It occurred to me last week that as I tried to review all of Stephen King’s books, I had left out my two favorites–The Stand and It. Today I’m going to finish this off. I read It as a freshman in High School. The book scared me so badly that I read it again shortly after finishing it. I would revisit it often. Whatever reasons we have for enjoying a good scare, I had found the ultimate representation of it in book form, at least as far as the sorts of things that scare me.
Plot summary of It
The book is set in Derry, Maine. But it could be any small town, anywhere. It has one of Stephen King’s greatest beginnings, but unlike books like Cell, this time the feel and dread of the introductory sequence carries throughout every single page–and there are a lot of pages.
In the aftermath of a storm, Derry’s streets are flooded. A young boy named George is outside playing in the rain with a paper boat, sailing it along the gutters. When it goes into a drain he kneels down to grab it, but stops.
There is a clown in the drain.
The first time I read that line, my heart jumped a little bit. I read It under perfect circumstances–I knew I was a fan of Stephen King, having read The Tommyknockers and Misery at that point–but as I recall I knew next to nothing about It.
Up until that moment I had been the little boy running through the wet streets. And suddenly I was feeling sick and scared when I looked into the drain and there was a freaky looking clown in it.
George dies. His brother Bill becomes the leader of seven children who call themselves The Loser’s Club. In various ways which I can’t spoil, they all individually become aware of the monster that has been awakened by the storm and flooding sewers.
They realize that the monster only targets children. Worse yet, it seems to appear to each child as the thing that they fear the most, but appears most frequently as Pennywise The Clown. This immediately got me thinking about all the things that frighten me, which is part of the point. If I were in the story would I see the clown? Would I see a world where I couldn’t find any Peeps to eat? Yes on the second one.
This group of children is full of great characters, some of King’s very best. They’re all misfits who get picked on by bullies or are put on the fringe based on their circumstances, but their bond is fun to watch. As more children die, The Loser’s Club realize that they will be the ones who can stop it. I won’t tell you how it happens, but when the showdown comes, the kids win. Or so they think.
Many years later, they are all adults. (duh). One by one, they each get a call from the one member of The Loser’s Club that stayed behind in Derry to keep watch. One by one they each hear the terrifying message…”It’s back.”
Now they have to go back. It is awake in Derry again, and children are vanishing.
Holy crap! Just writing this makes me want to go read it again. What an awesome story.
Seeing them return to Derry as adults, and bumping into Pennywise again, is so much fun, and so creepy, that it truly has to be experienced. If you like horror stories, It might be the best of them all.
If you’ve read much of King’s work, and you have read It, you will see nods in this book to many of his other stories and novels. Particularly during the scenes where the reader learns where “It” came from, and who it’s enemies are in the grand scheme of things.
This is fun, but not an essential part of the book.
Fans of Stephen King. Horror nuts. People who love giant books. People who hate clowns.
Not recommended for: the squeamish, people who hate to be scared, or people who barely have the attention span to make it through an entire Tweet before needing to click on something else. I truly think this is the scariest Stephen King book.
And because I am such a fine gent, I’ve been compiling a (soon-to-be) complete list of Stephen King’s books, along with some brief reviews, just in case you don’t know where to start or where to go next.