), I read Stephen King’s epic novel before it was made into a televised miniseries movie in 1991.

It was the summer of 1988, as a matter of fact; after years of seeing it on the shelves of bookstores and display racks in the book section of department stores and supermarkets, and wanting so dearly to buy it and crack open the mysterious goodness contained within, but alas–being intimidated by not only the simplistic yet slyly disturbing cover art (to say nothing of the daunting size of the mass market paperback, clocking in at over 1000 pages and weighing a good 4 pounds or so) but also the sense that, if I somehow managed to get through this, I would be at a different plane as a reader of speculative fiction and horror. And at until I was 15, I didn’t think I wanted to make that leap just yet. Also…did I mention the length of that thing? It’s huge, man.

Looking back, reading this back in the summer before my Freshman year in high school seemed to fit in with the overall paradigm shift in my life. The book itself is, in a way, a look at the loss of youthful innocence as one begins the messy transition into young adulthood, and all the horrors that come with it. Some horrors that you have to deal with later on in life. It took me a few months to get through the tome, and while it’s not necessarily my favorite of King’s work, it did resonate with me due to the time frame in which I read it.

And did I mention this thing was huge? Yeah, there’s a lot of exposition and several rabbit trails that King tended to meander down, which overall made for a richer tapestry for the overall story, but there could have been cuts made that really would not have taken away from the story itself. Considering it was written at the hight of his drug addiction, I can understand why there was so much to the story. And the story is a rather good one, owing strongly to the Elder Gods mythos and creating an iconic and intriguing supernatural villain in the form of Pennywise the Clown. And yes, the giant spider at the end of the story was far more terrifying in my own imagination than what ended up in the television miniseries.

Okay, so, I feel I have to bring this elephant in the room up. Most of you who have already read the book already know what I’m bringing up. But for those of you who are looking into reading It, I have to warn you: There is a scene, immediately after the kids defeat It the first time, where they make a pact to come back if It wakes up again and starts terrorizing the town. And the means by which they go about making that pact? It’s…well, I’m surprised the editor let that one get through. It’s rather disturbing, and not to mention descriptive, and I don’t like to talk about it, so…just skip over the pages. Trust me, you’ll know what it is when you get to it. You won’t miss anything by omitting that scene from your brain.

In any case, yeah, I stand by my previous comment that It isn’t my favorite Stephen King novel, but it is one of the more tales of modern literary horror out there. Top ten of my favorites, easy. It helped mold me into the voracious reader that I am today, really.

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