Good, but not as good as expected: A Review of IT (By Stephen King)

I’d always assumed Stephen King’s IT would give me sleepless nights… because I’m a ‘fraidy-cat. So I procrastinated for a long time before choosing a period where I could manage with a few sleepless nights and finally got down to reading what has come to be known as one of Stephen King’s best books.

And I have to say… I was underwhelmed. Keep reading for more details.

Stephen King - It
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Horror

Length:

1376 pages

Blurb:

Something evil lives underground in the town of Derry, Maine – something that only the children can see, something that feeds on them. The horrific death of six-year-old George Denbrough sets off events that band together seven children who are forced to fight their worst nightmares, brought alive by IT that can take any shape. They survive the ordeal. And move away, going on to live successful lives, and forgetting everything they’d faced as near-teenagers. Until they get a call from Derry, 27 years later. Children are dying horribly again. The past is repeating itself. And The Losers have to return to Derry – to fulfill a promise made a long time ago, and to face their nightmares once again. Will they survive IT again?

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its horror, a lot of which has a reduced effect due to the sheer length of the book. By the end, you’re all scared-out and the most horrifying things become mundane.

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Nope… just a single, reeeaallly big book! (And a 2-Part movie series.)

Highlighted Takeaway:

There is a distinct difference between the way adults see life and the way children see life. The general assumption is that the former are smarter because of their outlook. But there is a strength in children, brought forth by their innocence, imagination, and simple way of being able to maintain a wider view of the world than adults – just because they haven’t been molded by peers’ thoughts and societal conformity. That distinction and the often unappreciated ability of children is highlighted brilliantly in IT.

What I Liked:

The basic premise of the book, especially the part where it touches upon how we, individually, have the power to create (and sometimes overcome) our greatest fears.

Even though the book eventually loses some of its effectiveness (as mentioned below), it still manages to get under your skin, leaving you looking over your shoulder.

What I Didn’t Like:

The book is quite long, which isn’t a problem in itself. But what its length does is diminish its effectiveness. Like a word repeated too many times loses its effect, the extended horror eventually loses its effect. By the end, things get pretty intense and horrifying more often than in the initial parts of the book – but it just doesn’t seem as scary.

Spoiler alert! This spoiler doesn’t affect the outcome of the story in any way, but does highlight a specific part of the book. This part is only in the book and (from what I read), not in Part 1 of the film. The section where Beverly “gets together” with all the other boys of The Losers little group (six boys!), was altogether too much to take. I get why it was written (by reading Stephen King’s take on it) and even what it was meant to signify, but just… nope!

Who Should Read It:

Fans of horror and fans of Stephen King. And anyone who enjoys books with a supernatural touch.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who is turned off by violence and gore. And anyone who doesn’t enjoy stories driven by supernatural elements.

Read It For:

The experience. There are a few things that aren’t likable in Stephen King’s IT – the abovementioned spoiler, a somewhat childish aspect to the climax, and unnecessarily added story sections that the book can do without.

But, it is a book that everyone should attempt to read at least once. Even those who, like me, are generally scared of horrors. It is a prominent part of literary horror, and rightly so, with its complex yet simple understanding of human nature, gore-y and psychologically terrifying bits, and unabashed reflection of the societal problems and norms of the era in which it was set.

What did you think of Stephen King’s IT – movie or novel? Let me know in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by and reading this review!

– Rishika

Gets-Under-Your-Skin Scary: A Review of Hell by Tom Lewis

I’m a scaredy-cat, always have been, and I doubt that’s ever going to change. But when I saw Jeffrey Keetan‘s review of Hell, I checked out the blurb, found it incredibly interesting, tried to find a copy on Amazon, couldn’t find it, reached out to the author, and Tom Lewis was actually kind enough to get back to me and give me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

(Insert deep breath here).

What followed was a day and a half of intense page-turning as I delved into the story of the Possession and Exorcism of Cassie Stevens. I’m going to admit that I did have a few nightmares in the nights that followed. Hell corroborates that unwelcome but always-there feeling that comes over you when night falls and the lights are turned out – something is lurking in the shadows.

Hell by Tom Lewis
Source: Goodreads

Genre: Horror

Length: 374 pages

Blurb:

After a devastating personal loss, young Cassie finds herself pulled into the macabre world of darkness, death, and beyond. What starts as curiosity ends with Cassie getting addicted to drugs and partaking in strange activities… until she dies in an accident. Revived 20 minutes later, Cassie recovers and becomes her normal, pre-goth self. And then strange things start to happen around her. Cassie knows something is watching her from the shadows, something that is not just around her but inside her, and something that she’d managed to get away from when she’d been revived. But the thing within her is not ready to let go yet… not until it claims what is rightfully its – Cassie’s life.

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: 7 out of 10

Characterization: 8 out of 10

Primary Element: 8 out of 10, for its ability to re-enforce the fear of the dark

Writing Style: 8 out of 10

Part of a Series: No

Highlighted Takeaway:

The way Tom Lewis manages to weave a story that is not in-your-face scary for the most part but still manages to scare the heck out of you by building on fears inherent in people.

What I Liked:

The characterization, the insight into a whole different lifestyle, and the story itself. There was also a relatively large dose of gore, which might not be up everyone’s alley, but definitely added a whole other layer of ‘disturbing’ and ‘creepy’ to the book and really rounded it off as a horror.

What I Didn’t Like:

Some arcs weren’t closed or explained, and although they didn’t greatly affect the story-line, the addition probably would have made it even more intriguing. Also, the use of ‘phenomena’ instead of ‘phenomenon’. It’s commonly used, I know, but the lack of distinction between the plural and singular has always been a pet peeve of mine.

Who Should Read It:

Fans of horror, especially those who like Stephen King’s work. Hell has certain elements that are very reminiscent of King’s work, especially the ability of the story to make you extremely aware of every tiny sound, want to constantly look over your shoulder because you feel like someone’s right there, and avoid the darkness for a few days.

Who Should Avoid:

People who tend to avoid horror in general because the stories stay with them for too long. Hell will stay with you for a few nights for sure, so proceed with caution.

Read It For:

Its unapologetically gory take on things satanic and disturbing, and to remind yourself that sometimes, primal fears are unavoidable and un-overcomeable.

A big, big thank you to Tom Lewis, the author of Hell: The Possession and Exorcism of Cassie Stevens, for agreeing to give me a copy of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend his work to fans of horror, and read more of it myself (albeit with long non-horror periods in the middle).

Which is your favorite horror book? Let us know in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (By Robert Louis Stevenson)

15848107
Source: Goodreads

Length: 137 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

When London lawyer, John Gabriel Utterson, first sees Mr. Hyde, he’s struck by a sense of foreboding. He finds the infamous man as deplorable as the rumors state. And he hopes that he never has to lay eyes on him again. But fate has other plans. Dr. Jekyll, a respected man and Utterson’s good friend, refuses to share in Utterson’s disgust of Mr. Hyde. In fact, he seems to almost care about the strange, unlikeable creature. Strange events begin to unfold in the city and Utterson is inescapably pulled into them. At the heart of them all, he finds Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll’s unrelenting support of the man being hunted by the entire city. As he is compelled to investigate further, he finds himself in the midst of a nightmare he’d believed unimaginable, and a reality that would challenge everything he’d ever believed in.

My take:

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is known for being one of the earlier works on the topic of split personalities. But the book is actually way more than that.

The book has a very archaic writing style and, with it, the charm of that style. It’s actually quite easy to read as long as you read it slowly and not in any rush. The prose will not leave you feeling overwhelmed or like you’re missing out on anything; in fact, it’s written in an incredibly enjoyable manner.

As a story, it isn’t exactly what I had expected. I was probably misled by the many adaptations of the book (which I’ve not watched/read but only heard about). So I kind of expected a book that begins with a murder and proceeds to the split personality angle. The book is nothing like that and that’s a good thing.

It’s a little difficult, to be honest, to explain how amazing this book is (because that would inevitably lead to spoilers). So, I’m going to focus instead on why this book is so good. The main reason is that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is emotion in prose. The book has an eerie sense to it that stays with you as you read it. But, it also has this beautiful, profound sadness.

It touches upon topics like the duality of personality (which is very different from a split personality) really well and forces you to remain in thought long after it’s done. It talks about the contradiction that all of us are, within ourselves, and our ability to choose to be one over the other at varied times. And in a world where all of us are juggling so many different things that require us to be so many different things, the book and its emotion hit pretty hard.

Then there is the emotion you feel for the characters themselves. In a book as short as 137 pages (or even lesser, depending on the format and publisher), Stevenson manages to make readers truly associate with the people within his story. Whether they appear for one scene or carry the entire story, or whether they’re good or evil, you feel for each character. You share in their angst, their fight (often internal), and their decisions. As a result, you are left enjoying every single aspect of the book that really pulls you in from the get-go.

As a story itself, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is written in a mixture of retellings and present events. A lot of it is also written in the form of correspondence. It’s definitely not a linear murder mystery if, like me, that’s what you’re expecting. And I wouldn’t call it a horror either. But, it is definitely disturbing in certain ways, and even more so because those angles are a little too real. All in all, it is quite exceptional in its ability to evoke emotion of varied kinds, and in the way in which it makes you look within yourself.

I’d definitely recommend The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to:

  • all kinds of readers
  • people who haven’t really read classics (It’s a great classic that is easy to read even if you’re not a fan of classics)
  • fans of psychological thrillers, mysteries, and horrors (It’s a multi-genre book and would appeal to most genre fans)

Also, it seems that Dr. Jekyll is pronounced Jee-kal or Jee-kill and not Jek-ill (That was definitely a bit annoying to get used to).

What did you think of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Let us know in the comments below!

– Rishika

Review: Buried (By Matt Shaw)

15791599
Source: Goodreads

Length: 93 pages

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Todd wakes up after the celebration of his 21st birthday party to find himself locked inside a box. Broken memories begin taking over his mind, blurring the line between real and imaginary. Todd needs to distinguish fact from fiction before his claustrophobia completely eradicates that line. With time running out, Todd has to face his darkest fears if he is to ever learn who put him in a box, and find a way to get out alive.

My take:

This short novella takes around an hour to read. Keeping that in mind, I’m going to try to keep the review short too. Buried is meant to be a horror, and even a psychological horror. Its main theme is the claustrophobia that Todd faces, something that the readers are expected to associate with.

What’s good about the book is that it moves really fast. You don’t really feel the need to even take a break from it and can read it in one sitting. The second good thing is that it has this surreal dreamlike execution which gives off an uneasy, creepy vibe that has a lot of potential (although that remains highly unrealized). The third good thing is the few twists that the story contains – interesting, not very expected, and quite well presented. Fourth good thing – you can associate with some (not all) characters and even feel for them.

What’s bad about the book is that it does not really fulfill its aim of being a horror or psychological horror – it’s just not disturbing enough. Second bad thing – the claustrophobia was not really easy to associate with, and that’s coming from someone who actually has a touch of the phobia. The discomfort that Shaw intended for his readers to experience just did not materialize. The third bad thing was that it wasn’t a very well written book. Tense errors were abundant and that’s a real problem when you’ve already got a book that’s leaping from scene to scene every few sentences. Lastly, the story was interesting enough but its execution was just too blasé to do justice to the genre.

Should you read Buried? Sure, if you:

  • need something to pass the time on the commute home
  • need something to read as you wait for your appointment with the doctor/dentist
  • need something to read while waiting for a flight

Do you absolutely have to read Buried? Nope. It’s one of those books that tries hard to be dark, but fails because it’s barely disturbing, making it completely passable.

A lot of people did like this book though so do let us know whether you liked/disliked it and why. Drop a comment below. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika