Caution: This post may contain SPOILERS!
Ever since I had my son, reading books has not been quite the same experience as it was back when I was blissfully childless. I used to read all kinds of stuff where terrible things happened to children, and it didn’t really bother me much because, obviously, it’s just fiction. Now when I read about terrible things happening to children, my teeth are set on edge and my eyes fill with tears. Yes, it’s still just fiction, but after I had a child, something in me softened and it is very easily wounded. (Fellow parents, have you experienced the same thing?)
Anyway, so why did I want to read Stephen King’s The Institute when the plot involves children being brutally punished? Because I am a die-hard Stephen King fan. That is literally the only reason. That soft spot in my heart was repeatedly stabbed (or slapped or electrified by a zap-stick) by the horrors I read about in the book, and yet, I still kept reading because the plot was just that addictive.
I want to say I enjoyed the book, but I also didn’t enjoy it because of that. I also came to the uncomfortable conclusion that one of my favorite authors is getting a little crazy in his old age. He insulted President Trump not just once but four times, and a few of his other liberal viewpoints came out when politics didn’t have much to do with the book’s plot or the characters’ motivations. I just rolled my eyes, the way you would when one of your coworkers or family members makes a political statement you don’t quite agree with. OK, crazy Uncle Steve. I get it. You hate conservatives and wish Trump would jump out of a plane without wearing a parachute.
Also, I wondered what went through King’s head when he wrote some of the torture scenes. He’s written some gory, nauseating stuff before, but I don’t think he’s ever written about the misery of children at this level. I’m not sure the book would have been published if it had been written by someone else. (Similar to It. Had that sex scene in the sewer been written by anyone else, the book would never have seen the light of day.)
The Institute also contained a bit of hypocrisy. If King thinks guns are so terrible and bad, why did he have his protagonists use guns against the enemy? If King believes that torturing children is an awful, terrible thing (like any sane person would), then why does he also believe that abortion is OK? I don’t really want to know the answers to those questions, but it did make me worry about King’s mental health.
Will I read other books by crazy Uncle Steve? Of course. I’m a Constant Reader.