Book Review: “The Institute” by Stephen King

instituteIn the middle of the night, 12-year-old genius Luke Ellis is violently abducted from his home in Minneapolis. When he wakes up, he is in a near-perfect recreation of his room, in a facility called the Institute located somewhere in Maine. There are a few other children here as well, and in addition to having arrived under similar circumstances, it turns out they all have low level psychic abilities. The people running this facility take the kids to other areas and perform cruel experiments on them, viciously punishing those who don’t comply, and rewarding those who do with tokens that can be redeemed for everything from candy to alcohol and drugs. What the Institute director Mrs. Sigsby and her staff don’t realize is how dangerous Luke’s brilliance might be to their operation, as he questions just what the experiments are for, and if he might be able to make an escape. This novel is classic King, with several richly developed young characters that you will both relate to and root for. This is also easily one of the scariest books he has put out in a long time, as the depths of cruelty that the staff of the Institute are capable of committing against children is truly horrifying. That the tormentors’ lives have families and children of their own makes their ability to view their captives as completely separate from that, or as property, to be used in the service of a cause they all fervently believe in, even more alarming. Of course, this being Stephen King, in addition to the scares, this is a story filled with genuine heart, especially in regards to the relationships among the abducted children. And that is what has made his work stand out so much among his peers in the horror genre, and arguably in any genre. There are few writers out there who can rival his ability to create people you can’t help but love, which of course only makes the scary bits even scarier. ★★★★★ – Sean Farrell

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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