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Friday, March 24, 2023

Book review: The Institute by Stephen King

The Institute by Stephen King review


AUTHOR INFO: Stephen lives in Maine and Florida with his wife, novelist Tabitha King. They are regular contributors to a number of charities including many libraries and have been honored locally for their philanthropic activities.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 10, 2019) Page count: 574 Formats: ebook, paperback, audiobook


King is a legend, and I’m ashamed to admit I’ve only read two books by him. The Institute has a cool cover, an intriguing synopsis, and plays on one of my favorite themes (special kids with powers). It’s not perfect, but I found it engrossing and entertaining. So if you have a penchant for government conspiracies, special kids fighting evil, and easy thrills, give this book a try.

The story opens with Tim, a disgraced ex-cop looking for a job. He’s sharp and competent, and he finds what he’s looking for. And more. But before that happens, readers must focus on the main plot, which revolves around Luke Ellis, a gifted boy kidnapped by employees of the titular institute. Shady operatives run this top-secret facility to protect the future of humanity. Sounds noble, right? The thing is, they kidnap, use, and torture gifted children to achieve their “noble” goals. They pick children based on their potential to use telekinesis and psychic powers. Luke is gifted (or not) for both, and that makes him especially valuable.

King knows how to engage readers and keep them engaged, no matter how many potential plotholes they discover. I liked the different voices of the characters, the palpable sense of place, and the urgency that came across in each scene.

Luke has an extraordinary mind, an eidetic memory, and a willingness to stand up to his oppressors. But he’s still a kid who enjoys Sponge Bob. Initially, life in the Institute almost defeats him. It comprises injections, MRIS, being subjected to flickering lights, and immersion to the brink of drowning. The scientists strip kids of dignity and humanity. When the children comply, they receive tokens they can exchange for treats (snacks, booze, cigarettes) at vending machines. Imagine a boarding school in hell and you’ll see the picture. 

Naturally, things won’t last and the kids band together to fight evil. Sounds cliche, I know, but King knows how to make you care and cheer for children to crush their oppressors. To make them suffer and bleed. As expected, bringing down the Institute won’t be easy or without a high price to pay. 

I wouldn’t call The Institute horror. It’s an exciting paranormal thriller and an addictive page-turner that takes some shortcuts and offers nothing new. Frankly, if you read the synopsis, you'll easily connect the dots and know how it all ends. The Institute is utterly predictable. And yet, I had a good time listening to it. Moral ambiguities, good pacing, and King’s understanding of the story structure and the art of storytelling make it entertaining. Also, fans of Stranger Things will find a lot to love here.*

* At the same time, they should remember King was writing about psychic kids and government conspiracies since the sixties before anyone even thought about creating Stranger Things :)


1 comments:

Test said...

This book was so crap and so illogical at every turn that I rated it a 2. It contradicted itself in its plot and had no logical basis in anything. It was a total bummer, like most of this author - he gained fame through film productions. And it's because it's easy to implement facade ideas. The author has an idea and is almost never able to follow it logically, much less intelligently.

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