Publisher: Signet (Penguin USA)
First published: 15 September 1986
This edition published: 7 August 1987
On the cover:
[A picture of Stephen King]
Text below from King's website.
It began for the Losers on a day in June of 1958, the day school let out for the summer. That was the day Henry Bowers carved the first letter of his name on Ben Hanscom's belly and chased him into the Barrens, the day Henry and his Neanderthal friends beat up on Stuttering Bill Denbrough and Eddie Kaspbrak, the day Stuttering Bill had to save Eddie from his worst asthma attack ever by riding his bike to beat the devil. It ended in August, with seven desperate children in search of a creature of unspeakable evil in the drains beneath Derry. In search of It. And somehow it ended.
Or so they thought. Then.
On a spring night in 1985 Mike Hanlon, once one of those children, makes six calls. Stan Uris, accountant. Richie "Records" Tozier, L.A. disc jockey. Ben Hanscom, renowned architect. Beverly Rogan, dress designer. Eddie Kaspbrak, owner of a successful New York limousine company. And Bill Denbrough, bestselling writer of horror novels. Bill Denbrough who now only stutters in his dreams.
These six men and one woman have forgotten their childhoods, have forgotten the time when they were Losers . . . but an unremembered promise draws them back, the present begins to rhyme dreadfully with the past, and when the Losers reunite, the wheels of fate lock together and roll them toward the ultimate terror.
This is King's most well known work, maybe it's mostly because of the TV series, but I think that the very short title helps people remember it.
IT is a Horror novel, but it is also a novel about a group of friends growing up in the USA in the late 1950s. And it is actually the latter that makes this novel really stand out from other Horror novels, and makes it a masterpiece.
Not only is the novel composed of two main themes, as I wrote above, it also has two different timelines. One of them is the summer of 1958, and the other is the present day - more specifically 1985.
These two timelines does not exist independent of each other, they are closely related and we mostly see 1958 as a recollection from the characters viewpoint in the present day. This structure works incredibly well, it allows King to stretch out the suspense in a way that would otherwise be difficult to pull off. It also means that the novel, despite being over one thousand pages, does not feel padded. I can't think of anything that could be cut from the book without weakening it.
The characters of the book are so fully realised it's not hard to think of someone you know that they could represent. And the way they come together in 1958 will most likely be very familiar to anyone who has grown up a place where playing unsupervised outside was allowed. In fact this part of the novel is so well done that you could remove all the Horror elements and still be left with a great story.
Even as adults King's characters are an interesting gang. Even though we only get glimpses of what has happened with them in the years between 1958 and 1985, it is enough to see what made them turn out the way they did. Much of which has links back to the events of the summer of 1958.
I mentioned above that King uses the revelation in 1986 of the events in 1958 to stretch out the suspense, and there is a lot of suspense in the book. There are a number of horrific events happening, and that we often get to see them unfold through the eyes of children makes them that much stronger. I'm not easily scared by books, but there were scenes in IT that made me sweat. King really gets you close to the characters, and this gets you invested in the events unfolding on the page to a degree few authors manage.
The ending of the book does not disappoint either. We slowly learn how the past and the future are connected, and when we finally get the revelation of the final piece in the connecting puzzle - It makes perfect sense, at least it did to me.
The only real let-down is that it has to end at all. After spending so much time with the main characters it was kind of hard to let them go, I for one wouldn't mind continuing to follow their lives.
There's a good case to be made for IT being King's best novel, and it is certainly among the absolute best he has ever written. This is a novel that can't be missed if you are a fan of Horror, and even if you are not you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't read it. Simply put, this is a must read book.