Book Report: It by Stephen King (1986)

I inherited this book from my aunt, whose legacy filled my to-read shelves with horror and mystery novels. I’m growing to enjoy Stephen King and Dean Koontz, so their presence in my library is welcome. Stephen King is an American master, truly, whose books will be read hundreds of years in the future assuming 1) people still read books, and 2) all American texts have not been burned.

First of all, this book is a book without antecedent. Not precedent, but antecedent. When I tried talking about it with my beautiful wife during our evening rambles around the subdivisions in our neighborhood, she couldn’t always understand what I was talking about when I referred to It. So I had to say Stephen King’s It, like I was titling the miniseries and hoping the name Stephen King would draw viewers which the title alone would not.

The book is not without its flaws. This comes from King’s Epic period, which spawned The Stand and the beginning of the mercifully-split Dark Tower series. This book weighs in at over 1100 pages, and I hit the AKM (Anna Karenina Moment, wherein the reader realizes he’s read enough to have completed one long novel and realizes that he’s got the equivalent of one or more novels to go–and is tempted to read one or more complete novels instead). The quality of the writing doesn’t suffer, really, but the quantity tends to overwhelm it.

The book deals with seven youths who confront an eldritch, foetid horror in Derry, Maine, in 1958, and when the eldritch, foetid, other-worldly horror resurfaces in 1985, the middle-aged children of Derry return to confront it again without the imagination of youth to protect them from unreality.

I survived the AKM and pressed on. King weaves a lot of detail into the setting, and even the minor characters take on three and sometimes three-and-a-half dimensions. Still, this adds bulk that wouldn’t be afforded to a first-time novelist; agents and editors would bounce this proposal back from anyone but Stephen King. The main characters get their own sections and chapters and great detail. However, I’m not a first time King reader, so I was reading along trying to guess who wouldn’t make it. Life, and King, are cruel that way; just when you get to liking someone, a monster rises from the depths and rips off his or her head.

Still, somewhere after page five hundred pages, the pace picks up and rushes toward a hundred page climax and forty page dénouement. Overall, I’m pleased with the book and even have the strange desire to see the 1990 television movie equivalent which features Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown–that man has actorial chutzpah.

Still, one has to wonder what Stephen King was thinking when he concocted the plot. Did he say to himself, what this book really needs to drive its theme home is group sex in the sewers among eleven and twelve year olds? Because I could have entirely left that little bit out without really corrupting the story.

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