I finally did it! Took me two months, but I finally read ‘IT’.
It’s weird, because I feel like I’ve known this story all my life. Or been aware of it at least. Even though I only started reading Stephen King a few years ago, it’s somehow ingrained itself as the ultimate horror story in the back of my mind. I doubt it needs much introduction, but in case you’re unaware, it’s about a bunch of kids who’re terrorized by an evil that usually takes on the appearance of a clown called Pennywise.
But it’s so much more.
Before I read it, all I knew of it was from second-hand sources. I thought I knew what it was about, because I have vague memories of watching the 1990 Stephen King’s IT TV special, but I really need to watch it again, because this book isn’t what I thought it was at all. I found the 1990 version on Google Play, so I’ll be watching that soon, just to see how it holds up. [UPDATE: I watched the things and have added my thoughts on them below!]
I picked up this book not long after watching the 2017 movie. I’ll watch that again as well, then I’ll see if I can find the Part II that came out last year. It’s strange to think you have knowledge of a story and then you read the book and you realize it wasn’t what you thought at all.
I’ll cut to the chase: Did I like the book? Yes. Very much so. Actually, I can’t wait to read it again, in a far of future when I’m older and I’ve forgotten much of it and I get to relive it all. It’s going to be great.
But I also found the book to be far too long.
My version stands at 1376 pages. You could easily have a 5-books series of the same length, and definitely at least a quadrilogy. At the same time, this book has turned me on to reading longer books.
I very often don’t like long books (although I will never not finish a book simply for being too long). It’s just that – and this is perhaps particular for new authors – long books are almost always too long. There are unnecessary parts. They’re slow. They contain things that don’t need to be there.
Because a story will always just be a part of a longer story. A story is just a section of something else; it’s the middle part of what came before and after. There has to be stuff you leave out. As authors, we’re always told to hook the readers and to reel them in, make sure they’re interested and want to carry on reading.
Let me be clear: I wanted to read this book because I wanted to read ‘IT’. I had already decided that I wanted to read it, regardless of what I thought of it. If I were to stop reading it every time I felt it lagged or didn’t catch my interest, I would have stopped reading it 10 times over.
Do books like this have to be this long? Absolutely not. Stephen King could easily have cut hundreds of pages out of this and told exactly the same story. Hell, I think even I could have highlighted parts that could have been removed.
Should they though? Probably not. One of the reasons this story is so great, is because it’s long. By the time I finished – after two months of reading – I felt like I’d read a whole series (maybe a 5-books long series, even). I felt like I knew the characters inside out, had grown with them, lived with them, and it was almost a bit sad that the story was over. It reminded me of when the Harry Potter series was finally finished, after book 7, and you suddenly realized that the adventure was over.
I will still prefer shorter books, and I unfortunately I think I will still find long books too long. But after reading IT, I won’t be that scared of them to begin with. There’s something special about a book that never ends.
But since we’re talking about scared…
I love horror. I seek out horror, in all shapes and forms. Since I was very young, and watched some scary movies I wasn’t supposed (allowed) to watch, I’ve been chasing that thrill, that high of being properly scared. There’s something exhilarating about wanting to look away but still wanting to see what happens next.
Horror in books is exciting, but it rarely scares me. Sure it can build up tension and try to terrify me, but I can’t say I actually feel scared anymore. Maybe that’s my own fault, maybe that’s my lacking imagination, yet, I still seek it out.
I’ve got to say, I thought this book was going to do a whole lot more to try and scare me. There are a few moments here and there, where I can understand that the children are frightened and that there is terror happening, especially towards the end, but at the same time it just didn’t work for me. Often, I feel King drowns it in far too many words, or that it is overshadowed by absurdity (people exploding on toilets or being decapitated by manhole covers spring to mind). Also, between the 1400 pages of children coming-of-age, there just isn’t much horror to go around.
And that’s what I meant at the beginning of this post, when I said I thought I knew what this story was about. Because it’s not about Pennywise the Clown. It’s hardly about children being killed, eaten or scared at all. It’s about everything else.
It’s a long book, but it’s worth it. Can’t wait to forget about it (pun intended for those of you who’ve read it) and read it again.
UPDATE – Movie Adaptions:
I watched both the 1990 TV special, and the 2017/2019 two-feature film. Though I think comparing a book to its respective adaptions is a pointless exercise (because they are different mediums, and one really can’t be better than the other), here’s what I thought:
The 1990s movie much truer to the book. If you’re looking to figure out what the hell IT is about, and can’t be bothered to read the book, watch this. That being said, it’s a terribly movie. It hasn’t aged well, and pretty much the whole cast is terrible, in my opinion. It’s weird and awkward more than half of the time, and though they’ve kept many details from the book (like the silver slugs), they didn’t keep the reason for why the silver slugs is important. So it becomes pointless.
The 2017/2019 movies are far better and much more entertaining movies. They do stray away from the book a lot of the time, but except for a few instances where I didn’t see the purpose, it’s done very well.
The biggest issues I had with these movies is perhaps that I feel like they should be released in reversed order.