Stephen King is one of the most popular horror writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Famous for, “IT,” “The Shining” and “Dark Tower,” King released his latest novel, “The Institute,” on Sept. 10. Risking nightmares and psychological trauma, I sat down to read my second King novel.
A few months ago, I read King’s 1992 novel, “Gerald’s Game,” and enjoyed the dense fiction that mainly focused on the main character’s inner turmoil. Going from that novel to “The Institute” was a trip. I sailed from one side of the horror realm to the other. The two novels couldn’t be more different.
Luke Ellis is a twelve-year-old genius (I’m pretty sure he monumentally exceeds genius, but we’ll stick with it for now) who has been abducted in the middle of the night to be taken to the mysterious Institute, and his parents are murdered. The other kids at the Institute tell him the reason for his abduction; he has psychic powers, and the Insititute plans to use him for their own agenda. After being subjected to horrendous tests and cruelties, Luke, with the help us his new friends, plots a way to take the Institute down.
“The Institute” demonstrates King’s well-developed talent for the craft. His vivid descriptions drag the reader into the story and doesn’t let them go. My mind is forever burned with the image of Ward A: the drainage trough the “gorks” (the residents) must secrete in like animals, the tornado strewed cots, the obliviously naked girl running around. King reinforces the evil that the Institute personnel subjects these children to with each scarring scene.
But that wasn’t enough to seal the deal. No, King had to go a step beyond and give the reader chapters that were told from the perspectives of the Institute staff. Mrs. Sigsby has absolutely no remorse for her actions that have caused untold damage to hundreds of innocent children. Trevor Stackhouse would gladly kill a child in order to save his own ass. Each staff member, besides one who isn’t entirely in the clear, enjoys inflicting some sort of pain whether it be with slapping, tasing or drowning.
King’s talent and the interesting point of view are good elements; however, there is more to critique than to like.
When I first started reading the novel, I honestly thought I was reading something different. I checked multiple times to make sure I had clicked on the right ebook. The first part of the story
shouldn’t have been the first part of the story. While Tim’s introduction is vital to the plot, I feel as though it should have come towards the middle of the novel. It felt out of place, and I don’t think the reader can truly appreciate the involvement of Tim because the reader gets this large gap where we don’t read about Tim again until way later. I was thrown off from the start, which isn’t a good thing.
The plot was also too generic. This novel didn’t seem like it came from the horror master. From the mind that wrote novel turned successful movie, “IT,” “The Institute” is lacking in the horror department. Yes, what those kids went through was beyond terrible, but it wasn’t all that frightening. I guess it would be to a child reader, but I don’t think that is King’s target audience. I wanted more. I wanted goosebumps. I wanted nightmares. I didn’t get any of those things.
“The Institute” wasn’t King’s best. The only reason I would suggest this novel is if you have a lifetime goal of reading every one of King’s works.
“The Institute” is available at ATU’s Ross Pendergraft Library.