Stephen King’s IT

Ever since I first met my wife and we started hanging out almost 7 years ago, she has pretty consistently harassed me read her favorite book, IT.  I had never read any Stephen King before I met her, I never have been into horror movies so I figured I wouldn’t really be into his books.  But after taking the plunge and reading several of his novels and having watched many Movies and Mini-series based on his works, I decided it was time to take the plunge and finally read IT.  I recently bought the 25th anniversary edition of IT, from Cemetery Dance, for Ellie’s birthday and after letting her read the crap out of it I started IT myself.

25th Anniversary Edition from Cemetery Dance

I do regret not buying the signed edition of the 25th anniversary edition though, it was pretty expensive but I have been searching for a SK signed book for Ellie for quite a while.  I decided not to get it and just order the normal version when Ellie sent me a link to the signed version the day after I had ordered it.  She desperately wanted the signed edition, so I decided I would cancel my order and dub up on the signed edition.  But as fate would have it the signed editions were sold out within mere hours of the announcement of their sale, I kicked myself then for not ordering it when I had the chance and kicked myself later when I looked up the price of a signed copy on Abebooks and it was over double the original price I would have paid.  Nothing we can do now except to hunt down SK and get the autograph ourselves.  We have been to Maine and Bangor, where SK lives, before but we couldn’t find his house because there was no wireless and this was before smartphones, but we plan to go back.

Paul Bunyan statue in downtown Bangor, Maine

Before I proceed any further I would like to offer a warning to those who have not read or seen the mini series based on IT.

Stephen King’s IT is ultimately a story about crossing the bridge from childhood into adulthood.  The afterword in the 25th anniversary edition by SK himself gives a very detailed explanation about why certain things in the book were the way they were.  The infamous sex scene towards the end between Beverly and the 6 boys who make up their magnificent gang of 7 is one that many people have complained about and thought was unnecessary and kind of came out of nowhere.  I had heard Ellie discussing this some and read articles on the internet about the most inappropriate/unnecessary scenes in peoples favorite novels so I was prepared to read about it.  Even before reading SK’s afterword in which he basically states that the reason he made that the last scene in the book when they were all together as kids the sex scene, because sex is such an important part of making that journey from child to adult, I had come to a similar conclusion and it made sense for me to be there.  I don’t think it was distastefully done or unnecessary myself and made perfect sense  in the position they were in, lost in the sewers beneath the town of Derry, confused and out of sorts from just having battled a magical creature that was basically controlling and feeding off their entire town.  Beverly had to get them grounded and get all their heads back on straight or they would have died down there.  Eddie had lost his sense of direction and they were basically doomed so she sort of came to the rescue for all of them in my opinion.  To each their own though, I thought the scene worked well and wasn’t that unusual or creepy.

There are many things I greatly enjoyed about the book and SK’s writing, and only a few things I really didn’t like.  His storytelling is absolutely magical in this book and even though in usual SK style the book started pretty slow, it ramped up and got its hooks into me pretty quickly.  I could not stop thinking about the book or wanting to read it after a short period of time, and even though I am a slow reader and it took me weeks to finish the book, and not days, I could see myself rereading it in a weekend.  One of the more interesting facets of the novel is that it takes place in two different time periods.  SK really did well in transitioning from one era to the next and I really enjoyed the part when they were kids, more than when they were adults I would say.  IT is sort of a demon in the book, King even refers to IT as a Glammer at one point, which is an evil spirit/spell/witchcraft.  Actually after thinking about it I would probably describe IT as an evil Demi-god that feeds on death and destruction.  Every 27 or so years, since before humans even existed on Earth, the creature IT had setup shop on the spot of what would become known as the town of Derry.  The town of Derry is very much an entity in and of itself in the book, something that I thought was really lacking from the mini-series.  After they finally destroy IT when they are adults at the end of the book the town basically collapses in on itself and I now wonder why this had not been included in the mini-series.  IT is a part of the town and a part of its inhabitants, as Mike Hanlon interviews the residents and finds more information about Derry’s dark and very disturbing past, many of the people he talks to nonchalantly mention the clown.  Mike always tries to ask in a round about way if there was anything strange or anyone strange they remember seeing during things like the fire at The Black Spot, the explosion at the Ironworks factory, or the killing of a notorious gang that was on its way into town.  Every single person mentions the clown or seeing very very strange things as the events were happening.  The adults seems to be sort of under its spell, and even though the kids can see IT and see things the adults cannot they seem pretty helpless to stop being murdered by IT and fed upon by its evilness.  The reign of terror always ends with some very large catastrophic event, the 3 I mentioned earlier were all ends to the reign of terror before IT goes to sleep for 27 or so years and SK mentions many more instances in the book.

My favorite scene from the book is when young Mike Hanlon visits the ruins of the Ironworks in the 1950’s and gets attacked by the giant bird, coming in close second was the final battle between IT and the adult versions of all the kids in which they partake in the ritual of Chud and finally defeat the creature.  The Paul Bunyan statue scene and the scene where they finally make their way through the tiny door into the lair of IT, when they are kids, and experience the creature and fight it is also one of my favorites.  Anything that happens in the Barrens when they were kids is also good stuff and the killing of Patrick Hockstetter and the scene with the fridge and the giant bugs was one of the scariest.

Illustration from 25th Anniversary Edition of IT

Henry Bowers is seriously insane and scary as a kid and the mini-series really didn’t do justice to just how bat-shit crazy his character really was.   Neibolt street and the gang of 7’s various adventures there were also some of my favorites and I know I am rambling on but there are countless others I could discuss and talk about for way too long.  I really only had one problem with the book overall and that was the fact that they all forgot at the end and couldn’t even really remember each others names.  After several discussions with my wife about this fact I feel more comfortable with why it was this way, but I still do not like it.  It really cheapened their experiences and what they went through for me.  They make the best friends of their life, deal with some of the craziest stuff anyone could ever imagine, fight this mythical Demi-god creature, not once but twice, ultimately killing it and setting their town free and then they all go their separate ways and forget all about IT, each other, and their accomplishments.  That was my only real  problem with the book and other than that IT is hands down one of the best novels I have ever read, and probably ever will read.

I have mentioned the mini-series a few times already but I want to discuss it in more detail, mainly to complain about how it does absolutely no justice to the book at all.  I have watched the mini-series countless times, because Ellie loves it and wants to watch it constantly.  We misplaced our copy somehow so we had to go get a new one recently after I had finished the book so we could give it another re-watch.  I must note though they are working on re-making the book into 2 movies, as I type this, they will be rated R and I have high hopes that they will bring justice to the book, at least more than the mini-series did.  The mini-series actually has quite a bit of talent in it, actors that have gone on to do some amazing things.  Seth Green, Jonathan Brandis (RIP), and John Ritter (RIP) to name a few.  Before reading the book I was always entertained by the mini-series and enjoyed it, except for the end which was pretty hokey and ridiculous.  But now after reading the book they left out sooooo much that could have made it way better.  I know their were budget constraints and it had to be made for a TV audience and CGI wasn’t as good back then but so many parts were just left out.  The Mike Hanlon bird scene, all the background into previous events that IT was involved in, they were mentioned but never shown, actually now that I think about it they seemed to mention things a lot that were in the book but didn’t show them.  Bowers wasn’t evil enough as a kid and they left out many of the battles that he and his gang had with the gang of 7.  Patrick Hockstetter and his murder were completely left out and when they fought it in the sewers as kids it was totally different than when they were adults.  There was no mention of the turtle in the movie, Niebolt street, the standpipe or countless other little bits of awesome from the book.  The mini-series is decent if you haven’t read the book but I find it hard to not be disappointed in it now that I have read IT.

I have rambled on for long enough so I will leave you with this, if you have not read IT and even have the slightest inclination to do so, go pick it up now and make it the next book you read, you will not be disappointed.

P.S.  I have started The Andromeda Strain to begin the Micheal Crichton Experience, I am very excited to kick the project off.  I have also started listening to Stephen King’s The Stand in the car, because let’s face it I have 40 minutes minimum each way to and from work and listening to The Stand is much better than zoning out to sports talk radio.