Andrew J Brandt
BOOK REVIEW: The Institute by Stephen King
If you'd ever turned on AM radio at night, you may have come across Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell. When I was younger, I discovered these nighttime transmissions and found myself fascinated with the stories of aliens, time travelers, Men in Black.
12 year-old Luke Ellis is a child prodigy and sometimes when he's excited, things happen. Like an
empty pizza pan will go flying off the table. Or the kitchen cabinets will swing open. And one night, he's abducted from his home and he wakes up the next morning, finding himself in a room that looks like his room in a place called the Institute. The Institute, with its cinder block walls and Front Half and Back Half, is something out of a Coast to Coast with Art Bell story.
As much high-concept pulp fiction about telepathic and telekinetic children and saving the world, Stephen King's latest novel The Institute is also a diatribe on modern America, where children are held captive by the state for "the greater good." The people in the Institute believe, wholeheartedly, that they are doing good work, despite their harsh treatment of the kids that reside there. The kids are dehumanized, tested on, seen as nothing more than a means to an end. They're not children, they're just cogs in a wheel in a big machine.
Telepathic kids is a subject King's written on before, but here, he puts an exigent twist on a story that mirrors our current political climate.
If I had one gripe about The Institute, it would be that the middle-third of the book seemed to drone on. There were several times when I grabbed a chunk of pages and thought, "Nothing's happening." But once things started to "happen" it was like riding a rollercoaster all the way to the end.
An enjoyable read and the last third of the book is a hell of an adventure, but it's not nearly my favorite King book—that title is still held by his 2011 time travel tome 11/22/63.