The latest book by Stephen King, The Institute, is a classical thriller, with a touch of science fiction, with elegant terrifying references to everyday America and its nasty president
Gifted children from all over America are kidnapped and brought to the Institute, whose aim is to extract and manipulate those super powers - telekinesis and telepathy - and turned them into heartless monsters ready to kill.
The action of the book, like all Stephen King's books, takes place in America and a significant part of it is dedicated to description of the deep American countryside and its inhabitants, haunted by conspiracy theories and urban myths.
Some of those myths had to do with the so-called curse of the intelligence, as it is considered that those with an over the norm IQ may hide demonic powers threatening the normality of the rest of the people. The Institute, to whom we are introduced after many hundreds of pages and as we will find out at the very end of the book was a relic of the Cold War, is aimed to supress and control those gifts. Different, special people, either intelligent or minorities are easily becoming a target.
The children are kidnapped from all over the country, their parents are murdered and brought to this bizarre establishment, organised as a semi-military basis and served by people with a military past themselves. Here, the children are submitted to various medical experiments, by people able to torture and kill those innocent souls because they made a clear distinction between real life and duty. The duty of serving a superior good, not explicitly stated but strongly believed. Very often, the ambiance of the book is suffocating and filled with strange energies. You don't know what it is about to happen, for how long and what torture method will follow. The reader is becoming part of the experiments too. Even as a spectator, it is mentally exhausting.
Everything changes once the impossible occurrs: Luke Ellis is the first kid to ever escape The Institute. Once this happens, the pace and the ambiance change and for a certain amount of pages, the focus is if he will really succeed to escape the network of stringers the Institute has all over the country.
I've read the book fast, but often had to take long breaks to relieve the pressure which doesn't necessarily had to do with the thriller/horror part of it. It is unbearable to witness, even as a reader, so much evildoing. Something we witness way too much nowadays around the world.
From the literary construction point of view, I felt more than once that the book is focused more on characters building, with the course of action being left behind. Despite those imbalances, The Institute is one of those books that you hardly forget. Like many of Stephen King's books.
Rating: 4 stars