The Institute

By Stephen King

“We’ll tell you what we know, and what the orderlies and techs tell us, but I got an idea that most of it’s lies. George feels the same. Iris, now . . .” Kalisha laughed. “She’s like Agent Mulder on that X-Files show. She wants to believe.” “Believe what?” The look she gave him—both wise and sad—again made her look more like a grownup than a kid. “That this is just a little detour on the great highway of life, and everything’s going to come out all right in the end, like on Scooby-Doo.”

The Institute is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It was good to get a break from the “women’s fiction” that I have been favoring for years now. (Lately, with an occasional break with a domestic thriller!) I have read several Stephen King books, but definitely going to read more soon. Doctor Sleep is next up. This book is a typical example of what Stephen King is brilliant at: Kids in peril, tense action relieved by humor, baddies you love to hate, Stephen King’s own perspicacious insights on various and sundry interjected here and there.

As they went down the hall, Luke thought about his researches into Maureen’s problem. One horrifying statistic in particular stuck out: Americans owed over twelve trillion dollars. Money spent but not earned, just promised. A paradox only an accountant could love. While much of that debt had to do with mortgages on homes and businesses, an appreciable amount led back to those little plastic rectangles everyone kept in their purses and wallets: the oxycodone of American consumers.

And some wonderful secondary characters. In this one, Orphan Annie, Sheriff John, and to a certain extent, Deputy Wendy, stand front and center in a whole host of them. Not even including the kids.

Also, a lot of it was set in South Carolina, my home state. Although rife with southern stereotypes, it was a relief to have my state and it’s small-town residents portrayed in an overall positive light.

“Do it fast,” Annie said, “or you’re dead. This isn’t playin, boys. You’re in the south now.” They looked at each other, then put the autos carefully down on the pavement.

Yeah, I know, a bit cheesy. But I loved it.

In a nutshell, the plot is about a mysterious “Institute” where the powers in charge kidnap children who have shown some signs of Telekinesis and/or Telepathy in order to harness their powers for what they believe is a noble cause. It’s a classic case of the end justifying the means. Except the means are cruel and evil and the end is shown to be a load of bull in the end. Unfortunately for their cause, when they kidnapped Luke, our co-hero, they kidnapped the wrong boy. Because Luke is smart. Really smart.

What, exactly, was that understanding? Why, that aside from having a yard of guts, the kid also happened to be a genuine bottled-in-bond genius. These Institute thugs had taken him to obtain a talent that was (at least before its enhancement) little more than a parlor trick. They considered his brilliance a mere adjunct to what they were really after, making them like poachers willing to slaughter a twelve-thousand-pound elephant to get ninety pounds of ivory.

There are fears, cheers, and tears. Not everyone gets out unscathed or even gets out, but the ending was satisfactory. And I loved the promising ending of the first of our heroes to be introduced. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

January 6, 2020

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