It’s nice to have read a book within a reasonable timetable for a change. I mean, sure, The Institute came out nearly a month ago, but I’ve only been reading for a week or two. (I think?) Since I’ve been taking a lot longer than that lately and for shorter books to boot, I’ll gladly accept the win.
My last impression is one of sadness. Because, okay, anyone can just be walking down the street and get plowed into by a
bus van, and bam, lights out. That is the way of the world. But this is the first time I’ve seen an author photo of Stephen King and thought that he looked old. Which means there’s a time limit outside the confines of happenstance.
If I were terribly clever, I would now tie in the plot or theme(s) of the book into this sense of impending loss. And okay, maybe I could at that, but I don’t want to get too deep into spoiler territory. So, instead, let’s start over.
My first impression of the book was… well, okay, it has a pretty confusing intro. I say confusing because it has nothing whatsoever to do with the visible plot of the book, as judged by the cover. And, in retrospect, this is 100% awkward. I don’t mind, because I will give the man a lot of leeway, but if you are really interested in the structure of writing, yeah, I cannot say this is a stand-out entry.
My middle impression of the book was extremely favorable! See, there’s the hyper smart kid, one of those people who is a supernova in a world of candles and light bulbs, right? I’ve met one or two of them, and while I don’t consider myself a dope, I’m smart enough to know the difference between me and someone like that. And via a few dozen pages of plot events occurring, he finds himself in a prison for children who have certain small talents.
Everything else follows from here. Why was he taken? What do they want? What can he do about it? Everyone wants to compare this book to It, because the main characters are mostly children, and… I mean, that’s a true point of overlap between the books, but man are they nothing alike. And almost none of the things I love about that book are present here either. Some of the kids are outsider types, but some are not, and it is certainly not the meat of their friendships. There’s no sense of the sweep of a dark and disturbing history, no slice of small town life through a lens as warped as conservative ideology paints our mid-century past, only warped in the opposite direction. In all the ways that make that book matter, they’re nothing alike.
Which is not to say I did not like The Institute. It’s a lovely adventure story with characters I cared about. But it’s a fun book, not a great book. Which is okay! It’s just irritating to compare the books on the basis of “kids vs evil”.
Long story short: I hate writing reaction reviews, and I’m sorry that either of us had to sit through this one.
 Also, happily, it means I don’t have to dwell on how King didn’t write him nearly intelligently enough, what with the twin excuses of how would I know the difference past a certain point, and that, supernova or not, he’s still twelve.
 Although if the book were twice its length perhaps there could have been. This is not a thing I can recommend, though.
 Anyway, after further consideration, the thing I was thinking of doesn’t even really work.