Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you may have heard about a new movie coming out called It.
When I found out that Hollywood was remaking the movie, I began a journey through each iteration of King’s novel, starting with the source material and moving on chronologically. For that reason, this episode may run a little bit longer than most. Let’s start with the book. In the next episode, I’ll discuss the two film projects that are based on the book.
I debated long and hard before I began reading the book. I even questioned whether or not I should openly on social media. Should I read the book before seeing either of the movies? I had mixed suggestions from friends. In the end, I decided to go to Audible and download the audiobook, since I knew reading a physical copy would take me an eternity to finish. 44 hours and 57 minutes later – which was more like 3 weeks later – I had finished my first Stephen King novel. It was quite a ride.
The story behind It, if you’re unfamiliar with anything more than Pennywise the dancing clown, is pretty straightforward from afar: children are being murdered in Derry, Maine, seven friends band together to find and defeat the evil plaguing their town. They are called back 27 years later to do it all again when more murders happen.
Listening to a book that is a couple minutes shy of 45 hours long can take a toll. Especially when you don’t break it up with podcasts or other books. That said, It is a very interesting book that kept me coming back for more. I want to talk about what I liked and disliked about it and I’m going to do my best to be clear, assuming you’re new to the story.
I have mixed feelings over the way King wrote the book. It takes place in two timelines that interweave to create a complete story: 1958, when Bill Denbrough and his friends (the Losers Club) are children, and 1985 when they’ve grown up and have to return to Derry. Writing this way is good at times, but others are difficult to follow. Not only does he interweave them throughout the book, but he does this when transitioning between chapters. A chapter will end mid-sentence and then the next chapter will finish it. Supposedly this is a way to draw each era together. Other readers have seen that the weaving begins very broad and then narrows toward the end. It’s clever for sure, this probably works better in a book or a film than it does in an audio book.
Meeting the Losers Club takes a little while with this writing scheme. Some stood out more than others, but all-in-all, Bill, Ben, Richie, Bev, Mike, Eddie, and Stan were all fairly likable. The main problem with them was that Eddie and Stan very well could have been written as one character. I think King knew this when he was writing their adult return since he (spoiler) killed off Stan in a suicide. As I’m sure you’re well aware, characters can make or break a story. In It, the characters hold the plotline steady well.
In the marketing for the new film, as well as in the original two-part TV movie, Pennywise the Dancing Clown seems to be the main focus. In the book, however, that isn’t so much the case. Yes, every member of the Losers Club sees the terrifying clown eventually and he’s the primary villain, but he isn’t the only version of Derry’s evil incarnate. Ben sees a mummy, Eddie sees a werewolf. Stan sees a giant bird. But I don’t want to get into comparisons quite yet.
The use of the “f” word for gays and the “n” word for black people in the book can be off-putting until you start to understand that in 1958, those were common words used. Yes, they were derogatory and I don’t condone the use of them, but it did give some realism to the era. Looking at it from a 2017 viewpoint, it could be considered vulgar and overused. That’s just a little heads-up if you’re interested in reading this yourself.
Also, by this point, you may have heard of “that scene” from the ending of the book. Originally I didn’t want to touch on it. After reading more articles on it, I’ve decided to simply pull a section from the fine folks at Den of Geek. I think they did an excellent job explaining what was and is the most questionable part of the entire book:
“With It defeated, the kids find themselves lost in the sewers and possibly unable to escape. They need to bond together again after the monster’s savage attacks. So 11-year-old Beverly decides that each of the six boys must make love to her right there in the tunnel to form an emotional and physical connection that will remain unbroken. King writes this sequence with as much care, grace, and sensitivity as he can, but it’s still essentially group sex involving six barely pubescent boys and a girl.”
Stephen King has gone on to give some explanation himself in regard to this scene:
“I wasn’t really thinking of the sexual aspect of it,” King wrote. “The book dealt with childhood and adulthood – 1958 and Grown Ups. The grown ups don’t remember their childhood. None of us remember what we did as children – we think we do, but we don’t remember it as it really happened. Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood. It’s another version of the glass tunnel that connects the children’s library and the adult library. Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues.”
In case you were wondering, no, that scene is not in either movie. Thank goodness.
At the end of the book, the supernaturalism starts to come to the forefront. It’s been sprinkled throughout the entire book, specifically when It is able to change shape. In the book, 1958 Bill fights It and gets thrown into a multiverse, where he meets The Turtle, a god-like being who created everything. This characte, known as Maturin, apparently plays a role in The Dark Tower series, also written by King. It is, though, possibly the worst and most jarring part in the entire book.
In the end, the book isn’t so much a horror novel for me. It is haunting, though. The idea that childhood is gobbled up without anyone really noticing (the town of Derry as a whole) is what really stands out to me. Sure, it isn’t taken by an evil clown, but once it’s gone, we only have fleeting images of what it was like and it’s hard to recall even the best of times. Being an adult can be dark and hard at times. The best thing to do, though is to push fear aside and tackle it.
As I end the episode, I want to clarify that this is not for everyone. It is absolutely a hard “R” rating. It floors me that there are people out there that read this at age 12. I do not recommend it to that age group at all. I do recommend the book, though there are quite a few bristling moments, between the strong language, the sexual content and that scene, you should be wary. It’s still a good book in the grand scheme of things.