Bit by Bloody Bit: Stephen King’s IT – Part 5: The Ritual of Chud

This week concludes the first installment of Bit By Bloody Bit and the end of my journey through Derry, Maine. While I’m a bit sad to leave the haunted town and the Losers Club, I am ready to move on to new terrors as well. There is also a gnawing disappointment that comes with finishing a book like Stephen King’s It. For one thing, the excitement of not knowing, of trying to figure out the big reveal is gone. And for another, you have to start that hunt for the perfect book all over again. You’ve got an itch you just can’t scratch. Many genre fans started here with It or with another epic Stephen King book. Maybe this was your gateway drug to horror, the one that led you down a path lined with trees casting ominous shadows that hide monsters, ghouls, sinister fiends, and lost souls.

I think It deserves a more diverse categorization than simply horror, but still I can’t help coming back to the same conclusion: It is almost the perfect horror novel. The characters are relatable. Not even secondary characters are lazily drawn into the background as fodder for plot development. As I mentioned in the first Bit By Bloody Bit post, King takes great care with all the characters in his book. He gives them emotional context and makes the reader care about them. King also has a terribly complex monster with a rich history anchored to the town of Derry. He has developed the landscape as diligently and scrupulous as the people in it.

That painstaking effort and care for his story make the entire reading experience a level above the simple act of taking in a book. The story takes on a life of its own, haunting you long after turning the last page. It is not just a scary book. It is many things: horrifying, sad, psychological, suspenseful, social commentary… The book isn’t just filled with bullies and monsters; it’s filled with real life truths, hard truths that exist in and out of the book.

So why is It only almost the perfect horror novel? There are probably many fans that had the same reaction as me, but the conclusion was a bit of a let down. After a thousand pages sharing the lives of seven other characters, a monster, and some bullies King unveils the big reveal which left me with a womp womp womp ringing in my head. I don’t know that there could be a perfect conclusion to such a great story. Your expectations are built so high that it’s hard to imagine how you could finish it off gracefully. Maybe I had that reaction because part of me didn’t want it to end at all.  The ending doesn’t ruin the book and I would still highly recommend this novel to anyone (not just fans of speculative fiction), but if I had one gripe about the almost perfect horror novel, that’s it.

If I read It in my youth, my literary history would probably be much different, but as it were I finally found It, the seven Losers, and Derry at the ripe young age of 30. I’d be curious to see how someone who read this in their youth would interpret the story as an adult.

Did you read It when you were still a kid and then again as an adult? How was the experience different or the same? Did you appreciate certain aspects of the book more or less? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

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7 thoughts on “Bit by Bloody Bit: Stephen King’s IT – Part 5: The Ritual of Chud

  1. To this day, IT remains the scariest book I’ve ever read. It’s a little unfair to the other books that IT retains the title, but at the time I read it there were many external influences that ramped up the horror factor. I was still young then, and King still defined horror to me. (Since then, he’s been replaced for top honors by many others – Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, Jeff Strand, just to name a few.) Recently out of college and living on my own in FL, I had to fly back to OH for my mom’s open heart surgery. She was living in a new place not far from where I grew up, but it was my first visit to her new home. The surgery was extensive and there were complications, so what started out as a few days stay stretched out to over three weeks. We were only able to see her for brief periods, twice a day. Since the hospital was only an hour or so away, we stayed at home and just drove back and forth. So you have the radical weather change (OH winters suck,) the unfamiliar surroundings, the stress and consequential lack of sleep, and being away from familiar distractions and friends.

    I picked up a copy of IT, read it over a couple of nights while everyone else was asleep, and the book insinuated itself inside, past my weakened defenses. I’ve not had a better scare before or since.

    Then I came to the end. I felt cheated. While it was a good and interesting ending, it felt so out of sync with the rest of the story. I definitely felt the ending to be anti-climactic.

    More recently I invested a good deal of time reading Under the Dome, and felt extremely disappointed at the ending. Again, it was a good ending, but to me it just felt really out of place. But it really bothered me – a LOT – and I was never really able to tell why until I read today’s post. Everything clicked into place as I had forgotten how IT had disappointed me in just the same way all those years ago. Subconsciously I must have linked the two books and it amplified my anger towards King and the ending of Dome. Too funny!

    • Your King replacements (Strand, Smith, ect.) are the horror writers that got me interested in modern horror fiction. I’m sorta working my way back.

      I’m also in Ohio and bracing myself for another Midwest winter!

      I think the rest of the book is so phenomenal that it more than makes up for the disappointing ending. But,

      *** SPOILERS ***
      The biggest let down for me was that you follow these kids, and later adults, through almost 30 years of terror, so for it to just end so abruptly was sad. It was the incarnation of your worst fears. It shouldn’t be mortal and I guess I would prefer that the book was left open ended. Of course, I still struggle with the fact that I’m not sure any ending would’ve satisfied me after the build up the book provides. Also, the turtle started to take on greater significance and that was a thread in the book that left me confused. I felt as if I accidentally skipped a page or something. Georgie saw a turtle on a can of wax (if I remember correctly), then it’s this powerful force that helps the children beat It? Perhaps that’s the long and short of it. I would be elated if King decided to bring It back in the present day. Besides, aren’t we coming up on the next 27 year cycle?
      *** END SPOILERS ***

      Anticlimactic ending or not, it’s a timeless and phenomenal book. It really gets under your skin.

      • Great job with this Meli! I’ve read IT a few times since I was in high school and it gets better and better every time. I think it may be my favorite book of all time and you certainly did it justice with your review.

  2. Hello,
    It was the first horror I’ve ever read, I read it at the age of 13 and I was simply stunned.
    The characters seemed like real people and like you already said, I started to care for them.
    I’ve read this particular book over and over again the last seventeen years since I first read it.
    And still am I awestruck how this story keeps on pulling you in, I know every plot twist, but it doesn’t matter. The difference between then and now, you ask?
    Well, as you obviously know is thirteen an age, where insecurity lurks in almost every aspect of life. Plus I think that everyone has experienced in someway what it’s like to stand alone. So if you take that in account, I’m quite sure you can add up the facts and tell that I felt like I found a few soulmates. And now I’m a grown man (as they call it), when I read it now, I relive a part of my youth. I still can remember the first time I read it.
    Oh yeah, about the ending I totally agree with you, it’s not bad, but the ending is unsatisfying. It seems rather wrong to me, that the main character (Bill Denbrough) can’t remember his childhood. I find it saddening. I had the same with the ending of the dark tower saga, I felt betrayed. It ended as how it began, damn I was pretty angry.
    The last book I read of him was 22-11-1963, and this was also a masterpiece, and the ending was appropriate, at least in my opinion.
    Cheers from Holland

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story!

      It always amazes me when people tell me they read IT at 13! I’ve heard from a few others who have. I was still playing with barbies at 13! But that’s cool that young people could connect with a great piece of horror fiction at that age. It’s rather appropriate for adolescents I think. Even if really terrifying.

      I haven’t read 22-11-1963 yet, but I am looking forward to it. Seems like fans really loved that book.

  3. I’ve read IT both times, as a young adult (I think I was a freshman in high school) and again in my mid-twenties and am really looking forward to reading it again now into my thirties. The book is so textured and layered as a world that I feel like I’ve lived a whole other lifetime in that book.

    I loved the ending. I don’t really know why you were let down or had that wop-wop feeling but I thought it was pure genius. The only way to defeat an evil like that was through a cosmic-mind trip-battle! Loved it. I remember the first time I read through the Ritual of Chud I was zooming so fast I kept re-reading pages just to slow my pace down.

  4. I stumbled across this site whilst doing a bit of searching for illustrations from King’s novel IT. I am one of those who read this as a young kid when it was first released in Australia. I must have been all of about 11 or 12 at the time I first glanced at the illustration on the cover of IT in one of the quieter suburbs of Brisbane, Australia. I can still recall the felling of curiosity and adventure as I stared at it while standing there in the local news agent skateboard tucked under my arm and grip tape that we used to cover the top of the board in for traction gently tugging on my shorts and shirt as the weight of the skateboard pulled down, it was half the size of me back then. I was sold on this book by the artwork on the cover sure enough but I do remember being slightly reluctant to go ahead and buy the book as it was over a thousand pages long in that little paperback edition that called to me from the shelves of that news agent shop, and I felt it might be too much for me as I had only read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books up to that point, these were longish books but not as intimidating as that 1000+ page novel with it’s almost tissue thin pages to try and keep the size of it in check with other paperbacks. IT was the first mature novel i ever read and being honest I didn’t understand some of the words and concepts at that tender age but going over sentences and paragraphs again and again sometimes with the aid of a dictionary gave me the assistance I needed to complete the novel and live the adventure.
    I am re reading IT again now at the age of 39 and thought I would take you up on the offer of sharing my thoughts on experiencing this adventure, then as a skinny, energetic youth who day dreamed and loved exploring books when ever I couldn’t be out playing with my mates, and now as a mature adult living and working in one of the biggest and busiest international cities in the world (Bangkok) managing a company. Oh how things have changed and I am not completely sure the change is for the better…
    I am almost through the entire book again in a little over a week which is in stark contrast to the 2+ months it took me the first time I ventured into Derry as a young lad. I have just noticed while writing this that it is about 27/28 years since I first read IT which is a nice little co instance with the time line in the novel as the loser’s club go from their pre teens abruptly to a mature age 27 years later, Very Neat as Eddie might say…
    Reading this book as an adult the first and most noticeable difference is I now have the experience to interpret different layers of understanding, I not only enjoy the book as I used to but I now see more clearly when King hints at things or writes in a way that is meant to suggest a sexual desire not yet recognizable as a kid or describes the felling of nostalgia as mature members of the loser’s club come back home to Derry and unearth memories of their youth. I am actually enjoying reading it more this time round, most likely because I was a bit too young to fully understand it all back then and the fact that I can now relate to experiences like coming home after decades away from the place you grew up and getting lost in the memories and nostalgia.
    Yes, this was definitely the scariest book I had ever read back in 1987 but it also made me feel like I was one of the club being around the same age and living in the suburbs of a quiet town, all the while dealing with similar issues that the characters in the book were going through, minus the clown that is 🙂
    For me the true magic that lies inside the pages of this novel came from the character development and the massive amount of detail King goes into to immerse you in the town and life of the loser’s club. I felt as though I actually knew them and could pop into the novel to meet up and follow on their adventures. The same can be said for the town of Derry itself, King describes it as if from his real youth with outstanding attention to the little details and quirks that make life what it is. I have come across several hand drawn maps of Derry online that have been painstakingly drafted by the hands of King’s dedicated fans and each and every one is very similar, it is in fact almost identical to the images and pictures I have of Derry in my mind which speaks very loudly for King’s ability to so elegantly describe the story he wishes to tell.
    To sum up I have been delighted to be sucked back into Derry during the past week with fresh perspectives on parts of the novel I had previously only seen through the eyes and mind of young boy and I have been awash with memories of my own youth as well as recalling feelings that had long been forgotten since I had read IT for the first time under a different sky and in a different era of time.
    This still today is my favorite King book and might well be my top book of all time so Thank you Stephen King for taking me on a journey then and now, just as Big Bill and the gang had done.
    A true masterpiece!

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