Thursday, May 8, 2014

by Stephen King

In the last year I’ve ventured out of my comfort zone and read a few of Stephen King’s well-known novels. Last year when the
IT-Along was happening I chickened out and was too scared to read It. But after reading some of their reviews, especially Trish’s and Care's, I caved and listened to the audio version.  

In 1958 seven kids, all outsiders for one reason or another form a tightknit group of friends. They soon realize that something sinister is lurking beneath the streets of their Maine hometown. As kids begin disappearing they decide they need to fight back. Then 27 years later the group is called back home when the evil rears its ugly head again.  

This creepy book is well known for its villain, Pennywise the horrifying clown, but in my opinion Pennywise is not the scariest part of the book. I think the truly scary scenes often didn’t dealt with “It” at all. They were the ones that show what fellow human beings are capable of doing to each other. Like the scenes with Beverly's father and her husband, and the completely twisted bullies, those were the scariest moments for me. It’s easy to dismiss a crazy clown as fiction, but the other scenes with abusive husbands and sociopathic teens were much more terrifying. 
The beauty of this book is that despite the murders that are happening, a few misfits can band together and support each other as friends. The scenes in 1958 reminded me of King’s novella “The Body” (which was turned into the movie Stand By Me.) Each of the kids feels so real and relatable. When we meet them again as adults they have become different people, but even being in the same room brings out their playful camaraderie again.  
There were three parts that I think should've been cut and maybe turned into short stories elsewhere: the fire in the black spot, the gang from Indiana who wants the ammo and the homicidal lumberjack. It's not that they are badly written; they just completely screwed up the pacing of the novel and took me out of the story. I know the point was to show how long “It” has been around influencing the people of Derry, but it was a bit of a jarring jump for me. Sometimes I wonder if King’s editor just sits in his office playing Tetris all day, because almost all of his books could do with some serious editing.
I loved the first half much more than the second, not because the second half isn’t good, but because it’s so dark and scary. King is an incredible storyteller, but because of that every horror scene is just that much more terrifying. I've never been so scared of balloons in my life until I read this. Also, the infamous “bonding” scene when the kids are young is just weird and completely unnecessary. I knew about it before reading the book, but it was still bizarre. 
The real reason this novel is so scary is that IT takes on the guise of whatever scares you the most. It is the embodiment of your fear and really what is scarier than that? It made me think a lot about fear and where it comes from, what it makes us do, how it controls us, the power and strength it takes to overcome it. It also made me think about this incredible video of two women overcoming their fear of flying.
BOTTOM LINE: A seriously scary book, this one is not my favorite King novel (that would be The Green Mile and The Stand), but he tells an enthralling story.
SIDE NOTE: The audio version of this is so good! Yes, Ritchie’s voices becomes grating pretty fast, but it was just beyond excellent. 


Sandy Nawrot said...

That is what makes King such a master. He sees the horror and the fear in everyone's soul. It is amazing the things he comes up with, the different ways he can scare you. He KNOWS what scares us. But he does go on. I believe his editor gave up a long time ago. I apologize in advance if I have asked you this, but have you read 11/22/63? Because if you haven't, you must.

Anonymous said...

I admit I haven't read any SK's books except just one: On Writing. And it's not scary at all. But I wouldn't want to read any of his other ones. However, two movies based on his works I really like. One you've mentioned 'Stand By Me' from 'The Body'. The other is 'Shawshank Redemption' based on his short story 'Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption'.

Jeanne said...

Maybe because I read this one when fairly young, I think of It along the same lines as a boggart or what one finds in room 101 (from 1984).

o said...

I love this book! I read it last October - it's one of those books I looked forward to reading when I was doing other things. A very addictive book. I've only read this and Pet Sematary by King, and I really enjoyed them both.

Been meaning to read Carrie - must get round to that soon!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I've been saving 11/22/63 for this summer. I've already got it on audio and I can't WAIT to read it.

rippleeffects - You've listed three of my favorites and the only ones I read before last year! He's definitely out of my comfort zone, but he's an incredible story teller.

Jeanne - Exactly! I think the creatures that become whatever you fear most are such a terrifying concept.

O - It was so addictive! I kept finding excuses to listen longer.

Jillian said...

I can not even imagine listening to a horror audiobook! This movie terrified me, and as I got older I wanted to read the book. The book was pretty scary too, but so well told. The Green Mile is also my favorite, but 'It' is pretty special.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jillian - The audio was so well done too! It made it even scarier!

Andi said...

I need to try this one again. I always like King's books once I get past his wordiness and settle into the creepy hellishness that he writes. I punked out during the It-along. Blargh.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Andi - I always have to get up the courage before I read one of his scarier books :)

Anonymous said...

Still my favorite audiobook. :D

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Bkclubcare - It was SO good on audio!