I’ve been a huge SK fan since days of reading The Shining at a camp in Maine (bad idea, but that’s for another day.) I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of The Institute, and I’m thrilled to report this is an example of Stephen King in top form.
No spoilers or details here; the book won’t be released till September. But when it is, pick it up and be prepared to read into the night. It’s horrifying without being a “horror” book (not that there’s anything wrong with that)– a book about evil meeting kindness. You’ll love it.
PW Starred: King wows with the most gut-wrenching tale of kids triumphing over evil since It. In a quiet Minnesota neighborhood, intruders kidnap 12-year-old prodigy Luke Ellis and murder his parents. When Luke wakes up, he finds himself in a room identical to his own bedroom, except that he is now a resident of the Institute—a facility that tests telekinetic and telepathic abilities of children.
Luke finds comfort in the company of the children in the Front Half: Kalisha, Nick, George, and Avery. Others have graduated to the Back Half, where “kids check in, but they don’t check out.” The Front Half are promised that they’ll be returned to their parents after testing and a visit to Back Half, but Luke becomes suspicious and desperate to get out and get help for the others.
However, no child has ever escaped the Institute. Tapping into the minds of the young characters, King creates a sense of menace and intimacy that will have readers spellbound. The mystery of the Institute’s purpose is drawn out naturally until it becomes far scarier than the physical abuse visited upon the children. Not a word is wasted in this meticulously crafted novel, which once again proves why King is the king of horror. Agent: Chuck Verrill, Darhansoff & Verrill. (Sept.)
While it’s not among my favorites, it never slows down and I couldn’t put it down. It reminded me several times about Firestarter. As always, good characters that feel real (specially a little boy named Avery) and it’s not shy to show brutality in several passages.
3.5 stars rounded to 4 for good reads
Constant Readers it’s here. That joyous time twice a year when we are taken into a world crafted by a master storyteller. A man who in recent times has elevated his craft to a point where most of his novels have transcended beyond a genre, and have become living, breathing worlds that feel fleshed out and lived-in. The Institute, by Stephen King is another such world. One in which had its ups and downs, but by the end takes you on a whirlwind of adventure and emotion.
The book follows two separate threads, which eventually become intertwined through fate. Tim Jamieson is a man with no particular direction. When we meet him, he’s on a flight to New York, but quickly becomes a drifter, in no real rush to get to his original destination. He eventually makes his way to the small town of Dupray, where things are eventually going to heat up.
Our other main thread follows Luke Ellis, a boy genius attending a school filled with child prodigies. Luke is a genius who stands out amongst a crowd of other special children. Eventually, for reasons to be discovered he is kidnapped and taken to a place called The Institute, where other children are held against their will and subjected to all manner of horrible experiments.
King does and excellent job of taking it easy and crafting the world his latest takes place in. This is a slow burn for sure, and while that’s mostly a good thing, there was a section of the book that felt a bit tedious. There was a part towards the tail end of the first half that had I not been such a big fan of King, I might not have finished the book. Despite this, I stuck it out to the end and ultimately am glad that I did.
Tim Jamieson is an ok character. I didn’t particularly like or dislike him. He felt more like a generic good guy archetype that you’d could place in a random King story and he’d probably fit in. Luke Ellis was fleshed out more and it was interesting to follow him along.
The supporting children in this book that you’ll spend time with during Lukes thread were also a much better cast of characters than the supporting adults in Tim’s thread. Most of those characters felt like one dimensional country bumpkins with no real purpose other than to occasionally give Tim some dialogue and some country one liners.
For the most part, the book was very fascinating, and played off of fears of government conspiracies. The children in this book are put through some horrifying scenarios, although it’s a far stretch to try to call this particular novel horror. The main complaint I have with The Institute is that somewhere after the first hundred pages or so, King went from world building to boring, and the book didn’t pick up pace until about a hundred or so pages further.
The last 200 pages flew by once King finally put his foot on the gas, leading to a satisfying conclusion and curiosity as to who ended up being right. (I can’t explain WHAT I’m talking about as it has to due with the purpose of The Institute.)
When it was all said and done, I needed some time to process this one. It felt almost like a tale of two books. The Institute starts off slow, yet strong. King uses the early pages to craft a believable world and set the mood. After a strong early start, King almost goes off the tracks and does a bit too much writing in circles. It felt like anywhere from 50-100 pages could have been trimmed for a much stronger novel.
Just when I found myself questioning if I even wanted to finish, King stepped on the throttle and from there it never let up. It should speak to the quality of the rest of the book that not only did I finish The Institute, but I still consider it worth a read. As long as you don’t expect a horror novel, and you can power through a boring section of the book, there’s still something to enjoy.