By Stephen King
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In a Nutshell:
This is one of two Stephen King novels that I’ve been able to work my way through in its entirety. The other being the little known and underrated Cycle of the Werewolf. Honestly? I was terrified of Stephen King books in elementary school and middle school when I was devouring the fantasy and science fiction books that would become the staple of my reading diet. I’d watched Silver Bullet, the movie based on the aforementioned Cycle of the Werewolf, back in second grade at the bidding of a friend who was a huge King fan. The movie terrified young me and left me in fear of werewolves jumping through my bedroom window and devouring me up until middle school when my brother rented the movie again and we saw the zippers on the decidedly not terrifying werewolf suit.
By that time it wasn’t terror that kept me away from King’s books. I’d picked up a copy of Cujo and tried to slog through it in a hormone fueled effort to impress a girl in my English class who was a big King fan, but the boredom that oozed off of the pages proved more powerful than my adolescent desire to have a common conversation topic with a cute cheerleader. I found Cujo so mind bogglingly dull that it was a decade before I picked up another Stephen King book.
Which is a real pity. When King is bad he’s really bad. But when he’s on his game his books are nothing short of exceptional. I often wonder if my reading habits might have been different if I’d picked up something like It instead of Cujo. It has all of the elements that the young me would have enjoyed. A group of friends banding together to fight an evil monster that’s secretly controlling their small town? Sign me up.
It feels more like fantasy than horror to me. Sure you have a monster chasing and killing kids indiscriminately, but the way King ties everything into the larger multiverse he was just starting to conceive at the time makes the book feel somehow bigger than the usual fare of monsters terrorizing unsuspecting kids.
The characterization is also a strong point for It. The narrative device of following the main characters from adolescence to adulthood leaves open a wide swath of narrative playground that King uses to excellent effect. Character tics introduced as adults are explained when King flashes back to their youth. Characters weave in and out of various snapshots throughout the history of Derry in an intricate dance that winds up with a twenty-one Chekhov’s Gun salute when everything comes together in the grand finale.
If you’re not a fan of Stephen King but you do enjoy a good epic fantasy yarn or horror movie then It will be a worthwhile read. It might be set in the twentieth century starring a cast of kids, but all the trappings of the epic hero’s journey are definitely there and executed with more skill and more fun than most modern sword and sorcery fantasy novels ever manage to pull off.
The book is a doorstopper, but I guarantee you won’t notice once you get into it.