It sure does suck to be a child growing up in Derry, Maine. Not only do you have to deal with regular child stuff, but there’s also a million year old monster out to kill you once it comes out to feed.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, because Stephen King’s It is a fantastic book full of imagination, horror, and style that’ll satisfy your hunger for rich stories.
The premise of It is the battle between the novel’s main characters, the Loser’s Club, and the titular monster as it preys on the children of Derry. Having faced It during the late 1950’s as children, they are all grown up and their memories of Derry have faded into their mental landscapes. That is until Mike Hanlon, a member of the Loser’s Club, calls all of them, Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie, Stan and Eddie, to come back and destroy It once and for all.
I knew of the story as I grew up, watching the miniseries starring Tim Curry religiously. I also watched Bill Skarsgard’s portrayal recently, and was blown away by it. But while they primarily focused on Pennywise the Clown, the It in the book is more of a shapeshifter, and boy, did it boggle the mind! The fact that the monster has no name makes it hard for the Loser’s Club, and thus the reader, to understand what It truly is, enhancing It’s potential to scare the sh*t out of you.
But it’s not just the monster that’s terrifying. It contains a bulk of human tormentors, such as Henry Bowers who mercilessly bullies the main characters, Beverly’s abusive father and her control freak husband, who juxtapose and amplify the supernatural threat of It. King connects them by their maliciousness and savagery, underlining the novel’s themes of fear and presenting danger in many shapes and forms.
Whatever form It takes is unique to every one of the Losers from a bloody sink to a werewolf. By using well known monsters and referencing classic fairytales like Three Billy Goats Gruff and Hansel and Gretal, it could have turned out badly. But King not only honors his influences, he transcends them. The Universal monsters are simply pawns for It, which has no true form other than what your mind can allow.
King writes this trauma filled story smartly, intertwining two narratives from when the Losers are kids, to when they are adults. You may read of a fact in the book that you may have heard about previously in the book but may not remember, just like the faded memories of the adult Losers. But don’t worry, King’s got you covered, because he structures it in a way that will make you think that you know these people, and treat you to the Losers Club’s returning memories and grim stories.
I do warn you though, if you’re looking for a story you can get through in a week, you’ll have to have a lot of time on your hands for It. There are some chapters that I felt like skipping that do not directly add much to the main story, but they succeed in building the vast lore of It, adding psychological and spiritual weight to the battle between It and the Loser’s Club. There’s also the fact that King has seven main characters to develop over the course of this novel.
So It is by no means a bite-sized treat. It’s more of a feast that not only retains it’s taste, but will keep you coming back for helping after helping. It’ll grip you from it’s grand opening to it’s climactic finale. It’ll force you through some f*cked up scenes (if you’ve read it, you’ll know which ones spring to mind.) There are a few nods to King’s other books too, like Christine and The Dark Tower series, that ought to satisfy you King fans out there.
It doesn’t just fly into my list of favourite books. It floats.