Monday, February 16, 2009

It by Stephen King

The first part of this post is the guest post that was posted over at Book Smugglers on December 22. The second part contains my final thoughts on this book and will contain spoilers!

They were just kids when they stumbled upon the hidden horror of their hometown. Now, as adults, none of them can withstand the force that has drawn them all back to Derry, Maine, to face the nightmare without end, and the evil without a name.

I have a confession to make. I am writing this post even though I haven't finished reading the book that I was dared to read. I heard that collective gasp! How can I write a review of a book I haven't finished yet? Well, I guess that I can't really, but I can write about my reading experience, and why it has come to this sorry state of affairs!

A little bit of background. Some time ago Thea was posting at DIK about her favourite books, and I was surprised to note that I hadn't read any of them. Whilst I certainly haven't read every book going, there is generally one or two books on each person's list that I have read. Fast forward a few days, and I had been dared to read any one of the books on Thea's list, and for some reason, that I can't really fathom, I chose It by Stephen King. I think maybe that it was because it was the book that was farthest away from my comfort zone. I read across a fairly wide range of genres, but horror is not one of these. Most of the others are books that I will likely get to one day.

Did I realise at the time how big this book was? Not at all. I was very surprised when I went to the library and picked up a book that was 1100 pages along, but I wasn't daunted. I love chunksters - books that tell stories that are huge in scope and in size. Was I expecting to be scared? Not at all - I mean the few slasher movies I had seen had made me laugh, or want to vomit as opposed to scream in fear, and I didn't expect this experience to be any different.

Now, I know my reading patterns pretty well I think. I always have two books on the go. One that I read on the train every day, and another that I read at night. Whilst the number of pages that I get through at night can vary, I am pretty reliable when it comes to the train books. Depending on the size of print etc, I can generally get through between 200 and 250 pages each day. So, 1100 pages to read, 200 pages a day, means that it should have taken me about 5 days, plus a few last pages at home to read. Plenty of time to finish the book and write up my post. Loads of time.

So here I am 11 days later, and I still have just under 300 pages to go, and I have to say that I struggled to get through the first 500 pages. If it wasn't for the fact that firstly, I hate not finishing books that I start, and secondly, I was dared to read the book, I would have put it down. Not with the intention of never finishing the book, but certainly with the intention of reading something that caught my imagination a bit more than this book did. So what is it that didn't work for me, that made the read such hard work. Firstly, I do think that part of the reason is that it is so far away from what I normally read. Secondly the amount of detail. Yes, the details of what happened are necessary, but this book is way too long, with mentions of some memories that really didn't need to be there. The third thing is the characters. I do feel as though I connected to a couple of the characters, and Richie made me laugh, albeit in a somewhat uncomfortable way but really Big Bill seems too perfect (except for the obvious stutter), and Eddie, Stan and Mike seem are necessary to the plot, but not characters that I could easily relate to.

Part of the reason for choosing to read this book is that it is written by Stephen King, who has a reputation for excellent writing. I have never read anything by him before, and I will say, that now that I have made it through the first half of the book I am enjoying his writing. He is very skilled at using language to make it easy for the reader to differentiate between the events that happen in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s. His method of moving from the present to the past are seamless, and extremely well done. I don't remember reading a book where a chapter ends halfway through a sentence, and the next chapter starts with the second half of the sentence. I find myself surprised that as a technique it really works.

I also think that his representation of growing up in small town America seems very good, even if that small town is Derry, where there is definitely something strange going on. I love the technique he is using of only revealing a little bit to each of the characters as it is revealed to the readers - the jigsaw being built slowly but surely heading towards what feels like a crescendo where either the jigsaw is going to be completely destroyed, or the picture so complete that it is like the photos mentioned in the book where you can see the characters moving as you like at the static picture.

Do I get the horror elements in the book? Yes, and no. I get why people are freaked out by clowns after reading this book. I have to say though, the scariest elements in this book have not been the birds, or balloons, or clowns, but have rather been the human interactions. Bev's confrontation with her husband, the kids fights, both individually and as a group with Henry Bowers and his friends, Eddie's mother, and others. At this point I am fearing what will happen with both Tom Rogan and Henry Bowers, and I am a bit scared at the thought of what the final showdowns, both in the past and in the present will be like. These kids have already been tormented so much, and as adults are already remembering so much trauma.

Am I going to finish the book - absolutely! There is no way that I am reading 800 pages of an 1100 page book and putting it down. I have a few expectations of where I hope the book goes. As a reader who has a bit of a bias to romance, I know what I am hoping for in the ending. I don't think I am going to get it, because to be honest Stephen King isn't known for his romance now is he. I am hoping that Ben gets a chance with Beverly. I think Ben and Bev are the two characters that I connect to most. I wasn't a fat kid, but I am a fat adult, and there is definitely a common theme in Bev's story to my own. I am hoping that this group of friends who have reconnected again after so long don't lose each other again.

I want It to be destroyed. Having said that I have no picture in my mind of what Derry would be like without It being part of it - somewhere boring and mundane probably.

Most of all, I just want to finish the book. You can be sure that I will be sharing my final thoughts.

At this point in time, if I had to rate the book it would be somewhere between a 3.5 or 4 out of 5. I usually give a pretty standard good read a 4 so it is definitely a reasonable grade for a book that has (finally) sucked me into its world.

I love the idea of Book Dares, and would gladly participate in another one at some point in the future, despite the fact that I don't think I will be in a hurry to read another book from this specific genre, or from Stephen King any time soon. Never say never, but it would most likely be when I have run out of other books to read, which isn't going to happen any time soon.

Thanks for the dare Ana and Thea!




So finally, six or so weeks down the track I have finished reading It, and I am pretty darned pleased without myself that I have! Once I wrote the above post, I realised that I had other books that I needed to read and I put it down, always with the intention of picking it up again. It was just a question of when!

Overall, I enjoyed this book enough to give it a pretty decent rating of 4/5 but there are some parts that I just did not get at all, particularly in relation to the end of their time as young people. I get that the bond between the group was beginning to unravel after they had fought against It, but the sex part didn't work for me because it didn't seem to draw them closer together in the end. I was happy with one aspect of the ending, but I guess I didn't understand why the now grown up kids would forget about each other again.

Given everything that was going on here last week, I did find the story of the final battle and partial destruction of Derry not so much scary as superfluous. If I wanted to turn on the TV I could look at just as much if not more horror than what I was reading in the book.

I will read another Stephen King book eventually, although I have no idea which one. Any suggestions?


  1. I've read three (SALEM'S LOT, THE SHINING, THE STAND) Stephen King books - and I read those years and years ago. Reading SALEM'S LOT (when I was young), scared me to death (as did the original miniseries) but it is the book I'd recommend. I haven't read IT but I did see the miniseries -- not liking clowns, it really just turned me off as did the way it ended (not sure if the book ends the same way).

  2. Well since you don't mind reading long books you should read The Stand. Its longer than It. The Shining was the first book of his I read and scared me senseless (course I was 13 years old when I read it). I finished reading It also and honestly was a bit disappointed at the ending. Will never look at a clown the same way again.

  3. I would personally recommend The Stand. It's my all-time favorite book by King. It's a long one though. If you are looking for something a little shorter, I would also recommend The Shining (scary!), The Green Mile (not scary!), or The Eyes of the Dragon (more of a fantasy). And, if you are feeling really ambitious, you can always tackle the Dark Tower series!!

  4. Seems to me that after an author gets really big, they just don't edit their books as carefully. I remember complaints about how long and drawn out the last of the Harry Potter books were and there was another example that just left me the moment I needed to write it...oh well. But I do think that just because an author is super talented doesn't mean that he/she automatically writes succinctly.

  5. at least you are not giving up.

  6. I've been known as a bookworm my entire life and unfortunately none of my friends were readers in school but I still carried a book with me wherever I went. Now readers weren't widely accepted but for some reason Stephen King was acceptable so that was what I read lol. Good thing I loved his work! I've read just about all of his books, many of them at least twice. I plan on re-reading IT someday b/c I still remember liking the movie more which I saw when I was really young. Clowns scare me b/c of the movie.

    My favorite King book is The Stand followed by The Shining.