Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A book review: Stephen King's 'IT'

Being a fan of horror literature, one of the writers I tend to gravitate to is Stephen King. While I don't believe he is the greatest of writers, which I will touch on why in a bit, I still love reading his books. I fully believe that King has one of the greatest imaginative minds, not only from the past 30 years or so, but in American story telling as a whole.

He is able to create a realistic set of characters, living in a town that feels like could be an actual American town, full of it's own culture. His classic novel It portrays this, even if it does also exemplify why I tend to not always like his writing style very much. I am going to discuss just the novel here, and not touch on the film (which I may do at a later time).

The novel was published in 1986, told in a non-linear style alternating between two time periods, and is a 1138 page beast. Many horror fans already know it's basic premise, so I'm not going to go into any deep length to outline the story, but will give a bit of a plot summary (and be warned, I WILL be giving away some plot elements, if you have not read the book, skip ahead).

The story takes place in the small town of Derry, Maine (a fictional town thought up by King). Every 30 years or so, there tends to be a series of violent murders, ending with a catastrophic and bloody end. The killings almost always involve children, with each catastrophic end tends to take out whoever is in the path of it. We learn in the course of reading that these murders are committed by a shape shifting creature that needs to feed on living humans to survive, and chooses to mostly prey on children as it sees their minds as "weak" and easy to manipulate in order to lure.

In 1958, one by one It tries to lure and kill a group of friends who affectionately call themselves "The Losers Club" due to the fact that they're bullied by their peers, specifically by Henry Bowers and his group of thugs, and feel like outcasts in their own homes for one reason or another. Due to this fact, they are able to effectively stand up to It and find that It resides in the city's sewer system.

During their confrontation with it in the sewers that it's actually an interdimensional being of sorts that is thousands, if not millions, of years old and spreads to destroy and consume many forms of life. The seven wound the creature to the point where it appears to have been killed.

However, 27 years later a young homosexual couple is attacked, and one is thrown over a bridge, waking It up and causing It to feed on the young mans remains. This causes Mike Hanlon, the only member of "The Losers Club" to not leave Derry and become successful, to make six phone calls, each one to his former friends and pleading them to return.

End of semi-spoilers here

I liked the fact that there was a lot of mystery behind the creature and that there was that constant lurking threat. Throughout the entire novel, there is a sense of dread as you knew that it was somehow watching you from the shadows. It plays on ones fears of isolation and the fears one would have during childhood. It could either hide underneath a veil of happiness or come full force in a horrific way.

I also liked the fact that fear came from not only the creature, but from other sources as well. Henry Bowers and his gang could easily scare any reader, due to the fact of how demented Bowers could get. Bowers was just an all around miserable person who was raised in a miserable environment and was manipulated by the evils around him to do terrible things. He did such terrible things that it would have made a great novel all on it's own. The terrible things that he and his friends get into will easily stick in ones mind for a long time, and throughout the novel you will see the decay of his consciousness.

However, there is just that one thing about this book that makes it a hard read, and King tends to have this habit with most, if not all, of his novels.There are points where it feels that there is a bit too much exposition and things aren't getting accomplished in any shape, form, or fashion. While I'll agree that we need characters to relate to, and it's good to have realistic characters, I don't think we need to constantly be told of one characters farm life and to go through his daily routine a number of times. This is my main gripe with many of Kings books, if he didn't feel the need to constantly lather us up with almost pointless exposition at times, then he'd be a great writer.

This novel is certainly worth checking out, despite this fact. I can say that even though it was dragging at times, I certainly enjoyed reading it to the point that I've read it a second time for the heck of it. While King needs to tone down the exposition, his imagination is one of the best out there.

Eventually, I plan on doing a review of the film version of 'It' (which I very much enjoyed), and other King novels, such as The Stand (which I have read once many years ago, but I won't be getting to that one for quite sometime as I believe it deserves a reread). I'll also be doing reviews of other horror related materials in the future that I've enjoyed, as well as a look and observations on other things in dark culture (much like my Halloween post).

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