Stephen King is a consistently underrated writer. He writes lots of novels, they’re genre novels, they get made into movies, they’re popular, so they must be junk, right? But… there’s more. As someone who written fiction (a little) I have a lot of respect for his craftsmanship. He’s also, in my opinion, able to transcend the genre narratives (while embracing them and using them for full entertainment value) and tackle some bigger themes, especially in his more recent work.
And so we have his new book, The Institute. It is completely enjoyable and quite successful as what it is: a thriller about an evil government agency kidnapping children for terrible purposes.
But it’s also about how people adapt to making terrible moral compromises in the name of safety, and what it takes to make us question them. And how those not having to make those compromises directly get so good at looking away and not seeing what’s being done in their name.
So yes, it’s got a lot of resonance with the current political moment. Who are we if we allow terrible cruelties and crimes to be committed in our name? King is clearly thinking about that, and it makes this book so much more than an entertaining read. Which is also is.