Luke Ellis, twelve-year-old genius, is kidnapped in the middle of the night by the staff of The Institute, a facility that imprisons children with supernatural abilities. No one has ever escaped The Institute . . . yet.
King, the beloved and prolific Master of Horror, is back just in time for a perfectly unsettling Fall read. His new book, The Institute, is a novel that has an undercurrent of the supernatural that we have come to expect from him, but at its center is a classic character-driven story by a writer at the top of his craft.
Two distinct threads of narrative, separated by 250 pages, are woven together by King’s expert storytelling, with pacing that builds as each intertwine and relentlessly moves towards a satisfying conclusion.
First, Tim Jamieson, a former police officer whose life has strayed from its projected path quite suddenly, finds himself hitchhiking North to look for work after resigning from the Sarasota force. He ends up in DuPray, South Carolina, a dingy one-stop town whose Sheriff is looking for a night patrolman. Then a new, more absorbing thread of the narrative is introduced in the form of Luke Ellis, a twelve year-old telekinetic genius who has been violently kidnapped in the middle of the night by the staff of The Institute, a secretive place with a disturbing history.
Reminiscent of Firestarter’s The Shop, The Institute is a facility located deep in the woods of Maine, experimenting on, testing, and torturing kids with even a modicum of telepathic or telekinetic powers. Its slogan, “Work Will Set You Free,” should signal to all of us that this place is terrifying. Children are injected, pricked, scanned, and put in tanks, submerged to the point of near-death. There are some truly evil bureaucratic zealots here, but what King excels at is balancing the nuance between those who are categorically apathetic to those trying to maintain their humanity and compassion for the children imprisoned therein.
This is a book not only about the innate power of friendship and strength that the children forge in vile circumstances, but also the story of kindness meeting evil face-to-face and overcoming it in a spectacular way. King questions our current values as a society: what does it take for normal “good” people to turn off their collective conscience and merely see these kids as resources to be expended for the “greater good?” How does one condone child abuse and come to see it as nothing more than routine? The book answers that question without a doubt. Make no mistake, what happens in this book is horrifying, but suffice it to say, you will be cheering by end.