Much like the titular monster that lurks within its pages, this book is many things. It's terrifying, it's sweet, it's disturbing, it's sad. But most of all, It is amazing!
The town of Derry is haunted by an evil with thousands of faces. With the entire town caught in the horrible creature's grasp, some of the residents are forced to confront their greatest nightmares, while others are forced to become
the nightmares! Many years ago, a group of seven outcast children believed they had discovered the secret to ridding Derry of the terrible monster they knew only as "It". But when the murders start again 28 years later, they realize they were wrong. Now, the former "Losers' Club" returns to Derry to finish what they started, but there's one major problem...this time, It's ready for them!
This book has been on my "I've gotta check that out someday"
list for years! I heard amazing things about it, but I wasn't sure if it had anything new to offer me, as I was under the impression that it was basically 1,000+ pages of people being terrorized by a clown. Let's fact it, as anyone who's known me for more than 5 minutes is already aware, reading about creepy clowns isn't exactly a rarity for me!
But I'm glad I finally gave this book a chance, because it's about more than just pop-culture phenomenon Pennywise the Clown. Soooooo
much more! Yes, this book is primarily a horror novel, and Stephen King's imagination is at full force in this one. He never runs out of creative ways to make readers afraid to turn the page, yet also enthralled enough to brave forward. But there's also a lot of depth to this story, as well. I was very impressed with the amount of detail King explored in the lives of the 7 self-proclaimed "losers". Each of the seven is flawed but likeable. Each of them have their own distinct personalities and they have all had to cope with their own unique tragedies. The way King goes back and forth between childhood and adulthood, and the way all of them tell certain chapters through their own points of view, I was reminded of George R. R. Martin's masterful storytelling technique in his epic "A Song Of Ice And Fire" series.
I was also impressed by how King explored so many themes throughout the novel. The flashback sequences really capture both the magic and horrors of childhood. The bond that quickly grows between the Losers' Club is very heart-warming, and there are many sweet and tender moments throughout. But they also have to cope with terrible things, like abuse, alienation and bullying. And the present-day sequences are very effective as well, as they illustrate how our childhoods often shape who we become as adults. And while there is certainly plenty of supernatural horror to be found in these pages, King is at his most effective when he explores real-life horror! Spousal abuse, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, all these things are present in the story, and they are much more disturbing than any of the ghosts or movie monsters that show up. King makes a powerful statement on how real-life people whose minds are poisoned by hatred and prejudice are far more terrifying than any book that sits on the horror shelves!
Throughout most of this book, I only had one minor quibble, and that was in regards to how much detail King provided in the backstories. Yes, I understand how pacing works, and obviously, if scary things happen on every single page, they quickly lose their impact, so I could appreciate what King was going for. But I still felt too many segments dragged at parts. Mike Hanlon's sequences particularly suffer from this...one flashback involving him and his father driving together meandered so long, I was ready to scream, "They were close, Stephen, we get it!!!" But even though the pacing could be plodding at times, the book was still so good that I was ready to give it five stars...
...until I got to the climax!
Okay, I get that after a thousand pages of build-up, it's going to be really hard for any kind of pay-off to fulfill expectations. But that doesn't change the fact that the final battle with It just felt silly and out of place. It's hard for me to get specific about why I was so disappointed with the climax without breaking my strict "no-spoilers" policy, so I'll just leave it at this...after 1,000 pages of true horror, the book suddenly changes gears towards the end, and at which point King seems to be trying to emulate Douglas Adams' "comical science-fiction" style of writing (and failing miserably)
. The final battle wasn't bad enough to ruin the book for me, but it did cause me to deduct a star.
Still, even though it loses its way towards the end, this book is highly recommended for anyone who loves horror, as well as for anyone who is looking for a powerful, complex story and doesn't mind being terrified and disturbed throughout. Although I do have one other minor complaint about the book...really Stephen, did you HAVE to name an unlikable character "Koontz"?!?