‘They float,’ it growled, ‘they float, Georgie, and when you’re down here with me, you’ll float, too–’
I went through a Stephen King phase when I was sixteen years old. It only lasted a couple of years, starting with Misery (1987) and ending with the collection Four Past Midnight (1990). A year earlier and I might have started with It. I wonder what my sixteen-year-old self would’ve made of it. It’s very likely I would have enjoyed it a lot more than I did reading it in 2020. Does that mean that Stephen King is more suited to teenagers? Well, I don’t know about that but I would wager that we are a lot more forgiving when we are younger readers.
Before I go on, I want to point out that I have read Salem’s Lot, The Shining and Bag of Bones over the last four years. And I enjoyed each one of them. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy It.
Welcome to Derry, Maine …
It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real …
They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But none of them can withstand the force that has drawn them back to Derry to face the nightmare without an end, and the evil without a name.
Let’s start with the positives. King has always been very good at creating believable characters. His characters speak with convincing voices and help to ground some of his more incredible stories. I think we find it easier to accept the supernatural side of his tales when we have characters we can relate to or empathize with. Even the characters we hate are often given rich backstories so we can understand some of the reasons why they are the way they are.
It has a lot of characters. As well as Pennywise and the seven members of the Losers Club, there are also assorted family members, the town bullies, and some of the town’s officials. We focus mainly on the Losers Club as children and as adults with the narrative leaping back and forth in time. Some of the characters got on my nerves after a while, but you could argue that this is King intentionally writing “real” people, warts and all.
I appreciated the scare factor of It. There are some truly frightening scenes in the book which would no doubt have been terrifying to me as a younger reader. I preferred the monster in its Pennywise form. To me, that’s when ‘It’ was at its scariest. Some of the other incarnations of the monster didn’t work for me, especially the ending, but I’ll say no more about that. Maybe these scenes would’ve been more effective if I’d read this as a teenager. But I think that with the different manifestations of the monster, the fear factor was diluted due to an almost overdose of ‘It’. You know what they say about too much of a “good” thing…
Which brings me to my main complaint about this book. There’s just too much of it! I came very close to giving up about two-thirds of the way through. It’s ridiculously overlong and filled with unnecessary waffle. It’s even pretty boring in parts. If only King had had a braver editor, this book could’ve been the “horror classic” it’s often labelled as being. Over one thousand pages on a retelling of the old folk tale “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”. It’s almost as if the author was on something when he was writing it. Oh, hang on a minute, allegedly he was. Which could explain a few things. (See his fascinating memoir and writing guide, On Writing for more details.)
Now I realize that I might be upsetting a lot of King’s fans with this review but please remember it’s only my opinion. All of my reviews are subjective to my tastes and opinions. If you love It then that’s great. Out of the books I’ve read by King it is my second-least favourite after The Tommyknockers-another book that could’ve used a good editor. I went into this reading experience with great expectations based on the book’s reputation but came out disappointed.
I would love to hear what you think about It. Please leave a comment below and-as always-thanks for reading!