First published back in September of 1986, Stephen King’s classic horror novel ‘IT’ originally won the British Fantasy Award in 1987 and was listed as the best-selling book in America by Publishers Weekly in 1986. The novel later became one King’s most well-known and well-read novels from his longstanding and prolific career.
Back in 1957 in the town of Derry in Maine, six-year old George Denbrough is playing in the rain with a paper boat made by his older brother Bill Denbrough. When the small boat slips down a road-side drain, George peers down into the darkness below to be confronted by a clown who beacons him to reach down into the depths below. Much enamoured with the paper boat his brother had made him, George reaches down into the darkness for his boat. George was never seen again.
Eight months later and during their summer vacation Bill Denbrough, Ben Hanscom, Eddie Kaspbrak, Richie Tozier, Stan Uris, Mike Hanlon and Beverly Marsh (collectively dubbed the ‘Losers Club’) are playing in the Barrens by Kenduskeag stream.
After attempting (somewhat unsuccessfully) to dam the stream, the group slowly begin to talk about how they have each recently been confronted by harrowing visions that seem to home in to their worst fears. Richie is far from convinced of the truth behind these wild stories, until he is shown a photo album containing unexplainable pictures of an evil clown dubbed Pennywise. A picture which suddenly comes to life before his eyes. Now very much convinced, Richie reveals his own chilling tale of an encounter he previously had with a werewolf. It seems something very worrying has connected the members of the Losers Club together.
Soon enough the seven-strong gang hear of the disappearance of a number of local children, and then the shocking discovery of the children’s mutilated bodies. Convinced that they have a vague understanding of what has been causing these heinous crimes on the local community, the gang take it upon themselves to fight and kill the evil that is plaguing Derry. However, a thuggish bully named Henry Bowers, together with his fellow gang members, have their sights set on the Losers Club.
A mission of self-discovery which will test the strength of their friendship, brings the members of the Losers Club to battle with the evil that has plagued their home town for generations upon generations. A battle they thought they had won.
That is until twenty-seven years later when a gay youth is thrown off a bridge by a group of bullies. A gang who later claim they saw a horrifying clown lurking below amongst a cloud of balloons. Mike Hanlon knows what has now returned to Derry, and makes contact with each member of the Losers Club for the first time since they were young. All those years ago, they had made a blood pact, and now, twenty-seven years later they must all once again return to Derry so that together they can fight this evil once again…
Stephen King’s classic horror novel ‘IT’ is a heart-wrenching coming-of-age tale that is flung to the surface by the horrors that are unleashed on the small community of Derry. Split into two distinct parts, the novel first sets down the story of the Losers Club as they struggle with the troubles of adolescence - from tackling the local bullies, to teenage crushes, to uncaring parents. However, amongst all of these character-building and purposefully nostalgic sub-stories, is the main thrust of the tale - the evil threat that is haunting the town of Derry.
King cleverly utilises the nostalgic nature of childhood with every opportunity, pulling on the readers heartstrings time and time again. Each and every one of his characters are given a detailed and well developed background, with the characterisation lovingly nurtured, creating some of the most loved characters of any of his novels. For a ‘coming-of-age-meets-a-monstrous-evil-threat’ story, this really is an epic amongst epics.
From here on, the reader feels instantly connected with each one of the seven members of the Losers Club. Their lives are all intertwined with each other, with the reader sitting snugly amongst them all. When the novel moves forward the twenty-seven years to 1984, King now has a wealth of love and understanding that he can draw upon for the characters, as they once again play out their individual roles within his terrifying tale.
King’s imagination is well and truly let loose throughout the novel. Although a number of the ‘encounters’ may sound camp or cliqued from the outside (a werewolf, a giant bird, a killer clown etc), in fact King purposefully pulls these situationally-surreal aspects into the plot, twisting them on themselves in order to create a whole new angle for the horrors on offer. Indeed, since the publication of ‘IT’, this idea has been used time and time again by many an author wanting to recreate the inspired horror of this classic novel.
Like with many of King’s other novels, ‘IT’ does suffer from an inconsistent pace that can grind to almost a snails pace at times. This is King’s way with writing. His novels never stick with a mile-a-minute pace, but instead, they consist of a thick latticework of character driven sub-stories that plod along until sudden bursts of edge-of-the-seat action set the tale off on another new route.
The latter half of the novel does lose some of the impact of the earlier ‘childhood’ section, with a larger proportion of the storyline dragging its feet whilst it sets down the possibly over-examined plot. At times this can fall towards plain old waffling for the simple sake of it. However, King never lets the storyline rest too long before another stomach-tightening horror is unleashed onto our hapless heroes.
Although the pace is a little sporadic throughout the novel, the momentum is nevertheless maintained, with the tension and suspense of the final confrontation and battle always looming. The finale is as impressive as it is dark. The final chapters allow for the readers imagination to breed with the text, to bring forth your own interpretive visions of how this final is seen.
That Stephen King’s ‘IT’ inspired a whole host of horror novels since its publication in 1986, there is no doubt (Mark Morris’s novel ‘Toady’ (1989) being perhaps the most obvious example). The novel is a gripping, nostalgic, entertaining and damn right creepy tale, with more than its fair share of spine-tingling edge-of-the-seat moments.
This is a horror novel for horror fans. A haunting tale that will stay with you forever, and one to be re-visited and treasured. Well and truly one of those all-time must reads.
The novel runs for a total of 1116 pages.
© DLS Reviews