The Master has done it again - Stephen King comes up with another winner with The Institute.
The Institute takes me back. This book reminds me warmly of some of my favourite Stephen King stories, without repeating them. A remarkable achievement for someone who has been writing for a lifetime - my lifetime.
As in the Dark Tower series, it appears that King is pulling a whole lot of threads together from his life's work. King, known for his characterisation as well as his imagination, revisits themes and stock characters that we loved, but creates great new characters all the same.
The Institute kidnaps children who have the 'gift' of Telekinesis, or Telepathy. In King's books this talent is often both something to be exploited and their saving grace.
Inmates are told they have been "conscripted" to use their powers to aid the American Government. Possibly even the world!
Yet their actual lives and minds are of no value at all to those who hold them captive... An appalling fact of truth for Luke Ellis, who is an actual on-paper genius, and was headed for university at twelve years old. That is before he is kidnapped due to his other talent - telekinesis.
These kids remind me of the kids on The Beam, in The Dark Tower (Wolves of the Calla); forced to concentrate their collective minds on the destruction of the beams that hold the worlds together. There are other worlds than this...
Avery makes me think of the young, incredibly gifted telepath Danny Torrance from of The Shining. The twins, Greta and Gerda, are a direct reference to this story. George is surely reminiscent of Ritchie from IT ("beep beep, Ritchie").
At moments I'm back in the world of IT, the ultimate story of kids vs evil (and an ultimately better book than the movies could EVER be - don't get me started on The Dark Tower movie!).
It's a strange dichotomy to read an adult book about young people and wonder if it works, then to realise that I was only a couple of years older than this story's protagonist, Luke, when I first began reading Stephen King's books. But it works. And it's gripping.
As I read on, I found elements of Margaret Atwood in The Institute. Lewis is fitted with an ear-tag, which must surely come out in a grisly fashion..?
Considering that Gilead is also a place that turns up in King's corpus, via the Dark Tower novels, at this point I had to find out which author incorporated the biblical reference of Gilead first.
Margaret Atwood's Rebublic of Gilead is an dystopian version of America in The Handmaid's Tale, which was published in 1986. Roland Deschain's Gilead in the alternative world of King's The Gunslinger, was first published in 1988, although probably conceived sometime before.
A coincidence I think, yet here in the Institute, Mr K tips his hat to good old Margaret's science fiction.
Gilead is a Hebrew word, meaning "hill of testimony" referring to a place in Canaan. This makes sense to me on both counts: Roland's story is a testament as well. Luke's surely is.
For good measure, King throws an epic train journey into the plot. Anyone remember Blaine the Mono?
I've always preferred King's fantasy stories to those with more realistic grisly crime, although there are plenty of horror stories in the real world. The lines are becoming increasingly blurred...
The last King book I loved was Sleeping Beauties - in which the world's women have escaped into another dimension, leaving behind their cocooned bodies. The question is, will they stay there?
Stephen King began writing classical horror with a distinctly American flavour. You can bet that includes a slice of pie. The demons and witch trials in Salem's Lot still feature as one of the world's number one horror stories; trending on a recent twitter poll on Goodreads.
Of course no King fan could forget The Shining. I couldn't forget it for almost a year. That's how long I kept my eyes open in the shower...
The movie, with Jack Nicholson, was one of the better movie adaptations of an King novel. Misery wasn't bad either, making Kathy Bates famous. "You're a dirty birdie." Lol.
I have to say, although I'm not keen to read King's novels that focus on crime, I was transfixed by the TV adaptation of Mr Mercedes.
And I loved the Dead Zone - about a man who, after being in a coma for ten years, discovers he has telepathy, helping the police track a serial killer. Read the book - it has so much more depth than the film, though Christopher Walken did do a great turn as a corrupt politician.
Another favourite of mine is one of the Bachman books. They're all good, but this one was creepy.
The last bit of big Stephen King news? Mr Mercedes Season 2 is now out on DVD. I'm hooked on this one!