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stephen-king.jpgWhile Stephen King was rising into his legendary fame, he wrote the overwhelmingly complex novel IT. IT is as ominous as it sounds – an evil comes to haunt Derry, Maine, killing random children by feeding on their fear until his prey turns on him. Though mostly known as Pennywise the Clown, IT becomes a flexible unknown, transforming into a werewolf, a bird, and a spider, among other things. Even though IT is doing most of the changing, King’s abilities to shape-shift are impressive. Aligning his nefarious character with the past and present fears of his readers, King is able to keep up with his readers’ tolerances to old scares just in time to provide a new set.

Fear is not the only thing that makes IT worthy of a spot in the horror literature canon. Almost due to its sheer mass, King writes intense characterization into 11-year-old children at the same time as their grown-up selves through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards. His sweeping descriptions of everything from facial features to the contours of sewer pipes leave nothing to the imagination – which, in some ways, is his main fault. King loves to pour a scene into words and does it quite well in IT. However, if a first-time reader is looking for something a little less demanding and not quite so intense, perhaps Eye of the Dragon or The Dark Tower series would be a better place to start.

Though King was 39 at the time IT was published, he makes spectacular insights into the minds of children through a full range of emotions: love, courage, hatred, and, of course, fear. Though one can imagine which one King leans more fully toward, it is still worthy to note that he does not make the reader imagine that the children are 11; instead, the reader knows that the children are 11.

The latter sixth or so of the book becomes a problem, though. Flashbacks are still happening at this point, descriptions that last 15-20 pages struggle to include people thus far unimportant to the story, and a dense psychedelic 50-page freak-out destroys what seemed to be plausibility up until that point (something about a cosmic turtle?). It seems as though King’s successful slow pacing got the best of him and makes one feel like skipping pages to keep up with one’s own rhythm and not miss anything. Fortunately, if a reader has come this far in the book, more than likely “hardcore” has set in and nothing will deter her from finishing it.

Overall, IT is its own world, alive and breathing. It is so well written that the reader lives and breathes with the book. King is a master, even forcing the reader to hold his breath in all the right places. However, his style will frustrate and confuse at least once. Though for a novel so long, a mistake or two along the way is more than acceptable.


Awards and Recognition

Echoes in the Coil


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