Setting is an alternative 1980s London. An underachieving young man comes into an inheritance and orders a cutting edge robot (or cyborg), that is (almost) indistinguishable from the real thing.
This is Ian McEwan as usual, with twisty relationships, lies and secrets, and thoroughly readable, as are all his novels. There is always a sharp wit at play here, which I always appreciate. It is less sci-fi or speculative fiction, than an exploration of human nature and justice. Not his best work, but still head and shoulders above the rest.
I have been a reader of Stephen King since The Shining. Go ahead, let me have it. I’m trying, really trying. Picked up Infinite Jest, then put it down. Three quarters of the way through Great Expectations, then onto the Mandalorian on Disney. I do read Insert Books That Are Considered High Brow and Have Won Several Prestigious Awards here. I do.
However, I never NOT pick up a Stephen King release, even if it receives tepid reviews, as his output has been, the last few years. I did not mind Doctor Sleep, especially the audiobook version as read by Will Patton, a truly gifted reader of books. We are thinking of having him come to our house, and read our grocery lists, anything else we have lying around.
Getting back to The Institute, Stephen King delivers a topical and all-too-not 100% improbable scenario to a hair-raising climax. This is as climactic as Firestarter was, another tightly plotted and government-bad novel as this one is. There is a delicious anticipation as things tighten up, and King does what he does best. Ratchet up the tension, as he did so well in 11/22/63, his best in years, IMO.
The Institute one ticked all the boxes on the King list: a granular knowledge of the subject that elevates above lesser authors of the genre. Damning with faint praise, I know, but he is the James Cameron (we call him Jimmy C here in Canada) of the written world (sadly, SK’s movies seldom reach the heights of the books because this granularity (some might say overwritten quality) is lost in a film format) Or the books in question were crap.
He is such a master of the craft that, perhaps it is his hubris, he tends to be overly generous (his words) with the prose. It works as many times as it doesn’t work, in my opinion. He’ll always be my go-to, though I’ll be the first to note that he has written a lot of clunkers. To name a few: Tommyknockers, Lisey’s Story (subjective, found it tedious), The Outsider, Under the Dome, Bag of Bones, It.
Give The Institute a read or listen, a high water mark for King, take it from the expert. You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile (sorry, David Byrne), and drifting into oncoming traffic, as you lose yourself in the climactic moments. SK really maintained a fever pitch of tension in the final pages, I must say. Not an easy task.
With no qualification, here are some books I am enjoying right now! Elizabeth Strout, along with Mary Lawson, one of my favourite writers. What are YOU reading right now? Being the nosy parker I am, I seldom resist an urge to ask how a book is or what a person is reading. Get a LOT of great books that way!