Top 100 Horror Books: IT

Ready for another installment?

Along with fearless friends DeAnna Knippling and Shannon Lawrence, I am making my way through “Nightmare Magazine’s Top 100 Horror Books.”

Because I caught the made-for-TV movie, I decided the time had come to re-read IT by Stephen King.

My, what a time commitment that book is. I’d forgotten how long it takes to read those 1,138 pages. I think, this time, it took me longer than a month. Because I’m already so familiar with it, there’s no thrill of discovery, no wondering what will happen next. Sadly, this may mark the last time I’ll read this particular book.

What it made me wonder was: would this book get published, in all its glory, in today’s market? Would it be deemed too long? Would the back and forth chapters, hopping roughly 30 years in time, be considered too difficult for today’s audience?

It’s still a wonderfully written scary story. In fact, I’ve referenced Pennywise, the clown, in one of my own novels. It’s freaking iconic, is what it is.

The ground this book treads is familiar. It’s the children in the town of Derry who can see the evil that is stalking them. The adults have lost the ability to see the types of things that require a leap of faith to believe in. And every 20-some years, this evil force rears up and feeds on the children again, until it sinks into a sated hibernation far beneath the storm drains and the sewers.

Children are often the only ones who can see the horror. Or the magic. Maybe they’re opposite sides of the same coin. And monsters and magicians are inevitably drawn to the children and the child-like, the innocent (and not-so-innocent) young.

Maybe children are easier to scare because children are quicker to believe what is right in front of their eyes instead of trying to rationalize it away? They’re willing to say “I saw a ghost” instead of first working through if it was a trash bag blowing in the wind, a trick of the light, a sheet on a clothesline, the product of too many intoxicants.

On reading this now, there was only one scene for me that didn’t ring true. And that’s the sex scene set in 1957, when the kids are in the tunnels trying to find their way out. I don’t think it was the only thing Bev could do to bring them all back together and save them. Although each kid had flashes of adult insight throughout that summer, the ideas and thoughts running through her head as she made this decision didn’t feel true to her age, her character or the book. WTF, Stephen King. W. T. F? As if ripping out Georgie’s arm wasn’t squicky enough, you had to throw in a prepubescent sex scene? Because that’s the only power a female could possibly have or use?

Regardless of this one quibble, this is one of the books I firmly agree belongs on the Top 100 list.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Top 100 Horror Books: IT

  1. dknippling

    I am so, so tired of the sexism in horror at this point. Working my way through an audiobook where I keep bitterlaughing at the sexist elements, and startling other pedestrians, birds, etc. No, dude, the important part about the two-dimensional female character almost getting raped isn’t HOW IT MUST FEEL TO HAVE BEEN HER HELPLESS HUSBAND.

    I think Stephen King learned and changed some over the years, based on the stuff of his that I’ve read after The Dark Tower/Drawing of the Three, which has his first really memorable female character that doesn’t just get killed off or otherwise screwed over. But that’s just an intuitive guess; I’d have to do more research.

  2. There is a lot of sexism in horror, at least the classics. I do wonder why Bev was in the book at all. His strength, at least at that time, was in boys coming of age. I’m curious as to why he decided to try a female in that setting.

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