Despite rating this book five stars, I do not think it is perfect. While I do not often agree with the common notion that Stephen King overwrites, his penchant for logorrhea is on full-display in this 1200 page-long novel, released in 1986. There are multiple scenes that could have been cut out (including most of the Derry interludes) without negatively impacting the book at all. I know, I know — King is in world-building mode here, and having a sense of Derry's history is important and vital. I get that. I just feel some of the tangential tales (looking at you, Black Spot and Bradley Gang) could have been whittled down or cut out altogether. Preferably whittled down. Don't get me wrong — reading these stories are a pure joy, for this novel was written when King was arguably at the height of his writing powers . . . But one can't help but wonder where his editor was.
Excess aside, this is an novel that works. It's classic King, with ghoulish scares and sublime character development on display. I've yet to come across a character in fiction I relate to more than Ben Hanscom — as a kid and an adult. It's almost eerie, how similar my thought process is to Ben's.
And let us not forget this book features one of King's most iconic villains: Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Master of Many Guises). Who can forget the blood spurting out of Beverly's drain, or the Paul Bunyan statue coming to life? The bird that attacks Mike? Or one of the most infamous scenes from this book (and its movie adaptation) — the clown in the sewer, offering candy and rides to Little Georgie in chapter one.
Something that really stuck out to me on this reread was King's commentary on growing up and getting older. I was fourteen the last time I read this novel; I am now almost twenty-one. Sure, I'm still pretty friggin' young . . . But I've begun to hear the ticking of the clock. I've begun to sense that the sand in the hourglass is starting to pour down faster than it used to. I now have small gray hairs in my stubble, and I think I'm starting to get a bald spot. I'm almost done with college, and soon enough I'll be out on my own, in my career, and worrying about things like insurance and running regularly to prevent heart attacks. Yeah, I'm still young — but I'm getting older all the time. What I'm getting at is I identified more with the seven main characters in their adult years, instead of their kid years. That was a sobering revelation.
Stephen King pulled off quite a feat with It. This is his most complex accomplishment — he manages to create a town and bring it to life, juggles seven main characters (as well as a slew of supporters) and two timelines, all while keeping it organized and forward-looking — for the most part. Despite a few extraneous scenes and the book feeling too episodic for its own good at times, I couldn't rate it anything less than five stars. It will never be in the upper echelon of King works, for me (I don't dig on the supernatural as much — I prefer reading about real life horrors), but it's an incredibly important work to the man's oeuvre at large. Recommended reading for any King or horror fan.
Page 39 - Shawshank Prison is mentioned.
Page 72 - We first meet adult Ben Hanscom in Hemingford Home, Nebraska — home of Mother Abagail from The Stand.
Page 83 - Ben Hanscom tells a friend "You pay for what you get, you own what you pay for . . . and sooner or later whatever you own comes back home to you." Shades of Pet Sematary, perhaps?
Page 296 - A summer day is described as being "perfect and on the beam."
Page 325 - An Orinco truck (as seen in Pet Sematary) is seen roaring by in Derry.
Lots of references to Haven are made throughout chapters seven and eight, and in the book's final chapters.
Page 465 - Dick Hallorrann makes an appearance!
Page 508 - Beverly mentions the "crazy cop" who killed "all those women" in Castle Rock, Maine, referring to Frank Dodd from The Dead Zone.
Page 966 - Henry Bowers gets a ride from a mysterious 1958 Plymouth Fury, which is driven by ghosts. It's Christine, the rock n roll lady who never dies.
Page 1066 - Bill is described as looking like a crazed malnourished gunslinger.
Page 1090 - 'Becka Paulson from The Tommyknockers gets a mention.
The Turtle obviously connects this to the Dark Tower series in a big way.
"The energy you drew on so extravagantly when you were a kid, the energy you thought would never exhaust itself - that slipped away somewhere between eighteen and twenty-four, to be replaced by something much duller, something as bogus as a coke high: purpose, maybe, or goals, or whatever rah-rah Junior Chamber of Commerce word you wanted to use. It was no big deal; it didn't go all at once, with a bang. And maybe, Richie thought, that's the scary part. How you didn't stop being a kid all at once, with a big explosive bang, like one of that clown's trick balloons. The kid in you just leaked out, like the air of a tire."