IT – a short review

Well, I finished IT last night…. the ending was a letdown as I expected. All that build-up, all that flitting to between childhood and adolescence, and all for a fight that was pretty much the same as that which they went through as kids; except that this time they won, for no discernible reason. And then Stuttering Bill’s wife got better after he took her out on his old pushbike because…. well, no reason really. There was no real internal logic behind the ending, just a vague message about good always winning. I think the problem with a lot of King’s novels (Bag of Bones and Insomnia also had the same problem) is that he always cops out by talking of the characters acting like pawns on a chess board, the feeling that they are following a predestined path – in other words, it would have worked out okay no matter who the lead hero was. People get selected to be the hero for no particular reason – there’s no responsibility for what they do. He is a big believer in god, and that’s probably part of the problem: things moving in mysterious ways, people following paths they may not fully understand, etc. I’m just over 100 pages through The Stand, and it’s already going the same way. I think therein lies the true horror of Stephen King’s world. We are none of us fully in control of our destinies. Decisions are mad for us, paths are laid out before us; and many heroes are unwilling heroes, guns aimed and fired by a higher force. Roland from The Stand fits this template too, as does the main protagonist, Ralph, in Insomnia. It’s a scary thought; many of the antagonists are ruled by the opposite of whatever this force is (Henry Bowers, for example) and yet are punished horrifically as if they made conscious decisions to act in they way they do.

The other problem with IT is that the build-up and the psychological horror elements are always gripping; but oddly for a horror writer, when it comes to the visually scary bits (e.g. reanimated corpses, rotting corpses, half-eaten corpses, ghosts) he describes them in great detail but they’re never that scary or stomach-churning. Even the descriptions of people dying from the superflu in The Stand are a bit mundane. Compare that to what Annie Wilkes did to the writer (another recurring theme for Mr King – they say ‘write what you know’, but how many writers have been in peril in his books?); or the kids running from the bullies in IT; or how the farmer deals with his wife’s murder in Full Dark No Stars; or what Percy does in The Green Mile, and it’s clear he’s much better at the psychological stuff than the out-and-out ‘horror’ elements – he just doesn’t seem to know what to do with it once he’s got it written down. I’m enjoying The Green Mile at the moment (only about a quarter of the way though it, though); but I’m yet to come across a King novel worth reading twice.

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