IT - Stephen King (book review)
year - 1986
Genre - horror, thriller.
IT by Stephen King is regarded as one of the writer's best works and also infamous for causing children to be afraid of clowns, whether that be down to Tim Curry's portrayal in the 1990 mini-series adaptation is for you to decide.
a common misconception of this novel is that it's only about a clown, those who believe this are very ignorant to the wide scope of monsters and creative horrors brought forward in this epic.
The plot swaps between 1958, in which we see our protagonists as children and 1984 where we see them as adults as well as the events going on in Derry, Maine, due to the return of IT/Pennywise. This writing style is very cleverly executed as King seamlessly swaps between different time periods and narrative perspectives/tenses. This gives the book an unique feel in each chapter as who is telling the story and the tense it is being told in changes frequently and to a dedicated reader this will be highly enjoyable.
IT is often considered a horror novel, I think the previously mentioned mini-series is the cause of this misconception. The novel certainly has its chilling and scary moments, however they are few and far between....yet when they happen they are hard hitting. The novel acts as an epic thriller, with a wide story that tells the lives of not only the 7 members of "the losers' club" but the backstory to various other characters too, the rich character development is what makes this novel so interesting, the reader becomes invested in their wellbeing.
Both time periods are fun to read, offering different tones completely, and towards the end the swapping of each time period is constant and frequent but smooth and not too confusing (though it can be, which I will explain further). The 1958 sections where our protagonists are 11 are easily the better out of the two time periods.
IT has a surprising amount of humour and emotion that is often forgotten yet it makes up a great deal of the novel and it makes the juxtaposition to the horror/scary sections even more effective to the reader.
One thing King should be highly praised for is his way of writing some of his human characters so evil that they are easier to hate than IT (the, to avoid spoilers I'll call it, thing that eats children). Patrick Hockstetter being a character I despised for his evil acts, Henry and Butch Bowers and Tom Rogan also being characters so awful in their ways they are actually more disturbing than IT/pennywise. I think the thing that makes them more scary/horrific is their evil characteristics are based in reality (such as torture and murder) something that IT/Pennywise is not, this shows that King can borrow from traditional gothic and horror conventions as unrealistic entities wreaking havoc as well as delving into the dark analysis of psychological evil and deviance, so well written even Phillip Zimbardo would be impressed.
Despite IT's greatness, there are faults, the ending is notorious for being disappointing, its not bad, just after a great 1000+ pages of build up, it feels a little bit underwhelming, for me the issue was that King goes overcomplicated, making cross reference to ideas from the dark towers series as well as Terry Pratchett's disc world series. The ending itself, after what is considered the disappointing part is not bad at all, it is in fact highly emotional and very well written, leaving me satisfied but upset at the outcome to certain events, this shows King wasn't afraid to go with a bitter-sweet ending. Back to the negatives (I enjoyed the novel so much I find myself always adding more and more positives), the swapping of time periods did become slightly confusing at times towards the end and also cut backs to events in Derry during the final climactic battle are unnecessary and boring.
some of the other monsters that appear also are not scary in the slightest, maybe there is symbolism behind the giant bird and giant eyeball...but they are not the slightest bit unnerving, however pennywise the clown, the werewolf and others are good enough in causing chills that I let it pass,
Now to cover the most notorious and I would say the worst thing about the novel, the under age sewer orgy....if you've read the novel you know what I mean, however I don't mind spoiling this part as it is genuinely awful, the character Bev decides to have sex with the six boys (Bev as well as all the boys being 11) of the loser's club in the sewers to "help them" in defeating IT....it didn't make sense and while it was consensual so it wasn't rape as such, it is still highly disturbing. whether you look at it as King making a profound message about sexuality or friendship or that King was simply trying to disturb the reader is up to you to decide however either way I believe the short chapter was unnecessary and didn't fit the tone of the book.
That short chapter should not ruin the whole novel for you, it is poor but it is a small, maybe 7 pages of 1300. the whole novel is enjoyable and shouldn't be spoilt by a small chapter at the end.
Overall IT is an incredible epic that is not only a best seller but a classic among horror fans, highly recommended, but only to dedicated readers, this is not a book you can follow if you only give it half your attention.
By D.A. Clarke