This is my second book by Stephen King that I read this month, and also his latest published. It is also a perfect book to review the day before Halloween. Which makes sense that I would read it next, because Pet Cemetery was one of his earlier ones. While I wouldn’t categorize this book as straight-up horror, instead thinking of it more as a dark fantasy, I did thoroughly enjoy it.
Release: Sep. 10, 2019
Synopsis: On a dark night, twelve-year-old Luke Ellis’s parents are murdered and he is kidnapped and brought to a strange institute, where he meets a group of children with special abilities. At this place the children are experimented on, tortured to bring out their superhuman talents. The institute is run by cruel people, who care little for the safety of their inmates and only for the power they might harness through them. No one has ever escaped the institute. Luke plans to.
This book wasn’t exactly like I imagined. For one, it’s less horror than adventure. It centers much more on extremely young characters, and yet the book doesn’t feel younger because of the maturity of Luke, the protagonist, and the horrible situations the young children are forced into. Like most of Stephen King’s books, it does feel slow at times, focusing on the characters and sitting at over 500 pages (though considering how long some of his books are, this isn’t that much). Saying that, I feel as if this book does follow a rather predictable plot, with little deviation happening that I did not expect. While I enjoyed it, I won’t say it’s going to be a new favorite of mine.
So, most of the book is spent as Luke works to discover more about the institute, learning about the various nurses and doctors, and patterns and plans. He is a brilliant boy, who is introduced at the beginning as about to attend college…and he’s twelve. Because of this, there is a strange dynamic in the story. Of course the main protagonist is a child, and yet you never feel like you’re in a child’s perspective. Instead, he is intelligent and cunning in coming up with his escape. He is also sympathetic, both because his parents are murdered and because of his kindness to the children at the institute.
The ending is perhaps the best part, though I won’t get into any major spoilers in this post. If you are curious about the meaning of the ending, I would recommend reading this news post (only if you’ve read it though, or it won’t make any sense). However, King does a good job in slowly giving more hints about the institute as the story continues. Even though the book follows characters, it feels more as if the story focuses on the idea of this secret organization working to control the world through children’s abilities.
I find that it is common in many of King’s books that he really likes to delve into every character introduced. Even though there are quite a few characters in this book (at least a dozen kids, the many workers at the institute, as well as a group of people from a small town who help Luke), I rarely felt confused of who was who. Saying that, there are a lot of characters to keep track of. Even for a book this long, it is pretty overwhelming.
Even if I wouldn’t categorize this book as horror, there is a creepy atmosphere around it. The scenes where Luke is tortured are quite horrifying, and the institute itself has this sense of deep perversion about it. The idea of kidnapping children, even if the motive may be slightly good, and turning them into puppets to a mysterious organization seems horrible. I’m the type of person who is protective of both children and animals in real life, so when a book goes out of its way to show children treated in such horrible ways, it is upsetting. Thus, if you were queasy about such subject matter, you might be better off skipping this book.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would have preferred slightly less characters and less of a perfect, then not so perfect ending, but I did enjoy it throughout. Unlike a few of King’s other books I’ve tried reading, it didn’t feel boring at any spots, despite its length and it may be up in the list of one of my favorite books published in 2019.
Have you read this book? Does it look interesting to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,