book-reviews

It

by Stephen King

Rating: ★★★

I first encountered It in its film version, and was somewhat impressed by the aura of menace that was maintained, and the connection and contrast between the adult and child versions of the gang and how they dealt with It. Based on this, I went into King's novel with high hopes. Ultimately, I think those hopes were dashed.

The thing is, It isn't half bad, while you're reading it. There's a nice pacing, and a vague sense of mystery, and the creature is a good combination of the comic and the deadly, cropping up regularly in different guises. You can connect to the band of outcast kids, however heavyhanded their group's construction, and the logic they wield to combat the creature has a charm to it. For the middle of the book -- which is very long, even though not a lot of it is strictly necessary -- I was quite well-disposed towards this story, even if a little tired of King's 'thing' about small-town America.

It is at the end, however, that things really fall apart. Or I should say the climax, rather than the end. We are suddenly deprived of our scale. Rather than the understood localised threat, a single creature somehow marooned within the limits of the town, warping it as it periodically emerges and feeds, we are presented with an unnecessarily broad fragmentation of reality. The creature is some sort of allegory for the devil, one of two great metaphysical consciousnesses -- or something like that. Yet it is slain all the same, by our band of heroes. And then the town collapses? It all feels like King was reaching for something big to end his big novel with, and in the process he ruined it. The film, in contrast, pulled off an ending well within the bounds of the story so far, while still managing to contain the same breadth of plot and horror.