Here I am, trying to convince you that horror is a beautiful genre once again. But hear me out on this one. The Institute by Stephen King is possibly one of the best books I am going to read this year. Not only was the writing very entertaining, but the story gripped me. There was never a moment when I wasn’t eager to see what was going to happen next. Like eating the story was simultaneously making me hungrier.
The theme of this book can be summarised in King’s own claim during the novel: ‘Great events turn on small hinges’. Initially we are introduced to one of our main characters, Tim Jamieson, who inexplicably decides to change the direction of his life, by leaving his flight home and hitchhiking to the obscure town of DuPray. There he begins his new spontaneous lifestyle taking each hour as it comes, but eventually settling into a job as town ‘night knocker’.
Meanwhile, Luke Ellis is following his path as a child prodigy, which he is destined to achieve. Although he tries to remain as rooted to a normal life as possible, he is aware there is something very different about him. And someone else has noticed it too. Soon Luke wakes up in a room that isn’t quite his room, to find he has been captured by ‘The Institute’ overnight. Who they are and why they would want Luke is a mystery. With the encouragement of the other children also held captive, Luke must utilise the abilities he has tried to suppress to save everyone inside.
When it comes to King there are two skills that shine above the rest. His ability to write convincing characters and his ability to write about kids. In the Institute we get the best of both. I thought the characters were instantly loveable and difficult not to become emotionally attached to. You can feel yourself cheering Luke and his friends towards freedom all the way through. In the moments we see Tim and his new neighbours and colleagues, there’s pride in the sense of unison they emanate.
The story is a contributor to the idea that together we are stronger. A classic towards the good vs evil plot. Considering current political situations I would not be surprised if King intended to say we can all make a difference to our governments, no matter how small our votes may seem. In America and UK alike the novel feels very timely. But even leaving any serious messages aside, the Institute is a thrilling-paced conspiracy coming to light. If you like the idea of ‘fighting the power’ then you will definitely want to join forces with this one. Just be warned, the path does not come without some sinister torture and a wicked wit.