Luke Ellis is a smart kid, a prodigy who at age 12 is poised to graduate from his gifted program in Minneapolis and move on to dual college enrollment, his intelligence and thirst for knowledge far more than can be quenched by one institution of higher learning.
Unfortunately for this brilliant child, Luke’s abilities have caught the attention of those with sinister intentions. Drugged and abducted in the middle of the night, Luke wakes one morning to find himself in a room that looks almost identical to his own.
Outside his door is a hallway lined with the bedrooms of other children, children who like Luke have caught the attention of those who seek to use their minds for reasons the children don’t yet understand. Luke’s SAT scores would have gotten him into MIT, but to the people in charge of the Institute, what he can MOVE with his mind is of greater interest.
As Luke meets the other residents of the Institute, he learns that he’s not the only kid who can make an empty pizza box flip over just by thinking about it, some of them can even read minds. Subjected to testing and unknown injections, rewarded with tokens for junk food and computer access, Luke and the others are repeatedly reassured that they will be returned home to their parents soon.
When the children witness the death of a fellow test subject, their circumstances become clear. Luke courageously escapes, providing a distraction for the Institute’s administrators who are desperate to protect the secrets of the evil deeds going inside. The secrets they are protecting and their underestimation of their test subjects ultimately proves to be their undoing when the remaining children realize that their individual powers are stronger together.
Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers of all time, his works frequently adapted to film and television. Known for his penchant for the supernatural, the psychic and the otherworldly, he is truly at his best when he writes stories that straddle the world of the impossible with common everyday life.
Luke and the other children of the Institute are powerful in their abilities of telekinesis and telepathy, but they are also children who play video games, gobble peanut butter cups and experience first loves.
The fear that King is so well versed in making jump off the page is not the fear of the unknown, as Lovecraft would say, but the exploitation of our worst fears: for someone to discover our secrets, for our children to be taken, for our children to be hurt. Ever generous, King never cuts without providing a salve; the children of the Institute are the most deserving champions for us to cheer on, their triumph a win for us all and a reminder to never underestimate the power of solidarity.