Saturday, 4 June 2016


Derry is a strange town: every twenty-seven years or thereabouts a cycle of violence and death repeats itself. Children are murdered, their bodies either found in a mutilated state or never found at all. Violent events which would seem out of place elsewhere seem to go unremarked. 'It's a Derry thing,' the locals would say.

Against the backdrop of one of these cycles of violence, a group of friends is brought together, seemingly by fate. It is the summer of 1958, and these seven friends - the 'losers' - find themselves caught up in events and unravelling the truth behind the child murders. This leads them to an evil beyond what they could imagine. Twenty-seven years later the same friends are reunited when the evil they thought they had defeated awakes once again.

It is probably best known for its villain, Pennywise the Clown. With good reason. Pennywise is a capricious, unpredictable and implacable villain. He seems to be omnipresent and omnipotent at times. He inspires a sense of dread throughout, even when he isn't actually killing or maiming. His evil goes a long way beyond just being a child's nightmare, but on one level it's exactly why he works as a villain and why It works as a book.

Childhood belief and imagination plays a key role in the book, as does the idea of memory. The friends lose their memories of the summer of 1958, and it's only as the narrative goes on - intertwining events of 1958 with those of 1985 - that they regain their memories. There's a difference between the adult characters and the children they were, whilst there's also a connection between who they were and the paths their lives have taken.

Unusually for a Stephen King book, It never gave me the feeling that it was running away from the author. The Stand ran out of steam after about 400 pages; It never ran out of steam and ideas. It gained momentum as it went on. The last few hundred pages, where the big reveal was made and the final confrontation took place, were thunderous.

What King does well is create characters who can be empathised with. That this comes from a rambling writing style which expands the story probably far beyond where it should have been expanded is a trade-off which is worthwhile. By the end, you feel you've become a personal friend or enemy of each of the characters. Were King's prose stodgy the trade-off would not be worth it, but his style is easy and readable. For all his failings in planning, he's a good writer who creates believable worlds and who tells superb stories.

It is a superb story, if a remarkably long one. Those reading it will be rewarded with a strong story which draws on its setting and its characters to create a genuinely pulse-pounding experience.

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