It (1986) by Stephen King

‘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.

Publisher’s Synopsis

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.

My Thoughts

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!

18 thoughts on “It (1986) by Stephen King

      • I’m not much of a horror fan, I must confess 😉 I recently read Horrostor, my first horror novel for a long time. I was recommended several King’s novels which I’ll read one day, and I have Odd Thomas on my shelf, waiting for its turn.
        Do you have a favorite horror writer?

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t read very much horror these days, either. “IT” was my first horror novel for a while. I preferred them in my younger years:) I have always enjoyed the cosmic horror of Lovecraft. I’m currently reading a collection of Lovecraftian short stories by Adrian Tchaikovsky (& two other authors) titled “The Private Life of Elder Things” which has been good so far.

          Liked by 1 person

          • You are welcome! I thought you were a fan of Tchaikovsky 🤓
            Just to warn you that one of the stories by the female writer–can’t remember her name–is one of the most disturbing stories I’ve read in a long while! In a good way. Creepy and stayed with me…

            Liked by 1 person

  1. I read lots of King in my early teens too, and remember that It didn’t really click. The Stand however was my favorite King. I’m not sure if it would hold up to a reread – maybe too bloated. I guess one day I should revisit one of his leaner novels, like Misery.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been curious of IT ever since I first knew of Mr. King but never got around to it; I ended up reading The Gunslinger as my first King novel too. Besides being too long for no good reason, this still sounds captivating and hopefully, I could give it a try someday! Great review and thanks for sharing! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t read any of King’s Dark Tower books. What did you think of the Gunslinger? Yes, there are a lot of good things about ‘IT’ if you can get past the length of it. Thanks for your kind words and your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wasn’t completely blown away by the Gunslinger but I was truly intrigued by the world that King created for it. Mixing Western with Fantasy was fascinating and he made sure to make everything so mysterious too. I also like that there were maybe one horror scene that simply reminded you that the man knew how to write them hahah I still need to continue on with the series and it’s probably what I’m likely going to be reading by King in the future for now hahah

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ok, thanks. If the worldbuilding is good, I am curious to read it. I have to read at least one of his Dark Tower series to see what has made them so successful. Yeah, King has a gift for writing horror scenes. There were some truly scary moments in IT, just a bit too much filler for me.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember absolutely loving It. I recall it being my favorite King book. However, I was in my teen years when I read it, so I do wonder if that had anything to do with it. I’ve not read anything by King in quite some time, and don’t read horror very often anymore. As you’ve said, I think it was the characters that drew me in. I can absolutely understand the issue of length. And I have to say I very much disliked the ending. All the rest I loved, but the ending was a big disappointment, almost as if he wrote himself into a corner and had no clue how to finish it. I would be curious to reread it one day, see if I’d think differently about it, but with the length…. yeah, not anytime soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a teenager I really enjoyed the Tommyknockers but I’m afraid to re-read it now:-) I completely agree about the ending, yes. King sometimes struggles with his endings. But the character writing was fantastic! He is masterful at getting you to like or dislike his characters, isn’t he.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

  4. Pingback: Gray Matter (1973) by Stephen King | Who's Dreaming Who

  5. Pingback: Negative Reviews | Wakizashi's Teahouse

  6. Pingback: The Stand (1984) by Stephen King | Wakizashi's Teahouse

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s