BLOGTOBER Day 25: Review: It by Stephen King
It’s hard to review a book like Stephen King’s It, because there is nothing I can possibly say about it which hasn’t been said before. Despite that, I thought I’d share my thoughts on this tome, because I’ve spent the past three weeks gradually clawing my way through it.
It starts off extremely strongly. We meet Georgie Denbrough – the iconic little boy in the yellow rainslicker – as he chases his paper boat down the flooded street. The boat disappears in a drain, and when Georgie goes to investigate he discovers a clown lurking down there… A clown called Pennywise which quickly grabs hold of Georgie, ripping his arm off and killing him.
Thus begins another cycle of terror in the town of Derry, Maine. Every 27 years bad things start happening again: kids are abducted and murdered, good-natured folk suddenly flip into psychopaths while bystanders turn the other cheek and refuse to acknowledge the truth of what’s going on. The only ones able to see what’s happening are Georgie’s brother Bill and his friends in the Losers’ Club, who have all come face-to-face with It and have managed to escape with their lives. They know that It is behind all of the badness in Derry, so they take it upon themselves to fix Derry’s problem.
However, they don’t quite finish the job, so 27 years later each member of the Losers’ Club receives a phone call from fellow member and librarian Mike Hanlon, summoning them home to defeat It once and for all.
The way that Stephen King crafts this story is impeccable. Jumping from 1958 to 1985, we meet each of the members of the Losers’ Club as adults, following them back to Derry, where we eventually get told the story of what happened when they were younger. As well as that, each of the parts of the story is broken up by an interlude narrated by Mike Hanlon, during which he shares more stories from the horrible history of Derry.
Weaving multiple stories together like that is so clever and it helps propel the plot: for a book which is so long the story moves quickly, even though it does feel repetitive at times.
That’s my main problem with It – it is repetitive, at times verging on formulaic. There are multiple moments throughout when each member of the Losers’ Club will share their experience with It, so you’ll get a similar scary story from Bill, Eddie, Richie, Ben, Mike, Stan and Beverly. By the time you get halfway through the lineup you just think, “I get it, It’s scary. Can we move on now?!”. It works brilliantly at the beginning of the novel when the Losers are adults who haven’t seen each other in years and who are leading vastly different lives. However, when they’re sat around as children sharing stories, the determination to give them each their own viewpoint grows grating (although it does make it hard not to care for each of these kids).
I cared deeply about all of the Losers: overweight Ben, asthmatic Eddie, Stuttering Bill, short-sighted Richie, Jewish Stan, tomboyish Beverly and Mike, the only Black boy in town. They all have their own trials and tribulations which makes them all strong characters, and it’s impossible to choose a favourite throughout the story.
However, the focal point of the story isn’t any of the Losers OR Pennywise the clown, it’s Derry. Stephen King takes pains to craft every single centimetre of Derry, and it’s so vibrantly realistic that I found myself unable to believe it when I discovered that Derry is completely fictional. The way he writes the streets, the canal and the park, you would genuinely believe this is a place he walks through every single day of his life.
In fact, I think the little vignettes of Derry – the Kitchener Ironworks explosion, the murder of Adrian Mellon after the town fair, the fire at the Black Spot – are the most interesting parts of the story. I flew through each of these sections, unable to put the book down during any of Mike Hanlon’s interludes, and then struggled to motivate myself to pick up the book during the later parts.
Part of this is due to the repetitive nature of the story, but part of it is because towards the end of the book it does get hard to keep track of what is happening when. Instead of switching from the present to the past towards the start of the chapter, King begins flipping back and forth hectically, and I found myself getting totally lost. It did detract from my enjoyment of the novel a little bit: he takes his time crafting 90% of the book and then seems to rush the ending, which seems like a waste!
There are a few plot holes which annoyed me, but it makes sense that there would be minor oversights in a novel of this size. I’m a picky reader so it was hard to look past those issues, but despite them I was still torn between a 3 and a 4 star for this book because it is impressive. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending – that scene in particular seemed unnecessary and didn’t contribute to the plot – but I’m glad I’ve finally read It and can give the film adaptations a go.
Have you read It? If so, what did you think of it?
See you tomorrow,