Saturday, June 10, 2017


* spoilers *

Derry, Maine looks like a quiet, idyllic small town where nothing momentous happens. Oddly, it has higher murder rates than the most large cities despite the population difference. From before the city even had a name, weird, macabre events occured with terrifying frequency for about a year every 27 to 30 years. Because of It's influence, the town experiences just over a year of grisly children's deaths and escalating violence that culminate in some sort of large scale tragedy, sometimes with Derry citizens as the perpetrators. A few notable instances include the factory explosion near an Easter egg hunt leading to dozens of children's deaths, the destruction of the African American club The Black Spot full of people. the murder of a notorious criminal at the hands of a mob of Derry citizens, and the disappearance of a colony of 300 people before the city was established. I found these vignettes to be much more fascinating than the present day plot of the Loser's Club as children or as adults. I would have loved to see a short story collection detailing what happened during a choice years in It's life cycle.

It is an interesting creature whose favorite form is Pennywish the Dancing Clown. Although frightening clowns existed before it, Pennywise put the clown into a whole different level of horror. It takes the form of whatever secret fears we have that include a giant bird, wolfman, the mummy, a lecherous leper, giant aggressive leeches, and all manner of creatures. It lives in the sewers, so anywhere there are drains aren't safe. It can even use the voices of the dead to torment the living. Every single person in Derry has experienced some sort of supernatural event that scared them, but few ever talk about it. I love this aspect of the novel because idyllic looking small towns always have unspoken secrets. This story just adds a terrifying supernatural element. One small problem I had with It's forms were the inclusion of the pom pom buttons or a part of It's silver clown suit in each form meant to tie them together. However, if all the kids are seeing movie monsters and things out of their nightmares, it's safe to say they are from the same source without a visual cue.

The members of the Loser's Club are Beverly Marsh, Stan Uris, Bill Denbrough, Mike Hanlon, Richie Tozier, Eddie Kasprack, and Ben Hanscom. They met as a group during the summer of 1958 when they were 12 years old. Each character is well drawn and memorable, even the minor ones. Stephen King is always adept at making all of his characters feel real. The novel introduces them as adults and has each of them answering Mike's call, telling them to return to fight It. It takes an excruciatingly long time for essentially the same thing to play out for each character in order to give a window to their lives. It could have been accomplished by throwing them together and looking at how they interact and what stories they tell instead to keep the story movies forward instead of stagnating. At this point, we don't really have a reference for how they were before. I understand that King wanted the two storylines to echo each other in form, but it would have meant so much more if we had known how much they grew and how they changed over time. The two stories also have parallel expositions going on at the same parts of the novel that make for a long stretches of dull reading, but the ending has each of their fights with It and the escalating supernatural events that are much more interesting.

Although I enjoyed the book, Stephen King's books always have aspects I don't like such as the length of novel, the use of deus ex machine, and the treatment of women in the story. This book is over a thousand pages and could have benefited from a lot of editing. Some passages are repetitive and don't have a lot to do with the main story. I expect it could have been half the length and been a much faster paced story. When the Loser's Club are adults, they don't remember anything at all about their childhoods and are even missing scars that reappear when they are called. These memories only resurface when they are sorely needed and then fade away again by the end. They also feel a supernatural connection to each other and have knowledge that can't be explained by conventional means. This feels so contrived and badly reasoned. How can their entire childhood memories being gone escape notice? It seems that they only have a small amount of free will and are basically destined to fight It. I don't like heroes who are forced to; I like heroes who choose to. It seemed like their only choice was to go back or kill themselves.

The treatment of Beverly Marsh and other women in the story truly bothered me. Even as a twelve year old child, the descriptions about her are sexual in nature because of how she is viewed by her friends. However, these types of descriptions stay with her throughout the novel no matter who is with her and she's the only main character viewed in this way. The other women in the novel are seen in the same way, showing that women are seen as sexual objects. As a child, Beverly was beaten by her husband and then grew up to marry an equally abusive man. It seems telling that the only female main character is physically abused thoughout her life. The ending scene of her having sex with all of her friends as a twelve year old child as a means for them to "mature into adulthood" is nothing short of disgusting, disturbing, unnecessary, and incredibly unrealistic. The last piece of the misogynistic puzzle is Kay, described as a strong, feminist who supports Beverly. Beverly's husband Tom breaks into Kay's house and threatens to kill her unless she gives him Beverly's location. Kay stays strong until Tom threatens to multilate her face, basically saying that she was willing to die for her friend but proves too vain to live with a scarred face. It's completely out of character and a gross stereotype.

Stephen King's It has a lot going for it. A small town with a big secret, a macabre past, and the threat of horrific events happening far into the future. It is a singular entity that is horrific and also able to communicate directly with its victims. I wish It's true form was left up to the readers' imagination. Another of King's flaws is defining every aspect of the ending when it's not necessary like in Gerald's Game. It has enjoyable parts and well drawn characters, but it's incredibly bloated. I would tentatively recommend it if you are a fan of King's writing and you have a lot of time to read. I look forward to watching the new movie adaptation to see how they handle the problems I had with the story.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

No comments: