It

ItIt by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!

Wonderfully immersive and gorgeously written, IT is a remarkable achievement. I put off reading it for a long time because of its daunting length, but I’m so glad I finally dove in. I absolutely loved it. At the heart of the novel, as well as at the heart of my love for it, sits the Losers Club, seven characters who, thanks to Stephen King’s masterful ability to conjure character from perfect details and authentic emotions, I came to feel as though I knew intimately. I really grew to love them over the course of the novel, especially as children, and found myself slowing down toward the end because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them. When I finally turned that last page, it was a bittersweet moment because I was both deeply satisfied with the narrative and a little sad that I wouldn’t get to spend more time with them. I wish I’d had a circle of friends this close when I was growing up!

The monster itself is a stunning creation, wholly original and something well beyond the tropes it imitates in order to frighten its victims, but what lasts for me from this novel are not the scare scenes but the emotions. In so many ways, this novel is about kindness, love, and friendship. The monster could easily be a metaphor for bullying, or violence, or the cosmic unfairness of a child’s death, or a town’s dark history coming to light, or all of those things, but it’s the deep and abiding love these characters have for each other that allows them to defeat the monster in the end. Not without cost, but also not without reward.

I love the novel so much I’m tempted to call it perfect, and I think in some ways it is, such as in characterization and the use of setting, but it stumbles a bit toward the end, in my opinion. I thought the monster was much scarier without the extended mythology King gives it (the macroverse, the Turtle, the Other, etc.), and the handful of times he lets us into its thoughts saps too much of its mystery and ability to terrify. I understand the mythology ties into King’s magnum opus of the Dark Tower, but on a purely standalone level I thought it detracted from the horror by making the unknowable too known. I think I definitely belong to the school of thought that says the less we know about the monster, the better. Additionally, three characters outside of the Losers Club, Henry, Tom, and Audra, also make their way to Derry, but not much comes of their presence. Henry obviously has the biggest connection to the characters, being their childhood bully, but as an adult threat he’s taken care of rather quickly. Tom follows Beverly to the town but is then pretty much instantly dispatched with. Audra’s presence is important to end of the novel, but otherwise she’s just sort of there. (These three characters’ sections also sometimes feel like an unwelcome intrusion on the narrative, although I suppose that works thematically.) Lastly, the sex scene in the sewers feels like a major misstep to me. It’s beautifully written and actually quite sweetly portrayed — these characters are wonderfully, charmingly innocent, not lascivious — but it still feels out of place, both because of the characters’ prepubescent age and because I didn’t fully understand its purpose. I will readily admit I didn’t get how this act achieves what it’s meant to achieve, namely focusing the characters enough that they can then find their way out of the sewers. Symbolically, I think there might have been better ways to signal the end of childhood and the start of adulthood, at least in the context of this novel. I can totally see why this scene sticks in some readers’ craw, and I really do wonder why King thought its inclusion made narrative sense. (Beep beep, Stephen!)

But those missteps did nothing to temper my profound love for this novel. IT now holds a place of honor as my favorite Stephen King novel. Although there are still so many more I have to read, it’s hard to imagine any of them resonating as strongly with me as this one. I can see myself returning to this novel again and again in the future. It would be like revisiting old friends.

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My Necon 37 Schedule

Necon 37 is this weekend! This is the writers’ conference I’ve been going to the longest, ever since 2000. I’ve only missed two in the ensuing years, which makes this my sixteenth time! Here is where you can find me on programming:

Friday, July 21st

1:00 PM   Kaiju Big Battle: Why Giant Monsters Are on the Rise Again
John Goodrich, John W. Dennehy, Nicholas Kaufmann (M), Gemma Files, Craig Shaw Gardner, Darrell Schweitzer
We all grew up on Saturday afternoon movies with badly overdubbed dialogue and massive, larger-than-life monsters. Those monsters are on the rise again like … well, like Godzilla rising from the Pacific! But why? Our panelists discuss the resurgence of giant monsters and try to formulate a plan to save Tokyo.

(I’m looking forward to moderating a panel on one of my favorite subjects: giant monsters!)

8:00 PM  Meet the Authors Party

(If all goes well, I should have print copies of In the Shadow of the Axe to sell and sign at Necon! Fingers crossed they arrive in time!)

Saturday, July 22nd

9:00 PM  The Infamous Necon Roast
In the immortal words of the Human Torch, “Flame on!”

(Once again, Jeff Strand and I will be co-hosting the annual roast. Who is the lucky recipient of this dubious honor? You’ll have to be there to find out, especially because it might be YOU!)

Sunday, July 23rd

11:00 AM  Necon Town Meeting
Tell us what we did wrong, what we did right, and what you’d like to see us do next year.

(Come yell at us for putting you on a 9 AM panel Saturday or Sunday morning!)

The rest of the time, you’ll find me milling about. Necon is a small, intimate gathering, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding me if you want to say hello or ask me to sign a book for you. I’m friendly, I promise! (Except during the roast.)

ALERT! ALERT! IMPORTANT READERCON SCHEDULE CHANGE!

For reasons beyond my control, my reading time has been changed from 11 AM on Friday to 2:30 PM on Friday. This change won’t be in the program book, but it will be reflected in the mobile version of the program and the printed grid. Sorry for any inconvenience this last-minute change may cause!

You can see my entire, updated Readercon schedule here.

My Readercon 28 Schedule

Readercon 28 is fast approaching on the weekend of July 13th-16th! Here’s where you can find me on programming:

Friday, July 14th

12:00 PM  Back from the Dead. Judith Berman, John Crowley, N.S. Dolkart, Nicholas Kaufmann, Sioban Krzywicki (leader). There are many characters in SF/F who die in what appears to be a permanent fashion, only to be brought back from death. Examples, left intentionally vague to avoid spoilers, appear in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, Daniel José Older’s Bone Street Rumba books, and as far back as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books. How do the characters interact with resurrection (their own or someone else’s) and in some cases even prepare for it? When do readers feel like this works and is believable and satisfying, and when does it feel like a cheap trick or a cop-out? What is it like to read these stories while grieving, or keenly aware of one’s own mortality?

(I’m so psyched to be on a panel with the great John Crowley, and to get a chance to talk about why I made Trent from Dying Is My Business and Die and Stay Dead a hero who can’t die.)

2:30 PM  Reading: Nicholas Kaufmann. Nicholas Kaufmann reads from a work in progress.

(I’m not 100% sure what I’m reading yet, but I’m leaning toward something from the novel I’m currently working on, The Scarred Man. Or maybe I’ll read something else. Come on by and be surprised!)

6:00 PM  Kaffeeklatsch. Nicholas Kaufmann.

(Come hang out with me, drink coffee if you like, and ask me all sorts of questions! Or just sit there and stare at me creepily, I don’t care.)

As you can see, my programming schedule is Friday-heavy this year. The rest of the time, you’ll definitely find me attending other interesting panels and readings, as well as hanging out in the lobby/bar with friends and perusing the Readercon Bookshop. I will also be happy to sign any of my books for you! Feel free to come right up and say hello!

 

 

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