I recently joined Audible, and have been trying to navigate the system — when to use a credit, when to pay, what to put on my wish list, etc. For my first book, I selected the 40+ hour-long It. I hadn’t read It since I was in high school, when I remember it scared me to death. But I’ve been on a bit of a Dark Tower Universe kick, enjoying all of the links between Stephen King’s books and trying to figure out how they all relate to Roland and his quest for the Tower. It is one of the major players in that universe. We have appearances from Stuttering Bill (in Dark Tower VII, he is a robot); Maturin, the turtle; and Gan, the creator of all. Even Dandelo, the horrible vampire that eats human emotions in Dark Tower VII, seems to be the same type or horrible creature as Pennywise the Clown.
It took me quite a while to listen to the entire book. There’s only so many hours I can spend on the treadmill or in the car without the kids (because, really, they don’t need to hear this book). And I went in to it a bit doubtful about the narrator’s ability to handle the vast cast of characters, especially Pennywise. Because, Tim Curry.
The book was narrated by Steven Weber. And this is pretty much what I was expecting:
But I’ll be damned if Weber didn’t blow me away here. While he didn’t really do “voices” for all of the characters, it was easy enough to differentiate who was speaking at any time. He could flip-flop from childhood fun and innocence to utter terror just in a few simple words. He was really quite good.* Brian Hackett, this was not.
I don’t really want to get too much into the plot of this one. Pretty much everyone knows the basics by now: timeless creature of evil lives beneath the town of Derry, Maine. Every 25 or so years, this creature wakes up to feed on the children of the town, wreaking havoc as he does. He (or she?) glamours his real appearance by showing himself to the residents of Derry as a clown, or as the manifestation of their greatest fears. Scared of werewolves? It will come after you as a werewolf. Are you a germaphobe? It will come to you as a leper, with dripping sores and missing flesh.
And this cycle goes on and on, uninterrupted, from the beginning of time until 1958. In the summer of 1958, a group of 7 kids figure out what is happening in Derry and join together to fight It. They then make a promise to each other to come back someday, if It ever returns.
Which, of course, It does. In 1985.
The story jumps back and forth in time, from ’58 to ’85, with interludes in between that give the history of horrible events in Derry from the time of its incorporation to the present.
The book has a little bit of of the best and the worst aspects of Stephen King.
The characters — no matter how small — are all really well drawn and interesting. I liked reading how the kids from 1958 grew up to become middle-aged and seeing what personality traits they kept and how they changed (or didn’t), both mentally and physically. I really enjoyed the parts about Derry’s history and how the citizens, time and again, simply ignored the horrific events that happened there, as willed by It. The scenes of Derry’s destruction near the end were also really cool — the timeline of how the storm and the flood attacked the town and its residents was very well done.
As mentioned above, I enjoyed the links to King’s other works. In particular, the link that really stands out for me is this poem, repeated many times in the 7 Dark Tower books, and how it relates to the turtle that helps our heroes defeat It.
“See the TURTLE of enormous girth! On his shell he holds the earth. His thought is slow but always kind; he holds us all within his mind. On his back all vows are made; he sees the truth buy mayn’t aid. He loves the land and loves the sea, and even loves a child like me.”
The first time I read It, I hadn’t read the DT books yet, and the entire turtle/Gan/void stuff really didn’t work for me. This time, it didn’t work 100%, but I least I could grasp what King was trying to do. Sort of.
And then we have the bad King. Which is mostly about sex. Whenever Uncle Stevie writes himself a sex scene, you just know its going to be a bit uncomfortable. And we get that in spades here. The Ritual of Chud is something that simply did not need to exist and I felt a bit sorry for Steven Weber that he had to tell me about it.
Still frightening after all of these years, I’m glad I revisited It. Next up, Insomnia.
*Speaking of, have you seen him on iZombie? He’s pretty great there. I hope he comes back for season 2.