The Wulver’s Library‘s Review of The Institute by Stephen King
Stephen King is a master at casting a familiar shadow over an eerie smalltown setting and The Institute is no different. Hidden in the depths of an American forest, the organisation known only as “The Institute”, sends out forces to kidnap children and kill their families. They continue to subject these children to tests to bring out their developing psychic powers.
King has always been supreme at crafting a story from the ground up and bringing them together in a soft and simple way; however he also brings in a load of political references. There’s even a dig at the Trump administration which seems fitting today, of all days.
We start our story with Tim, an ex-cop, who has quick intelligence and thoughtfulness but has lost his job to a freak occurrence and ends up in the small town of DuPray as a night knocker. This turns out to be a major theme of the story: events of pure chance (or is it destiny). Our story takes place largely in the Institute itself and from the perspective of 12yo child prodigy, Luke Ellis.
Luke is on his way to attending two universities at once and learns that in order to keep from the terrifying abyss inside of him he hungers to learn more. Soon he is snatched by the Institute and we delve into the deep fears of the Institute: waking up in a place exactly like his home for it to be somewhere otherworldly and rendered. Here, he finds several other children like him in the same predicament who are told that they are heroes helping to save the world; but they are tortured until they are empty vessels.
The Institute isn’t an overly violent book, as King sometimes tends to be. In many ways, it relies on the idea that children can be connected to a powerful force that brings sinister scenes that follow a certain regime. We do explore the bad side of adults put into a position of power with child abuse, cremation rooms and water tanks but Luke makes comparison between the staff who imagine they are doing the right thing and those who go along with a sinister regime.
Everything that you would expect from King is here: the eccentric characters, the sturdy plot, the bonkers imagination that gave us all the previous work. It isn’t his best work but it still hums and crackles with unease.