The Institute by Stephen King
My rating ✰5✰
Picture and quote from Goodreads
In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”
In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.
As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.
I used to read a lot of Stephen King when I was a teenager. My reading of scary things lessened when I met my husband and became happy for the first time. I stopped reading scary things entirely when I became a parent. Since becoming a widow, however, my own nightmares are worse than anything an author can dream up, so it’s kind of a relief to read about someone else’s horrors for a while. This book is 560 pages long. That’s huge for me. I usually prefer to read books about the 300 page range. Anything longer seems to take me forever to get through. This book though, went by so fast. I read the last 200 pages in an evening.
It was phenomenal. The good characters were brave and smart and wonderful. The bad characters were horrifying, especially in so far as they believed they were doing what was best for the world in kidnapping, torturing, and killing children for decades.
The story was thrilling and I couldn’t stop reading. I remember now why I loved to read Stephen Kings stories so much all those years ago.