- Stephen King.
- 1,166 pages.
‘They float…and when you’re down here with me, you’ll float, too.’
Derry, Maine is just an ordinary town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part, a good place to live.
It is a group of children who see – and feel – what makes Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurks, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT appears as an evil clown named Pennywise and sometimes IT reaches up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .
Time passes and the children grow up, move away and forget. Until they are called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirs and coils in the sullen depths of their memories, emerging again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.
IT tells the story of The Losers Club (Bill, Ben, Eddie, Richie, Beverly, Stan and Mike) and their battle against IT (Pennywise the clown) an evil shape-shifting entity that has insidiously infected Derry, Maine permeating and weaving itself into the very fabric of the town.
In 1957 Bill’s younger brother George is murdered, it is the beginning and the start of IT’s killing spree. After George’s death, a few months later in 1958 Derry is plagued with people going missing and the residents believe that a serial killer is targeting children. A missing child, a death, they are a tragedy, a horror, but they are caused by the evil that men do with a rational explanation. IT has a hold over the town, the adults are blind, they can’t see and they dismiss the dark truth of what’s really happening in Derry that a supernatural evil has cloaked the town in darkness. In their adulthood, they have lost the ability to see, but the children of Derry can see as children have imagination, they believe that anything is possible and they believe in magic. As you get older the belief that anything is possible is taken away from you and the adults are stuck firmly within the confines of logic and reality where the vibrant colours of their childhood have turned to grey. For the children the veil is pulled back, they believe and they can see what is hidden in shadow, what dwells in the depths of the drains, the sewer system and the tunnels and what is preying on them, they can see IT the malevolent and powerful evil that feeds on fear and flesh that is lurking in the poisoned heart of Derry.
The Losers Club knows the truth, their eyes and their minds are open. Over the course of the summer, the group of outcasts have been drawn and pulled together, becoming friends and forming The Losers Club. When the school bully Henry Bowers who, along with his two cohorts Belch and Victor aren’t terrorising the group they can most often be found hanging out and playing down in the Barrens, just kids being kids. However, there is something far worse than Henry Bowers tormenting them and over the summer months, they have each seen their greatest fear made manifest and they have all encountered IT.
IT has a cycle, feeding and then sleeping. Throughout Derry’s history, there have been months of disappearances culminating in a devastating event roughly every twenty-seven years where many people have died. Those historic events, the large-scale disasters, the bloodshed and the massacres of many lives that befall Derry are the end of IT’s eating spree. With IT’s hunger sated IT is able to hibernate before awakening and re-emerging from its slumber twenty-seven years later to start the killing all over again.
In 1958, the group of eleven-year-old Losers face and defeat but don’t kill IT. In 1984, just like with George in 1957, the killing spree starts again with a violent murder. There is a sighting of a clown and in 1985 IT comes back. After their first confrontation with IT, The Losers swore, they made a promise that if they hadn’t killed IT and if IT returned that they would end IT once and for all. It was a promise full of meaning, not the throwaway promise of a child, but a promise of something so much more, a blood oath to release Derry from IT’s grasp.
The Losers all left Derry years ago, moving on with their lives and they have forgotten each other, Pennywise and the events of the summer of 1958. Only Mike stayed in Derry, only he remembers and he has kept the long watch, waiting for IT to return. When Mike can no longer deny that IT has returned he calls The Losers. The Losers don’t remember anything and, at first, they don’t remember Mike, but with the phone call, a vague memory of a childhood friend called Mike flickers into flame and they remember the promise that they made, a hazy recollection, vague parts and not the whole. Mike’s phone call is the catalyst for their return, and back in Derry as thirty-eight-year-old adults, they begin to remember everything that had been lost to the miles, the years and to time. With the magic of childhood far behind them and unsure if they can finish what they started all those years ago the reunited Losers Club prepare for the final confrontation against Pennywise.
IT is a layered and sprawling story spanning nearly thirty years that is part coming-of-age, part good vs evil and part horror. The story is told through non-linear multiple POV of the members of The Losers Club both as children and as adults with the occasional interlude looking at disturbing events in Derry’s past. Delighting in the detail IT is written by King in a very descriptive way with some absolutely stellar imagery on full display for the horror elements, the macabre and the grotesque manifestations conjured by IT, but also in the setting of Derry and the locations where the story takes place.
King is a masterful storyteller who has a deft hand at creating flawed and fully-rendered characters that come to life and that, to the reader feel like real people. Main characters, minor and even those who only gently caress the very edges of the story are all given a level of depth to their character. In IT the characterisation is exceptional and throughout the mammoth page count, I really came to care about The Losers Club, rooting for them in their battle against Pennywise. They managed to worm their way into my heart and they truly are a loveable bunch of losers. I also have to admit to loving Pennywise too.
There are many, many reviews out there for IT, most written by far better reviewers than me with many giving a far more in-depth overview of the story. The story in IT is emotional, harrowing and unsettling with many brutal themes that are unflinchingly described by King as his story travels down some dark, disturbing and uncomfortable roads, some very dark some very disturbing and some very uncomfortable roads. There is also beauty and colour to be found in the darkness of IT namely in the superbly wrought bonds and relationships that develop between the members of The Losers Club.
I know there are issues that many readers have with one specific event near to the ending of IT as they have been well documented. For me, yes, that event made me feel very, very uncomfortable. I can see what King was trying to do with the event, he was trying to solidify the bond that was breaking between the Losers, bringing them back together and sparking a connection that had begun to fade, but why he chose ‘that‘ for a group of eleven-year-olds to do I have no idea, I didn’t enjoy reading it and I’d have preferred if it wasn’t included. Going into reading IT I knew what to expect with the ending, well, the near ending, the ending itself is both moving and satisfying. Those few pages and that one particular event aside, I absolutely loved IT. Often with King, it’s about the journey that he takes you on and the places that you go before reaching the final destination and the journey in IT is unforgettable.
Purchase IT by Stephen King.
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