Book Review: 'It: The 25th Anniversary Special Edition' by Stephen King


It is arguably Stephen King's best novel.  It's quantifiably his most popular: the hardcover spent fourteen weeks at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, a longer stay there than any other King book.  Critically, the book hasn't done too shabbily, either.  Stephen Spignesi's The Essential Stephen King (which explores King's 100 best works) ranks it at the very top.  In his essay, "A Concatenation of Monsters," King expert Michael R. Collings calls the book, "Stephen King's comprehensive masterpiece," stating that the novel possesses, "a quality that transcends fiction to touch upon the archetypal patterns we respond so deeply to."  With the possible exception of Bag of Bones – which served as a summation of King's classic horror tropes while representing a tonal shift in his fiction, anticipating later novels like Duma Key, Lisey's Story, and 11/22/63It is also his most important novel.  It marks a deliberate shift in King's career, a stated conscious decision to sum up everything he had to say about children and monsters and functioning as a statement of intent as to what he hoped to accomplish with his later novels: explorations of adults and the dual natures of creativity and creation.  It is a massive undertaking, not only addressing and expanding upon the themes in his earlier fiction, but also transcending those themes, uncovering and creating something new.

It has long deserved a celebration of its almost mythic place in King's canon.  Dear Constant Reader, I'm glad to report that It is here.

Cemetery Dance's 25th Anniversary Special Edition of It may be the best thing the publisher has ever done.  King's novel was already one of his longest, but this book is massive, oversized and wonderfully hefty, befitting King's intricate, complex narrative.  The painted wraparound cover by Glen Orbik – best known for his cover work on King's short noir books The Colorado Kid and Blockade Billy – is a knockout.  Muted grays and earth tones dominate, the town of Derry merely a murky suggestion in the distance.  The focus is, of course, on Pennywise the Dancing Clown, in horrible bright colors and clutching a handful of cheerful balloons in the foreground.  (The cover recalls that of 'Salem's Lot, on which the overwhelming presence of the Marsten House looms above the titular small town.)  There's also the menacing graffito Pennywise Lives – first seen in King's 2001 novel Dreamcatcher – written symbolically across a bridge. Whether Pennywise does live is a matter of some speculation: King's use of Derry and two major characters from It in 11/22/63 indicate that King has the book on the brain.  Also, this anniversary edition comes perilously close to the end of It's refractory period.  Remember: the creature's cycle of waking and feeding has been every twenty-seven years or so; if It isn't dead, now's a good time to be wondering when It's going to wake up.  

Orbik's fine work isn't the only art to recommend this edition: there's nearly thirty exclusive interior pieces in here, some in full color, most in black and white.  These illustrations – by the talented Alan M. Clark and Erin S. Wells – are fantastically effective.  The color art is often more garish and violent; there's more than one severed head screaming up from the pages.  The charcoals are more muted but no less intense.  It's terrific to see a scene from the apocalyptic rock fight in here, and the major early image of Stan Uris's suicide note is chilling.  

Kudos, too, on the design of this book.  The text pages are two-toned, black and red on white.  One of the coolest aspects of the book is the stripe running down the length of each page: red with the chapter title in black for most of the book, black with red printing for Mike Hanlon's "Interlude" chapters.  It's a dynamic visual, one of the little touches that make this book so fantastic.  

To round things out, there's a brand-new afterword by King, explaining why he wrote the book and his feelings about it.  This afterword intriguingly bookends his 1986 essay, "How It Happened," found in King's 2000 collection Secret Windows.  As with his dual forewords for the 1985 and 1996 editions of The Bachman Books, these two essays on It allow us to see King's reaction both upon publication of the novel, and much later, after years of reflection.  It's rare that King talks so directly about his own writing, and this afterword reveals a clear fondness King has for the novel.  

I've been collecting Stephen King limited editions for quite awhile now.  Some are better than others, and I probably would have accepted a merely good 25th anniversary edition of my favorite novel, being all caught up in the excitement of the event itself.  I'm so glad I don't have to: this edition absolutely blew me away.  From art to design to its incredible size and reverential treatment of the source material, this is the perfect volume for anyone who loves It.  


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Editor's Note:

Cemetery Dance Publications printed Stephen King's It: The 25th Anniversary Special Edition in three different states:
• Slipcased Oversized Hardcover Gift Edition of only 2,750 illustrated copies printed in two colors with two color hot foil stamping, a fine binding, and embossed endpapers (a few copies are still currently available and shipping now on Cemetery Dance's official website: )
• Traycased Oversized Hardcover Signed Limited Edition of only 750 illustrated copies printed in two colors and bound in leather with two color hot foil stamping, a satin ribbon page marker and different embossed endpapers, signed by Stephen King and all of the artists (SOLD OUT)
• Oversized Signed Hardcover Lettered Edition of only 52 illustrated copies printed in two colors and bound in two different fine materials with gilded page edges, imported endpapers, a satin ribbon page marker, and protected in a custom deluxe box, signed by Stephen King and all of the artists (SOLD OUT)

More great photos of the editions of Cemetery Dance's 25th Anniversary Edition of It can be found on Brian James Freeman's website: