I am very lucky to have a number of amazing readers in my life. And when I started doing this blog - I knew that I wanted to make sure that I had some of my reading friends write some guest blogs for me. Steve started as my friend because of books. We met to discuss books, because as you know it is not always easy to find fellow book lovers, and have been friends ever since. He is a passionate Stephen King fan - and when I saw that he was listening to this audiobook I knew it was the perfect way for me to get him on my blog. You can follow him on twitter at @SilvasDesign. So, here I hand it off to Steve......
We All Float… A Review of It in Your Ear Holes
When I was young, I would creep through my Mom's Stephen King books looking for spooky passages and pouring over the detailed illustrations. It (originally published in 1986) always held a peculiar power over me with its stark cover art – a claw reaching out of a sewer as a paper boat sails toward it in the gutter. Mom was vigilant about not divulging details on this “grown-up” story, but finally, in high school, I sneaked the giant book off of the living room shelf and started in on one of the most gruesome stories I’ve ever read. Fast-forward 20 or so years and I was excited to re-visit this tale – this time in audiobook format.
For those who haven’t read the book or watched the mediocre made-for-TV movie from 1990 (props to Tim Curry, but even he couldn’t make that production good), It is the story of a group of misfit kids who band together in the 1950s to battle a spectral entity that often takes the form of a clown before slaughtering the children and townsfolk of Derry, Maine. 25-ish years later, the group is forced to re-assemble, face the monster again and kill "It" once and for all.
The audiobook is read by Stephen Weber of Wings fame who had previously left a bad taste in my mouth after a dismal made-for-TV remake of The Shining in the mid-1990s. However, after a friend highly recommended his performance of this story, I decided to give him and… It... another try. Like much of King’s writing, this book is a time investment with the audiobook clocking in at a daunting 45 hours! If the performance on a story of this magnitude isn't great, you simply won't make it through – and how pleasantly surprised I was.
Weber's subtle distinction and nuance of the material completely enriched some of my favorite characters, helping me experience the story in completely different ways than I had imagined when reading it years ago.
The character of Bill Denbrough, for example, was merely a kid who struggled with a stutter during my first read, but Weber's performance transformed the speech impediment into the constant internal battle that somebody who suffers from a stutter endures. The start-stop stammering through simple words and guttural gasping help you feel Bill’s anguish.
Beverly lived in my memory as a typical young girl with a bad home life, but Weber’s vocals help to elicit the fear from the abusive father – and similarly abusive husband in the later years.
And then, of course, there’s Pennywise the clown. He’d always been creepy, but this production turns him into a malevolent beast that is outright horrifying. Shifting his voice deeper and raspier, almost with marbles in his mouth, Weber uses his voice to paint an image of the creature that is familiar but fresh – one that will be hard to live up to by future performers.
So many scenes felt hazy and distant in my mind, but the audiobook brings them fervently to life as you hear tales of violent racism of the 1950s, pursuits by monsters – human and otherwise, and even the young exploration of sexuality. Surely these scenes will be emblazoned into my brain permanently now.
Few audiobook performances have really elevated a story to me as much as Weber’s performance here. If you are, as Stephen King calls his devoted fans, a constant reader, I highly encourage you to try this production of It – it’s an time investment well-spent.