In his latest novel, Stephen King does what he does best: tells a macabre supernatural story that keeps the reader glued to the book until the ending. It doesn’t have monsters in the literal meaning of the word, but more than enough monstrous deeds.
The protagonist, Luke, is a 12-year old child prodigy from Minneapolis. Shortly before he was due to start university, he wakes up in a room that looks just like his own, but has no windows. He learns that he’s in a mysterious facility called simply The Institute, along with many other kids. All of the kids have something in common – they all have some sort of paranormal ability, for example telekinesis or telepathy. If you’re familiar with Stephen King’s work, you should recognize this as a recurring theme, most notable examples being „Carrie“ and „Firestarter“. That doesn’t of course mean the book is a copy or re-write of some older works, but it definitely has the classic Stephen King feel.
The kids are subjected to tests and experiments and eventually „graduate“ to the Back Half of the Institute – never to be seen or heard from again by those left behind.
Little by little we learn, along Luke, what’s actually going on, how the Institute is using the kids’ abilities and, as expected, the truth is dark and bleak.
No one has ever escaped the Institute. So is there any hope for Luke and his friends?
The adults who run the facility, are viewed as cynical, uncaring creatures who disregard people (in this case, children) as objects, things, seeing and evaluating them only based on their usefulness in achieving their higher goal. And isn’t it, at least just a little bit, true in many areas of the human society? Of course, this is fiction. But art imitates life, and if one wanted to analyze this book from that point of view, it does make one think about how we, as a society, treat those around us, especially the weaker, the „disposable“ ones.
I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I do consider myself a fan of Stephen King in general, but as any writer, he does have his stronger and weaker moments, and this is Mr. King at his best.
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