We did it! CeeCee and I tackled the Mt. Everest of horror stories! It was a little touch and go there, but we climbed that dark mountain and made it out unscathed…well, for the most part. Did this massive monolith give me the willies? Yes. Did Stephen King take this story to dark places where no other author would dare venture? Absolutely. Did it need a ton of editing? OMG YES! Here’s my short assessment for a VERY long book.
Synapsis: If you haven’t already seen the movies (which I doubt!) here’s the gist. A bunch of misfit kids are terrorized by a demonic force in a clown getup. The force possesses the entire town in various way, yet the gang of kiddos (known as the “Losers Club”) are mostly immune to its powers. Only they can stop Pennywise the Dancing Clown with sheer bravery and goodness!
What worked: I’ll start off by saying that the new movie is the perfect blend of camp and cheese, yet it doesn’t hold a candle to this massive tome. I mean, how could it? Stephen King took his sweet time with every character, allowing me to almost become one with all the kiddos. In horror stories, this is crucial because the fear isn’t real unless you can truly get inside the characters’ minds. And trust me, there are some truly frightening scenes involving oodles of monsters and ghoulies. Just to name a few, we’ve got Frankenstein’s monster, a man-eating bird, a pervy homeless leper — even an animated Paul Bunyan statue. Mister King really pulled out all the stops on this one!
Perhaps the most frightening villains were the ones without fangs and fur. The ones who could’ve intervened but chose to cower inside their dingy little houses. And then there’s the bullies—holy cow! When the kiddos weren’t being chased by psychopaths with switchblades, they were verbally or physically assaulted by their parents. It’s pretty sad when your only refuge is a creepy place in the woods near the sewage treatment plant. And I thought junior high was rough. Wow.
But I digress…were these living, breathing monsters truly evil? Or was a sinister force pupeteering their every move? You see, it’s not just about a creepy ass clown going gangbusters on the local kids. It’s about the evil that lurks within all of us. Imagine a world in which our inner demons overshadowed our goodness. A world orchestrated by a nefarious entity that feeds off of weaknesses. Without Pennywise’s influence, would the schoolyard bullies resort to cold-blooded murder and animal torture? Would the parents turn into belligerent tyrants? Would the entire town succumb to the bystander effect? Guess you’ll have to read the book to figure it out!
What didn’t work: This book is LONG! And sadly, in many parts, it felt tedious. Did we really need an hour-long character sketch of Stan’s wife? Considering that she had nothing to do with the story, probably not. In fact, all the subplots involving the spouses seemed like a lot of filler to me. Also, I could’ve done without that chapter involving a periphery character and animal torture. I want a nightmare-inducing horror story, but not in that way.
And then there’s the super taboo ending that will forever haunt my dreams, again, not in a good way. A friend of mine warned me about this, but I had no idea it would be so disturbing! It’s hard to bemoan my disappointment without giving away spoilers, but I will say that Mister King must’ve been on some bad 80s cocaine to write such an outrageous scene involving 11-year-olds.
Since I’ve read his memoir On Writing (amazing book, by the way), I know he was in a dark place back then, so I’ll just chalk this up to a bad trip and leave it at that.
Side note: I “read” all 48 hours of this via audiobook, which I highly recommend! Stephen King fans will appreciate that the narrator, Stephen Weber, had a cameo in the new movie (Bill and Georgie’s absentee dad) and he also starred in the TV remake of The Shining. There’s a fun trivia fact to know and share!