|Beep, beep, Richie!|
This is the longest, but by no means the most challenging book we've read for book club (hi Moby Dick!) and has been one that has created a fair amount of discussion, thanks to the content, subject matter and sheer terror held within.
I'm not normally scared by things. I laugh through most horror films and I'm very rarely phased (although films that do that loud chord BOOM thing and a sudden action will result in a slight flinch). With books though....it's different.
Horror in a book format will always have a stronger effect than a man in a William Shatner mask running at you with a chainsaw at a summer camp. I'm willing to admit, I was creeped out reading through this the second time. Being on my own for the last 2 weeks ploughing through heightened my senses to every creak, every shift, every small noise that my old house makes in the winter. It was eerie at times.
The very fact that It can take the form of pretty much anything is the real kicker and the threat of that spilling out into reality is something that King plays with very well. He makes this entity feel like more than just some punch-clock villain. It is so much more than that and the depth of the writing is evidence of this. Opening the fridge became a somewhat concerning experience I can tell you.
Despite It's claims to be "eternal, the eater of worlds, and of children" it really does suck at keeping a form. It's masks are clever and trick many of the characters, but they only last mere minutes, sometimes seconds. It's main form of Pennywise, keeps cutting back in (the reference to a silver suit, orange pom-poms, white greasepaint are heavily mentioned) as if that clown masquerade is always attempting to take control. It toys with the losers on several occasions, even when it has them trapped (hi Stan!) with no way of escape, it still fails, or rather, it's thwarted by the Losers at every turn. Despite It always seemingly having the upperhand, the Losers narrowly escape on so many occasions.
At the end of their first encounter with It, they wound it enough for it to lay dormant for 27 years. They scare It. They scare a being that thrives on the very notion of it's godlike status, yet the Losers severely wound it when it appears to them in several forms (werewolf, giant mutant spider thing) causing It to feel fear, for the first time...fear of the Losers and the power they have, the power of friendship - the power of being unified by the fear It has targetted them with. The argument could be that It unwillingly created the group to be it's downfall.
Which brings me to what the book is actually about.
Friendship. This is what ties this book together. It's easy to say "it's actually about a clown-spider thing that eats kids" - this is half the story. the main premise of the book, is friendship - it's about the love of seven indivudals, who are lost, persecuted and afraid who find solace and companionship in each other.
There's a bit in the book, where Ben first meets Bill and Eddie and they invite him to hang out with them the next day and the joy Ben feels regarding someone wanting to be his friend is heartwarming. The same goes for when Richie invites him to the cinema along with Bev - it's one of several wonderful and very poignant moments that will warm even the coldest heart.
The fact that they nearly all return to Derry, 27 years later to confront It (except Stan, who is killed by the fear of It) and there's a bit at the end, where Beverly sees Stan and Eddie with the them again and they feel united and whole once more (7 being the magic, unifying number in their group). I loved how when all the characters are introduced and slowly come together, each feels like that new person is part of the group. In fact, there's a moment where an outsider hangs out with them, but one character (Bill, I think) remarks how they're not connected like how the Losers are.
Reading through It a second time has been greatly rewarding - it's storytelling that hits fear right between the eyes, but also ties in love so tightly and fiercely, it floods the fear until it can't breathe.
During discussion, the majority of us identified Ben as a favourite character, his love for Bev, the way he sticks up for her and his well-meaning nature all contributing factors. The fact he was so overjoyed about finally finding soul-mates in the other losers.
Richie and Mike's dad were also favourites, the former for his gags and terrible voices, plus the way he challenged It at the end and Mike's dad for being a complete badass.
Bizarrely, one bookclubber liked Henry Bowers, the decoy-villain protagonist. Although this wasn't clear whether they liked the style of the character, or the ACTUAL character. Both different things.
Favourite scenes? Too many. Defeating It for the first time, all meeting up together 27 years later, the forming of the group, Mike's dad recounting stories to a young Mike, Richie and Bill escaping from the werewolf, Ben fighting back against Henry, Ben kicking Henry in the balls, Ben making the dam. Ben in general really.
It is without doubt King's best work; arguing that it's overlong is silly - the background and depth of the world created surrounding Derry, the Losers and It is astonishing and one that cannot be matched. This is more proof as to why King is the master of horror, but also the amount of love his books have.
On a side note, The movie terrified me at a young age. Tim Curry does a great job as Pennywise and props to Seth Green (young Richie), Harry Anderson (grown-up Richie) and John Ritter (grown-up Ben). However, watching it back now, the film is an absolute stinker, full of ropey special effects, some really bad acting (hi Bill's wife!) and for some reason grown-up Eddie resembles a gay German school teacher.
Here's hoping the remake is half-decent. Also, get Seth Green to play older-Richie, that would be a blast.