Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King

Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King

Although not on the same prestige level as The Shining or The Stand, The Institute is a damn good book that is simultaneously deliberate and effortless. The story of a young, brilliant boy who is abducted by a mysterious organization and subjected to tests and abuse is one that should resonate with anyone who has ever been a child, and especially for those who have young children.

It’s rare that I binge books anymore. The last I can remember is The Hunger Games trilogy, years ago. Normally, I read as time permits, and never feel too bad about it. The Institute, however, sucks you in. It begins with the story of a man getting off a plane, and really, there is not much of a story there, and yet somehow, King gets you interested. You can’t help but follow along, even though it seems to have nothing to do with the book’s description.

But by the time everything comes together at the end, you start to understand why all these detours were necessary.

What I Liked

  • King’s effortless writing – not a single work struck me as out of place. Either narration just comes natural to him, or his editor is crazy thorough.
  • Suspense – so many times during this book, I thought, okay, Luke should figure it out now, only for Luke to get distracted or interrupted. This craving to finally see Luke figure things out kept me coming back.
  • Multiple POVs – The narration is in 3rd Person Omniscient, and King takes advantage of this to deliver the thoughts and feelings of multiple people in the same chapter. (The way I write, this isn’t possible.) I was impressed by how freely he moved from one character to the next.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Trump – By now, King’s personal opinion on Trump is well-known via his interviews and Twitter feed, so when it shows up in the story, it’s hard to separate the narrator from the author. Did Orphan Annie really think that about Trump, Stephen? Or did you make her think that? I am all for pointing out that Trump is human garbage, but because King is so well-known, the mentions felt more like intrusions.
  • The abrupt chapter breaks – so many times, it felt like a chapter just blew a fuse and ended. I don’t know how King chooses what stays and what goes, but there were several instances where I wanted to know more about an event and he just skipped right over it.
  • The ending – every author has to choose a tone for their ending, something between utterly bleak and fairy tale happy ending–I just didn’t agree with this one. I can understand why King made some choices, and they work, but… you know…

In Summary

This is a great book. I really admire King’s style of writing, and wish I could even come within a mile of it. The suspense and the anguish and the wrenching of my emotions (as a parent) was all spot-on. There’s nothing really earth-shattering here, but it’s a solid book and well worth your time.

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