The Institute: A Novel, by Stephen King

Nine stars

Long a fan of Stephen King’s work, I was eager to get my hands on this piece and take the journey. King seems to find so many ways to keep the reader enthralled with his plots and characters, as this book did not veer too far from those foundational building blocks. Luke Ellis is violently kidnapped from his Minneapolis home, his parents left murdered in their beds. When Luke awakes, he can vaguely recollect something having happened to him, but the specifics are entirely fuzzy. An exceptionally bright twelve year-old, Luke is unable to decipher what is going on around him, until he is introduced as the newest member of The Institute, a super-secret facility in Maine. Its residents are children, not necessarily blessed with great intelligence, but with the powers of telekinesis or telepathy. As Luke becomes a little more acquainted with his surroundings, he comes to understand that these powers are being used for some unknown mission, during which time the children are drained of their abilities, then have their memories zapped of any recollection surrounding The Institute. This highly-regimented place leaves little room for straying from the path, though Luke and his fellow residents can use their powers to discus options. Luke takes it upon himself to make a break, with the help of someone else, and get help for the larger group. While he is able to slide under a fence, it is only the start, as Luke must flee swiftly and get someone to believe his far-fetched tale. When Luke arrives in DuPray, South Carolina, he rests his hopes on a local police officer. Tim Jamieson may be new to the area, but he has a great deal of policing experience, which includes a gut for trouble. With members of The Institute using their connections around the country, Luke Ellis might be in more danger than he thinks, and Jamieson his only hope. But what of those left back in Maine? Well, that’s where the story gets even more interesting… Another stellar King novel that will leave the reader wondering how they got from A to Z and loving the adventure along the way. Recommended to those who have a passion for King’s energetic writing style, as well as readers who are not scared off by a book’s length and tangential narrative.

Stephen King is one of those writers that you will either love or hate, both sets of readers having made themselves known on my Goodreads feed of late. King never shies away from controversy, but he is happy to do so by layering his novels with themes and countless tangents, seeking to prove a point without always being blunt. I grew up not being permitted to read King and have since made a point of trying to devour much of his newer writing, as well as dabbling in some of his older work. This piece shows signs of being more like his newer work, where the gore and the crazy facets are less prevalent, leaving a story that needs telling to come to the surface. Luke Ellis finds himself in the middle of this piece and seems to be the ideal protagonist. While he is young—twelve being that formative age when everything is new or awkward—Luke does well throughout this novel, navigating much of what is placed before him. He must not only digest the death of his family, but the incarceration in this sinister ‘tele-prison’ of sorts, while trying to be both a leader and a child seeking guidance. King created the ideal young character here and the attentive reader will enjoy all the backstory and character development that comes along with it. Others who find their way into the story help shape the narratives, particularly Tim Jamieson, whose emergence in the opening portion of the book led me to wonder if this were another of those ‘down the rabbit hole’ moments when we would not see a character again after attaching ourselves to him. Jamieson serves as a protector and quasi-father figure to Luke as they try to wrestle The Institute and all it stands for before more children are harmed. The story itself serves as a wonderfully entertaining piece, though it is long. As with most King novels, the reader needs patience, which pays off in the long-run. There are many references to past King pieces, which is part of the adventure, as the reader tries to link the references to the different books. There is never a shortage of King works to pull upon or become excited about and they always leave the reader thinking, while also wanting more. I can say I am yearning for more and will keep my eyes open for more in the coming months!

Kudos, Mr. King, for always pushing the envelop a little more and keeping me on my toes. Brilliant work deserves much praise and I hope others see some of what I did in this novel.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: