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November 13, 2019

The Institute by Stephen King ~ a Review

by Alison DeLuca

Recently I read two books, both of them urban fantasy with a touch of horror.

One was beautifully written, with poetic prose that swirled and made me read slowly to enjoy each word. The other was The Institute by Stephen King.
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The first book just couldn't hook me. I'm not going to reveal the title, but underneath all that beauty and lavish detail the story was nonexistent. As for the characters, I had no idea who they were other than pretty people given deliberate flaws to try and make them interesting.

In the end, I abandoned that book. The lovely writing just couldn't hold me in the absence of characterization.

Next in my queue: The Institute. This novel also took its time getting started, and King spends the entire first section getting one man (who isn't even the main character!) in the correct setting.

King is a master at creating characters who live, breathe, and steal our hearts through their imperfect humanity and struggles against overwhelming odds. Rose Daniels, Andy Dufresne, Paul Edgecomb captured me and kept me reading because I had to find out if they would survive the odds.

Once I began The Institute, I simply couldn't put it down. Add high-stake action and an exciting story (once it gets going), King's novel was a truly compelling read.

Tim Jamieson, the man who starts the book, is a policeman forced to retire due to bad luck on the job. He's not the main character, but his backstory is fascinating.

And then there's 12-year-old Luke Ellis. He's orphaned and kidnapped by the Institute, a strange place that takes in children and forces them through horrifying experiments. There's no way out and, even if he does escape, the villains have set him up to look as though he was the one who murdered his own parents.

It's an amazing trap, and the claustrophobic setting enhances the growing terror that surrounds the Institute. What does Mrs. Sigsby, the Director, want from him and the other kids? And what happens when the inmates disappear to the mysterious Back Half?

The book is replete with King's sly humor and gloves-off terror:

“Back in the main corridor—what Luke now understood to be the residents’ wing—the little girls, Gerda and Greta, were standing and watching with wide, frightened eyes. They were holding hands and clutching dolls as identical as they were. They reminded Luke of twins in some old horror movie.”

This is a King novel in every sense of the word. To quote Arrested Development, reading the book is like finding a bag marked 'Dead Dove, Do Not Eat' in your fridge.

It's Firestarter 2.0 except with more kids and lots more special abilities. And villains - lots of villains. However, if you enjoyed Stranger Things, The Institute is a great follow-up when you've marathoned both seasons and need more.

Buy The Institute at Amazon

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books. She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.
Currently, she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

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  1. oooo lots of villains. i love villains. i am behind on stephen kings newer books. i'll be checking the library for this one.
    sherry @ fundinmental