In the middle of the night on a quiet street in Minneapolis, a house is silently broken into. Inside, Luke Ellis's parents are slaughtered and he is drugged and loaded into the back of a black SUV. When he wakes up, he's in the Institute, in a room that looks like his room but isn't. When Luke opens the door, he finds other kids with special talents-- telekinesis and telepathy-- who got to the Institute the same way he did. These kids are in the Front Half. Other kids have graduated to the Back Half, the Institute's version of the Hotel California: these kids can check out... but they will never leave.
The director and staff of the Institute are dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extraordinary gifts. No compassion. No scruples. If you do what they say, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don't, punishment is swift and brutal. No one has ever escaped from the Institute, but as his friends begin disappearing into the Back Half, Luke is determined to get out and get help.
In any reading of the synopsis of The Institute, it should be clear that the torture of children figures highly in the story. If this is something you simply cannot read about, do not pick up this book. I've always seemed to have a higher tolerance level for some things and having read many Stephen King novels, I knew that the payback for the perpetrators would be extremely satisfying. King takes time in setting up his story, laying out plots and subplots, populating his landscape with memorable characters, and using pop culture references like spaghetti Westerns, Dr. Seuss, and Reese's peanut butter cups to make us feel as though we're part of the story, too.
Those who have read The Institute will know what I'm talking about when I mention the humming that can be felt with increasing frequency. I experienced my own hum... more of a visceral thrum of anger... as it became more and more clear what was being done to these children. King made me want to take part in his payback, oh did he ever!
King has written before about the amazing power of what children can do together as a group, and as I neared the climax of The Institute, I realized once more that there's nothing better than the end of a Stephen King novel when the Forces of Good finally have their act together and have taken aim at the Forces of Evil. Payback can be a wonderful thing in the hands of a master.
The Institute by Stephen King
Scribner © 2019
eBook, 576 pages
Source: Purchased from Amazon.