I know many bloggers partook in the It-along a few months back and really enjoyed this novel – particularly the audio version. So way back in February I downloaded this baby and have been listening ever since. I cannot believe it took me two months to finish, but some of that time was monopolized by Vanity Fair. And before you think I didn’t enjoy the audio, please think again! The narration by Steven Weber is just as fantastic as everyone says. An Oscar worthy performance if there ever was one!
The long story short version? This epic length novel is about evil in a small town and the somewhat momentous differences between childhood and adulthood. There are two main timelines – one in 1958 following a group of children who call themselves the ‘Loser’s Club’ and one in 1985 where those children have all grown up. Every 27-ish years an evil often personified as Pennywise the Clown haunts the town of Derry, Maine, focusing on brutally murdering children. The Loser’s Club manages to escape but must come together again to fight this evil force when it reappears.
A lot more happens, trust me. 44 hours of stuff happens. There are Derry interludes where we discover tidbits of Derry’s history. But honestly, all those diverging plot lines take a major backseat to the 1958 setting where we get to know and love the Loser’s Club. Stephen King is a master of writing children. I loved each and every one of those kids which made all their horrors and fears so vivid.
Pennywise the Clown was never what scared me. I was, instead, truly terrified by the more real life violences that King doesn’t shy away from portraying. Bev’s many encounters with domestic violence – especially as she’s trying to run away from her father’s rage as a young girl. The bullying brought about by Henry and his followers. The ballshit evil that was Patrick. Some of those moments were almost impossible to listen to because Steven Weber made them feel so real.
All that being said, It wasn’t a perfect book for me. The scene with the kiddy orgy was absolutely wrong and off-putting. I cringed throughout the whole thing and would have skipped had I not been driving. Also, long parts were extremely slow and boring (remember those Derry interludes?) and could have been edited out easily. If the book had been culled down to a much more efficient but still affecting length, I’d probably have nothing but praises to sing.
I’d still recommend to readers who enjoy the horror genre or King’s writing in general. I’ve watched the first half of the IT mini-series and wasn’t very impressed. So much was changed that I couldn’t get into it. I did like the child actors though. It was lovely seeing Jonathan Brandis again. I used to love him way back in the early 90s. Now that I have two King novels under my belt, I’m going to give him a little rest. He’s not an author I can read day in and day out without growing tired. But I’m looking forward to revisiting him soon!
Oh, the joys of audio books! This month’s audio theme has been Stephen King, an author I’ve read very little of ashamedly. But what better way to enjoy a King story than through audio and visual mediums! So I listened to the book and then watched the TNT made-for-tv miniseries starring Rob Lowe and I has opinions.
The story is really rather simple and embraces many of King’s common thematic structures. Writer Ben Mears is returning to his brief childhood home, Jerusalem’s Lot, where he had a frightening encounter as a boy. He plans to exorcise his personal demons by researching and writing a new book concerning the family that built and owned the creepy old mansion high upon the hill overlooking the town. On a dare, he entered that house as a child to discover a rather bleak murder-suicide situation and has never mentally recovered, try as he may. Nightmares still haunt him and the house represents All. The. Evil. Things. Upon his return, he discovers that someone has bought the old house and that they might be vampires.
A great little vampire story. Loved getting back to those fierce and bloody creatures that live…unlive?… to maim and kill. No sparkles here, folks, and that’s such a welcome relief. King manages to write superb moments of genuine terror and narrator Ron McLarty does a good job ramping up the thrills. I’m also happy to report that King goes beyond the simplicity of cheap scares and rounds out his story with a decently literary discussion on the secret evils of small towns. Having grown up in such a place, I enjoyed seeing the seedy underbelly of ‘Salem’s Lot instead of the oft idolized vision of picket fences and howdy-dos. Now granted, the in-your-face personification of small down ill-deeds as vampirism can be a bit heavy-handed at times, but the fun factor always dances back in just when you need it!
Some little things bothered me here and there. Too many characters fighting for my limited memory space. A rather odd group of heroes at the end that didn’t seem entirely plausible. Ben and Susan’s ridiculous insta-love. And…well…just the end in general. How did this vampire outbreak manage to stay relatively confined to this one particular town in Maine? I forgive King these slight irks because he was a new-ish author at the time and was still honing his craft. I’m excited to move on and read later works to see how his talent increased. So I recommend ‘Salem’s Lot when you need a good dirty vampire story! It will wash away all the Twilight unpleasantness.
As for the miniseries, I’m not sure what to say! Such a mixed bag. The special effects were both the worst and best parts. Sometimes they were spot on and genuinely frightened me, but other times they made me giggle uncontrollably. I thought the casting was rather good and the changes to the story didn’t bother me so much – particularly Father Callahan’s ending. However, the acting left a lot to be desired. And it’s not something I blame the actors for, but the script was lacking and the direction as well. A fun little cheese-fest all the same and gets the point across efficiently enough. I love Donald Sutherland in all he does – especially when it involves vampires!