Book Review: It by Stephen King

For those that have read a Stephen King novel, you’ll be able to attest to the captivating and enthralling penmanship of the author. For me, It was my first foray into a King narrative. Two things most surprised me about the novel: the length (1,153 pages at 11 point Times New Roman font) and the writing style. Who knew—certainly not I—that you could write 1,100 pages about a clown? Secondly, the writing style is fascinating for two core reasons. Firstly, the novel jumps between the psyches of various characters, and secondly the writing goes back and forth between the conscious and subconscious internal dialogues of each character. The novel is a masterpiece exploring how fear and courage manipulate the human psyche, and how imagination can be both an empowering and debilitating force of human nature. This book is a magnificent piece of fiction, and certainly not for the faint of heart.

 

It is a clown. Yet It is also so much more than that. It is the manifestation of fear, the sensory overload of terrorized emotion come to life. It is the embodiment of an individual’s fear imagined within the psyche and then realized in physical life. For the hypochondriac, It is a leper; for the boy who had a traumatic experience as a baby with a raven, It is a bird; for the brother who lost his younger brother, It is a zombie younger sibling. It feeds off imagination, yet imagination is the source which, once tapped into, It can be overpowered. Since It feeds off fear, It has many faces. These faces are described and detailed in an unnerving characterization through the brilliant writing of King, so the reader can feel the physical sensations of the characters, and even more terrifying, can feel the psychological brutality of the experience of coming face-to-face with fear itself.

 

By reading a variety of experiences, the reader understands how fear is comprehended and manifested by the diverse characters. The youthful experiences carve out different personality traits in each adult character. Anger, sadness, a desire to forget mark each individual, yet on a deeper level these characteristics are experienced and exhibited differently by each individual. Each character is tied to one another, yet they are also all different in their own unique ways. Their uniqueness is expressed most acutely in their various manifestations of fear, and their similarity is expressed most acutely in their courage and commitment to the promise that brought them all back together.

 

In Derry some things were better not seen or heard … until they were over.

 

In the early portions of the novel King writes from the adult perspective as the character in question tries to remember his or her childhood. As their memory slips back into childhood, King slips into the child psyche and writes from the child’s perspective. This slipping back and forth between and adult and child is the most engaging aspect of King’s writing style. It’s captivating in that the reader works through the experiences in a manner similar to the character’s own working through of their memory. This writing style creates a closeness and intimacy between the reader and the character, and bestows a level of closeness and confidentiality that few other authors are able to master.

 

I loved It, and for those that will commit to a story necessitating focus and commitment to characters, you’ll love It too. It’s explicit (sometimes frighteningly so), it’s long, and it’s scary. But it’s a sensory experience like few authors can boast of. It’s interesting, captivating, and impressive.

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