I have officially hit the halfway point of Stephen King’s It, and my first overall reaction is one of surprise at just how much I am enjoying this spooky read. I have avoided King’s novels for long, having determined them to be too frightening for my palate, that any enjoyment on my part seems implausible even as I continue to gush about just that. Mr. King and It only confirm my love of a lengthy novel because the length allows for the creation of in-depth characters and generally creates a more well-rounded, realistic story no matter how fanciful the subject matter. Case in point, the supernatural elements which ties the “Losers Club” together are highly improbable but because of the time and space devoted to creating complete back stories, describing the characters and allowing readers to truly get to know them, these mystical elements become possible. The realism infused into each character then works to enhance the suspense and fear in the characters and the readers. It is a masterful structuring of a story and would not be half as effective if the story were shorter.
Part of my enjoyment of It stems from the superb narration of Steven Weber. The job tasked to him, between Richie’s penchant for voices and Bill’s stutter, is a challenging one, but he accomplishes it perfectly. He can and does switch between suave and silky to silly and rambunctious to scared and young to thoroughly creepy and evil from one sentence to the next and without pause. His vocalization of Pennywise the Clown is enough to linger in my mind hours after I stop listening to the book and does much to increase my own personal growing unease as I continue to listen. I know I would not feel the same sense of apprehension had I been using my own imagination and reading the story in print. For me, the audiobook is the only way to experience this classic horror story.
The story itself is intense. Each chapter, each part increases my tension, bringing me to the brink of being uncomfortable and then gives me just enough room to relax again. Still, I find myself only able to listen to it for a few hours at a time, as my brain or my psyche can only handle so much before it begins to shut down, even with the breaks in the action. At this point in time, I have no idea in which direction Mr. King is going to take the narration next let alone how the story is going to end. A mystery is unfolding, and I am just a hapless reader along for the ride. My fear stems in large part due to the inordinate amount of feelings I have towards each of the characters. Bill, Ben, Mike, Stan, Beverly, Eddie, and even the nasty Henry and Tom provoke a myriad of emotional responses that simultaneously enhance my enjoyment of the story as well as force me to only listen in smallish intervals.
What remains fascinating is that Mr. King provides the reader with multiple hints as to get rid of Pennywise once and for all. Not only that but he does it in such a way that the reader becomes an active participant in the story as an unrecognized member of the “Losers Club”. Just as Bill, Ben and the rest of the gang struggle to remember key events from their childhood with the sense that they are on the brink of remembering key events, the reader is left questioning certain sentences or phrases, recognizing them as important but with no clear idea of why they would be so.
Based on what I’ve experienced so far, I would have to reassess my idea of King’s novels as scary. They are intense and creepy with some truly gruesome scenes, and they definitely make me anxious and uncomfortable when reading but am I truly frightened? At this point in time, I am not; however, I do expect this to change as I reach the end. I have a feeling Pennywise has many more tricks up his sleeves that will leave me utterly horrified. In spite of the tension and apprehension that continues to grow as the novel progresses, I am thoroughly enjoying It, something I never thought I would say. Pennywise is the epitome of a clown – nasty and evil, but as in real life, the evil is not limited to a supernatural character. The result is a complex and comprehensive tale that redefines the placidity of small-town life and creates the most unlikely band of heroes. I cannot wait to find out how It ends.
Are you participating in the It-along? What do you think so far?