For many horror fans, Stephen King is at the top of the literary totem pole. And for Stephen King fans, many consider his best work is from the 1980s. He was firing on all cylinders then. And for me, his best novel is IT, which turns 25 years old this month.
I’m a fan of the man’s work but I have to admit I was a late bloomer to it. It was the first book of his I read at age 16 back in September 1986. I watched a few movie adaptations, like The Shining, Christine and Cujo, of King’s novels prior to IT’s release. As a side note, when I watched the film version of Cujo for the first time on HBO back in he early 1980s it was that film that made me aware that the F-word was used in movies. So thank you Cujo for making me realize there was more to movies than PG-rated content.
I grew up in a very small, rural town in central Illinois. It didn’t have any caves to explore, mysteries to solve or monsters to hunt. I had heard about this novel and was interested in reading it. I liked horror and reading a story set in a small town certainly appealed to me.
The official synopsis of the novel from StephenKing.com is “A promise made twenty-eight years ago calls seven adults to reunite in Derry, Maine, where as teenagers they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Unsure that their Losers Club had vanquished the creature all those years ago, the seven had vowed to return to Derry if IT should ever reappear. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that summer return as they prepare to do battle with the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers once more.”
The book is long. At the time of release it was King’s longest by page count. Now I believe it ranks third behind the “director’s cut” of The Stand and Under the Dome. As for the story, it take a few hundred pages of exposition before the story and action really get going but it’s worth the wait. For me it is my favorite Stephen King novel and the best small town story. The novel definitely isn’t an adventure story or “fun” horror. It introduced us to Pennywise the clown, one of modern literature’s creepiest characters.
IT is a rare storytelling concept in that it tells two stories at once. One is the story of the main characters’ childhood in the 1950s and how they initially deal with the horrors that are discovered in Derry, Maine. At the same time, the story of the main characters return to Derry as adults to face the horrors of their childhood one more time is told.
If you’ve never read Stephen King this is the best book to start. Then once you’ve read it move on to the TV adaptation. The novel was adapted into a television mini-series in 1990 starring Richard Thomas, John Ritter, Harry Anderson, Annette O’Toole and Tim Curry that has become a cult favorite.
To celebrate the publishing milestone, a 25th anniversary special edition of IT will be released this December from Cemetery Dance Publications. The birthday version features a plethora of extra content including an afterword by King on why he wrote the book and interior artwork.
And the artwork gets a chance to shine by itself. As another birthday treat, Cemetery Dance Publications is also publishing IT: The 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Artwork Portfolio. It collects the new artwork featured in the new edition of the novel.
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