With the release of his latest novel, the legendary author has shown no signs of falling off.
On Sept. 10, fans of Stephen King, renowned for his diverse and vast collection of books such as “It,” “The Shining,” “Carrie,” “Cujo” and “The Stand”— just to name a mere fraction—were treated with the release of his latest unnerving work titled “The Institute.”
The story plays upon common tropes found throughout King’s earlier books: children exposed to life-threatening situations, psychic abilities and sadistic adults. Together, these themes serve as the undercurrent for a dark, unsettling and at times even philosophical work of literature.
“The Institute” begins with an introduction to one of the novel’s two main characters, Tim Jamieson. While on a plane bound for New York, a delay finds Jamieson bunking down for the night in the fictional town of Dupray, South Carolina, a small rural hideaway where a framed photograph of President Trump hangs proudly and everybody knows each other on a first name basis.
The book’s other protagonist arrives in the vein of Luke Ellison, a 12-year-old boy genius who aces his S.A.T. test with little effort and receives an acceptance letter from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the infamous private research university that boasts a national ranking of six and an acceptance rate of barely 8%) all while still being just like ‘normal’ kids his age.
Attempting to put his life back together after an on-the-job incident forced him to turn in his badge at his old police department, Tim quickly adjusts to life in Dupray, choosing to stick around and even becoming the town’s new “Night Knocker,” tasked with patrolling Dupray’s streets after sundown armed with a walkie-talkie and his ever-present cop instincts. Well-liked by both the town sheriff and Dupray’s residents, Jamieson’s life is on the upswing.
For Luke, however, life as he knows it turns upside-down when he soon finds himself no longer within his quiet Minnesota suburb alongside his loving parents and winds up getting abducted and held captive in the nightmarish facility known as “The Institute.”
With its location and purpose known only to a very select handful of people, the Institute serves as a sort of black site, but instead of suspected terrorists, this one houses countless children as old as 16 and as young as eight.
After waking up in a hollow replica of his former bedroom, Luke soon discovers that he’s not the only kid being held there and learns of the institute’s purpose, a building whose existence poses an uncomfortable philosophical question for the book’s readers: Is it justifiable to intentionally sacrifice the lives of a few to potentially save the lives of many?
During the last quarter of the book, the lives of Tim and Luke converge—one individual attempts a re-do of his life while the other attempts to save his own.
What results is a tense, disturbing story that despite being just under six hundred pages (576, to be exact), commands your attention throughout and leaves you with anticipation with every page turn. I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to finish it within the seven-day due date offered by my library, but the engaging writing style that King has perfected over the decades quickly put my worries to rest.
Honestly, I’d say this book is nearly perfect, albeit a strong nearly. My only gripes have to do with the novel’s snail-like pacing at the beginning of the second half (a similar gripe I mentioned in my review of “Misery”) in addition to some of the hackneyed terms and colloquialisms exchanged in some lines of dialogue. However, since King celebrated his 72nd birthday this month, I suppose I can forgive some outdated phrases here and there.
If you’re a Stephen King fan or a bookworm that has yet to dive into any of his material, I highly recommend this latest entry to the King literary pantheon.
Rating: 8.5 / 10