Book Review: It, by Stephen King

Stephen King, It, 1986

 

With the recent release of the theatrical version of Stephen King’s It, a lot of eyes have returned to his classic book, including mine, and the book certainly doesn’t disappoint. Stephen King’s it is about an evil entity, which they simply call It, who can shapeshift into anything you fear in order to feed on your fear, most often appearing as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, as children are his preferred prey. The book follows the journeys of the Loser’s Club as kids and adults, 27-ish years apart, as It strikes every 26-28 years (this is changed in the film as they make it a flat 27 years, despite Georgie going missing a year prior which would mean at least one gap would be 26 or 28 years, depending).

My initial reaction to the book was surprise, at simply how long the book is (it stands at Stephen King’s second largest novel), and it’s clear reading it to see why it was so long. I love Stephen King’s work at building characters and building suspense and the scene, but there are times (and I thought this in The Shining, more recently) where he can spend too much time on incidents which probably don’t deserve it, and it felt like It was like that: certain parts, while slightly beneficial to character development, could have been skipped over.

One thing I loved, though, was the use of the past and the present (from the perspective of them as adults), and the novel does jump from one to the other and it makes sense. Initially we’re in the past and Georgie dies, then we cut to the present where It is attacking Derry again and all the gang are summoned back to Derry from their various new lives and they are instantly afraid. Each of them leaves their family, or overcomes sexually abusive partners, or commits suicide in the aftermath of the phone calls and it instantly adds this fear and credibility to It. They are still so afraid 27 years after the incident that he’s permanently left a scar, and this was brilliant writing. Had we of started up with building the Loser’s Club and had all their journey as kids first I don’t think it would have had the same impact.

Stephen King’s writing is also brilliant; even if he does waffle on at parts he is constantly clear and concise about what’s going on. He generates sympathy where it needs to be, fear where it needs to be, affection where it needs to be and hope where it needs to be. All of the character building is done with a tone that makes you, as a reader, genuinely invested in them. Although I am glad that a certain scene from the book was omitted from the film as that scene felt really unusual and out of place; I get what Stephen King wanted from it, and what he felt it symbolised in its position in the book, but the film I felt handled it much more tastefully.

It is a brilliant book, even if a little long, set out in a way which immediately shows you the monster and their fears, before introducing us to the characters as we flashback to their first encounter with It. It’s brilliant writing and brilliant positioning of everything in the book. Certain parts go a little crazy, and certain chapters felt really long and unnecessary, but still a thoroughly enjoyable book.

 

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