It (1986) by Stephen King

“It” feels like a very definitive statement by King, a very clear representation of his style, who he is, and what’s he’s about. The fascination with coming-of-age stories of young children, particularly in the 1950s (like The Body / Stand By Me), the sick underbellies of evil towns usually in Maine (tonnes and tonnes of his work), a young girl being covered in blood in a supernatural incident (Carrie), the mystical worldbuilding aspects that would come to the fore with The Dark Tower series, and the allusions to works by other authors too, like the Shelob and one ring references of Tolkien. The many references to horror films and classic monsters also play into the vibe of the book being a smorgasbord of King’s influences, mashed together in a narrative that supported them being mixed together.

Both film adaptations of “It” handle different aspects of the book well, from the predatory goofiness of It and the intercutting narrative contrasting childhood and adulthood in the 1990 version, to the more concentrated “endless summer” vibe of the childhood storyline as well as the otherworldly monstrosity of It in the 2017 version. Neither adaptation retain the mystical elements (the smokehouse scene, the turtle, the Ritual of Chud), which King handles better in the book than a lot of the other scenes. The basics of the story are so strong that it can sustain multiple different adaptations, the almost fairytale-like quality of the childhood storyline can even be torn out of the non-linear narrative that houses it and still function as a perfectly good story in its own right without massive adjustments.

It_cover

The book is very overlong and stuffed, but manages a coherent ending that actually services the characters and themes of the book well. In a King book with an unconventional structure, that’s pretty impressive. I found the more horror-focused sections tiresome eventually (although I think that’s part of the design of the book, and how the children’s relationship to It changes), but the coming-of-age sections were strong throughout for certain characters. It’s a great, definitive story of King’s, but somewhat sunk under just too many damn pages. I give it three turtles, and a boat.

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