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  • Jeff Somers 2:30 pm on 2019/09/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , no other worlds, stephen king, ,   

    Stephen King’s The Institute Sidelines the Multiverse for Real Life 

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    Stephen King has made a career out of surprising us. Just when we had him pegged as a horror specialist, he veered off into more literary territory.

    After a near-death experience and a premature retirement announcement, he launched into the most productive period of his life.

    And just when he’s got us conditioned to look for connections to the King multiverse links in everything he writes, he drops The Institute, a novel that seems sure to be a perfect throwback to his ’80s heyday, crammed full of overt references to other King books featuring nefarious government scientists carrying out unspeakable experiments—but which actually stands (almost) entirely alone.

    Classic King

    The Institute initially seems like a slam-dunk for multiverse tie-ins—its bones are the stuff of classic Stephen King. The extended opening of the novel, which tells the rambling story of Tim Jamieson, a former Florida cop trying to figure out his next steps after losing his job under a cloud of controversy, has the unhurried pace and character focus of King’s small town-centric novels like Needful Things or The Tommyknockers. When we leave Tim working as a “night knocker” for the small local police force in DuPray, South Carolina, we pick up the story of Luke Ellis, an off-the-charts brilliant kid with a touch of telekinesis. Just as Luke is making plans for early entry into the Ivy League, his parents are murdered and he’s kidnapped and brought to the titular Institute, where he and other kids with mild telekinetic and telepathic abilities are imprisoned and experimented on—echoing both the psychic kid at the center of The Shining and the nefarious government agency that produced the pyrotechnic tyke on the run in Firestarter. Likewise, King centers this story on children—their fierce, surprising courage and sense of loyalty—such that the moment you meet the ragtag crew locked up in the Institute, you can’t help but be reminded of It.

    Real World Links

    But no: King swerves away from the intricate universe he’s been building for the last few decades and writes a robust, thrilling story that is focused on a slightly askew version of our own reality, and taking the opportunity to comment on some of its darkest parts. This is a story about the imprisonment and torture of children, after all—kids in cages, to rip a term from the headlines. Luke and his fellow exceptional kids are subjected to endless indignities—tests, injections, surgeries, and light beatings designed to jolt their mental powers into high gear. The staff at the Institute, with one exception, regard them less ass humans and more as lab animals, employing a combination of violence and bribery to keep them in line. Good behavior earns the kids tokens that can be used for candy, drugs and alcohol, or limited computer access. Obstinante behavior earns them a slap—or a whole lot worse.

    Eventually, the kids can look forward to graduating from the Institute’s relatively comfortable “Front Half” to the mysterious “Back Half,” from which no one returns. The parallels to the current refugee crisis in America—the novel’s children are being held in pseudo-prisons and treated like their humanity is inconsequential—are impossible to ignore. The potential links back to King’s larger fictional universe (the most obvious being whether the Institute is connected to or an evolution of the Shop from Firestarter and The Stand) are left out in favor of foregrounded links to our own all-too-real one.

    The Deep State

    As he’s condemning adults for treating their charges at the Institute poorly, King also takes care to position children as our best hope for a better future. As an author, he’s always displayed an immense faith in children—their innocence, their innate morality, and their inherent power—and he leans into that theme here (the novel is dedicated to his grandchildren). Like the genial sociopaths working at the Institute, it’s easy for us to forget Luke Ellis is a genius as he descends into the madness of the facility and becomes numb to its constant abuse and emotional exhaustion. As Luke loses the friends he’s made to Back Half one-by-one, he uses the new abilities the experiments have unlocked within him to risk a daring escape, and it doesn’t feel like too much of a spoiler to say that, should he make it, he’ll need the help of trustworthy adults to help those left behind (there’s a reason the novel begins with Tim’s story, after all).

    To say more would be revealing too much, but the ending, when it arrives, is unexpected and cathartic—and then King offers a sobering twist that puts a whole spin on the entire story, forcing you to question your own assumptions and attitudes. The fundamental question at the novel’s core isn’t about the poor treatment of specific people—even children—but one of fundamental morality: what are we willing to do to others, or to allow to happen to others, in order to keep ourselves safe?

    If The Institute doesn’t link into the King Multiverse (a vague mention of the town of ‘Salem’s Lot is its only relation to the author’s larger body of work), it seems the decision was made with sobering intent. It’s too easy, sometimes, if we’re reminded that what we’re reading is only part of a story.

    The Institute is available now.

    The post Stephen King’s <i>The Institute</i> Sidelines the Multiverse for Real Life appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Joel Cunningham 1:00 pm on 2019/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: audibooks, constant listeners, stephen king,   

    Explore the Many Worlds of Stephen King—With Your Ears 

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    At Barnes & Noble, the past few months have been, for us, the Summer of Stephen King. As we eagerly anticipate the arrival of Stephen King’s new novel The Institute, we’ve been spending our days celebrating the many worlds King has created.

    One of the pleasures that shouldn’t be forgotten is that King novels don’t just make for darkly magical reading: they also make for marvelous listening.

    Here are excerpts from three of King’s most compelling works that are as thrilling in audio as they are on the page—and often in an entirely different way.

    Misery, 1987

    Doctor Sleep, 2013

    11/22/63, 2011

    And if you’re a King fan, don’t miss our podcast limited series King of the Dark—a journey through the most enthralling of Stephen King’s imaginative worlds with special guests Louis Peitzman and Liz Braswell—starting with his explosive debut Carrie and working up to the present day. Listen to the first episode here:

    And you can find all the episodes of King of the Dark here—the series is still ongoing, even as summer wanes.

    The post Explore the Many Worlds of Stephen King—With Your Ears appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sarah Skilton 3:00 pm on 2019/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , lara prescott, , nothing ventured, quichotte, red at the bone, , stephen king, , the dutch house, , the secrets we kept, , the water dancer, the world that we knew,   

    September’s Best New Fiction 

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    This month, heavy hitters such as Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Salman Rushdie, Jeffrey Archer, and Jacqueline Woodson are back with highly anticipated, thought-provoking, perfect-for-your-book-club reads. They’re joined by the likes of Ann Patchett, Alice Hoffman, and Ta-Nehisi Coats (in his fiction debut), and if that’s not enough, fans of “meta” fiction will go crazy for Lara Prescott’s The Secrets We Kept, about the real-life spy craft surrounding the creation and dissemination of Doctor Zhivago.

    The Institute, by Stephen King
    With chapter two of It hitting theatres, it’s King’s world this month and the rest of us just live in it. As with It, King’s new book concerns a group of children fighting back against monsters—but this time, the monsters are adults, and the fight takes place not in a creepy small town like Derry but the eminently sinister Institute. Each child at the Institute has been kidnapped; their parents murdered. Each child has paranormal abilities that are being exploited for an unknown purpose. Escape seems impossible, but staying at the Institute, where abuse runs rampant, is not an option either. Grab some popcorn and a big ol’ can of soda so you can stay up all night reading this one.

    The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
    The long-awaited sequel to Atwood’s groundbreaking 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale promises to answer all the questions readers (and viewers of Hulu’s adaptation) continue to grapple with. Here’s what we know: it’s set fifteen years after the events of the first book, and employs three female narrators from Gilead—the dystopian society formerly known as the USA in which women have been stripped of autonomy—to continue the riveting story.

    The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
    When Maeve Conroy and her little brother Danny are expelled from the enormous, suburban Philadelphia estate in which they’ve been raised, the shared loss and subsequent poverty shapes their entire future. Abandoned by their socially conscious mother—who couldn’t abide the opulence of the so-called Dutch House and fled to India—the siblings couldn’t rely on their chilly, late father for love. Worse, their stepmother proves to be the fairy tale kind, full of resentment and greed. Over the span of 50 years, narrator Danny and his protective sister parse their history, attempting to come to terms with the past. Patchett’s mastery of family drama is on full display here.

    The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    For his first novel, Coates (We Were Eight Years in Power; and Between the World and Me, for which he won the National Book Award) depicts a version of the Underground Railroad never before seen. Readers will be transfixed by the story of Hiram Walker, a slave (known here as “the Tasked”) with a gift for conducting: a power to assist people (including himself) in getting across water. When his initial escape attempt falls apart, he joins the Underground, vowing to rescue his beloved Sophia, who remains in Virginia.

    The World That We Knew, by Alice Hoffman
    Using her trademark magical realism to great effect, Hoffman sets her latest novel during World War Two. Separated from her mother, twelve-year-old Lea flees from Berlin to Paris, accompanied by Ava, a golem brought to life by Ettie, a rabbi’s daughter. The trio of characters are forever linked in the months and years ahead, as Ettie becomes a resistance fighter and Lea and Ava eventually settle in a village atop a mountain, in which 3,000 Jews hope to be saved.

    Nothing Ventured, by Jeffrey Archer
    Archer fans already know Metropolitan Policeman William Warwick from the now-complete, seven-volume Clifton Chronicles. In this fresh, fabulous series opener, we get William’s backstory as a rookie detective knee-deep in art fraud, forgeries, and counterfeit antiques. Having defied his father by joining the police force instead of becoming a lawyer, William has a lot to prove and he’ll quickly get his chance. While investigating a missing Rembrandt, he falls in love with Beth, an enigmatic research assistant at the art gallery where the painting was stolen. He also goes up against a master thief and a seriously shady lawyer.

    The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott
    This powerhouse debut brings together historical spy craft, two sweeping love stories, and the true tale of the CIA’s use of Boris Pasternak’s seminal Doctor Zhivago to win Russian hearts and minds during the Cold War. Two secretaries in the CIA typing pool—experienced Sally Forrester and novice Russian-American Irina Drozdova—team up to retrieve a book from inside the USSR (where it’s unpublishable), get it out of the country, and then disseminate it among Russians attending the Vienna World’s Fair. Toggling between the events in D.C. and those happening to Boris Pasternak and his beloved muse Olga, this looks to be a gripping account of a little-known mission.

    Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson
    Readers are always in good hands with Woodson, whose Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award (among others), and whose Another Brooklyn was a finalist for the same prize. Set in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2001, Red depicts the coming of age ceremony of 16-year-old Melody, while also exploring the reasons why Melody’s own mother, Iris, did not participate in a similar event, despite the fact that Melody’s dress was originally sewn for Iris. Issues of unplanned pregnancy versus ambition, independence versus family ties, and the ways in which those elements inform, expose, and intersect with race, class, and gender, are at the forefront of this moving and beautifully written novel.

    Quichotte, by Salman Rushdie
    Already longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Rushdie’s latest finds its inspiration in the classic Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Set in a surreal, at times horrifying, yet easily recognizable present-day America, this satire ties together the lives of a thriller writer, a pharmaceutical salesman, and a television actress. Not all of them exist, except in the minds of the other characters, but each one brings his or her own humor and pathos to this original reimagining.

    The post September’s Best New Fiction appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • BN Editors 5:00 pm on 2019/08/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , stephen king, ,   

    Don’t Miss It: An Excerpt from Stephen King’s Upcoming Novel The Institute 

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    Stephen King’s new novel, The Institute, is a riveting story with echoes of some of his greatest and most terrifying themes—from telekinesis, to children confronting forces of unfathomable evil. We’re thrilled to share an excerpt with our readers.

    The Institute Synopsis:

    In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did. In this most sinister of institutions, the staff is ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. As each new victim disappears, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

    As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of ItThe Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

    The Institute Excerpt:

    With the essay included, the SAT test lasted four hours, but there was a merciful break in the middle. Luke sat on a bench in the high school’s lobby, munching the sandwiches his mother had packed for him and wishing for a book. He had brought Naked Lunch, but one of the proctors appropriated it (along with his phone and everyone else’s), telling Luke it would be returned to him later. The guy also riffled through the pages, looking either for dirty pictures or a crib sheet or two.

    While he was eating his Snackimals, he became aware of several other test-takers standing around him. Big boys and girls, high school juniors and seniors.

    “Kid,” one of them asked, “what the hell are you doing here?”

    “Taking the test,” Luke said. “Same as you.”

    They considered this. One of the girls said, “Are you a genius? Like in a movie?”

    “No,” Luke said, smiling, “but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.”

    They laughed, which was good. One of the boys held up his palm, and Luke slapped him five. “Where are you going? What school?”

    “MIT, if I get in,” Luke said. Which was disingenuous; he had already been granted provisional admission to both schools of his choice, contingent on doing well today. Which wasn’t going to be much of a problem. So far, the test had been a breeze. It was the kids surrounding him that he found intimidating. In the fall, he would be in classes filled with kids like these, kids much older and twice his size, and of course they would all be looking at him.

    One of the girls—a pretty redhead—asked him if he’d gotten the hotel question in the math section.

    “The one about Aaron?” Luke asked. “Yeah, pretty sure I did.”

    “What did you say was the right choice, can you remember?”

    The question had been how to figure how much some dude named Aaron would have to pay for his motel room for x number of nights if the rate was $99.95 per night, plus 8% tax, plus an additional one-time charge of five bucks, and of course Luke remembered. It was a slightly nasty question because of the how much factor. The answer wasn’t a number, it was an equation.

    “It was B. Look.” He took out his pen and wrote on his lunch bag: 1.08(99.5x) + 5.

    “Are you sure?” she asked. “I had A.” She bent, took Luke’s bag—he caught a whiff of her perfume, lilac, delicious—and wrote: (99.5 + 0.08x) + 5.

    “Excellent equation,” Luke said, “but that’s how the people who make these tests screw you at the drive-thru.” He tapped her equation. “Yours only reflects a one-night stay. It also doesn’t account for the room tax.”

    She groaned.

    “It’s okay,” Luke said. “You probably got the rest of them.”

    “Maybe you’re wrong and she’s right,” one of the boys said. It was the one who’d slapped Luke five.

    She shook her head. “The kid’s right. I messed up the fucking tax. I suck.”

    Luke watched her walk away, her head drooping. One of the boys went after her and put an arm around her waist. Luke envied him.

    One of the others, a tall drink of water wearing designer glasses, sat down next to Luke. “Is it weird?” he asked. “Being you, I mean?”

    Luke considered this. “Sometimes,” he said. “Usually it’s just, you know, life.”

    One of the proctors leaned out and rang a hand bell. “Let’s go, kids.”

    Luke got up with some relief and tossed his lunch sack in a trash barrel by the door to the gym. He looked at the pretty redhead a final time, and as he went in, the barrel shimmied three inches to the left.

    The Institute is on B&N bookshelves September 10.

    The post Don’t Miss It: An Excerpt from Stephen King’s Upcoming Novel <i>The Institute</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sam Reader 5:00 pm on 2019/08/15 Permalink
    Tags: back home in derry, , stephen king, stephen king's it,   

    A Look Back at It, Stephen King’s Dark Fairytale for Grownups 

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    Many books have been likened to “a fairytale for adults.” It’s a phrase usually meant in a literal sense—a way to indicate the presence of mature themes within a familiar storybook milieu, or signaling that the author is telling a dark, violent story set in a lyrical fantasy world. But It, Stephen King’s vast horror epic about childhood fear, the terrors of growing up, and the rot lurking under suburban nostalgia, earns the descriptor on its own terms.

    It is certainly in the fairytale mold—it accounting of a group of children fighting a nightmarish child-eating trauma monster could be straight out of the Brothers Grimm, minus a few embellishments and the modern setting. But it’s also very much for adults—though far too many of us read King at what is probably far too young an age. There’s a maturity and melancholy to It, though those sensations only really only come through with age. It’s not a book for younger readers so much as it is a book for older readers about being young, and about how youth inevitably reshapes, twists, and fades. 

    There’s a certain sense of loss that only comes with the realization that the past is a foreign country, as memories begin to dim and warp with the passage of years. It’s something that has to be felt to be understood—a sadness unique to the world of adults, and perhaps to that of those children unlucky enough to have faced life-changing trauma that split their lives into a “before” and “after.” It’s the sadness of knowing things were, and then they weren’t; that things have a different meaning now than they did then.

    In a very visceral way, It is as much about loss and memory as it is about a murders and a monster. It’s no coincidence that the straggly group of kids it follows refer to themselves as the Losers’ Club—it’s not only their attempt to take the insult back from the bullies who throw it at them, but a symbol of the fact that each of them has suffered a measure of loss—be it an abusive home life or horrific racism. It’s their trauma that draws It to them, and causes It to target them again and again. It’s trauma that pushes them together and ultimately makes them uniquely qualified to take the fight to It. 

    In many ways, the novel is a dark mirror of the traditional coming-of-age fantasy in which a nascent hero matures into their role, faces a great evil, and ends the journey triumphant—the world saved, the bad people dead, and magic very much alive. At the close of the Losers’ Club’s quest, the monster is indeed dead. But the town It poisoned with its evil is also literally collapsing around them, and all that’s good gets swallowed with the bad. The trauma is stared down and defeated, but with it go the memories of Derry and the deep bonds the heroes have formed. In the end, they all forget.

    It ends with the magic fading away, with Bill taking one last ride on his childhood bike, to accomplish one last feat with the magic the town has left. The final strands connecting the weird, dark fairytale of adolescence and the more grounded, downbeat melancholy of adulthood finally snaps. Now grown, Bev’s must still deal with the fallout from her abusive husband; Mike’s still got to live in Derry’s ruins (and finish his book). The glass walkway between the children’s library and the adult library that so enchanted Ben when he was younger is shattered for good. 

    But it’s the best the Losers can possibly achieve. They win out against their childhood nightmares, and are allowed to move past them. They don’t necessarily forget everything (later King books show that after Derry is rebuilt, the Losers’ Club donates a statue to the town), but they forget enough. They leave all of it—good and evil—behind. As the memories fade, as the trauma fades, they get a chance to live their own lives. They’re finally on the other side of the work, even if they can’t remember what that work was. There’s loveliness in that loss. There’s a wistful beauty to that ending. Beyond merely surviving their fight, greatest thing the broken members of the Losers’ Club could hope to achieve is a measure of closure, and they get it. 

    The bittersweet melancholy of their triumph forms the book’s emotional core. It’s also what makes it (makes It) such an enduring classic. The first time you read it, it’s about a bunch of kids coming together to face down a nightmare. Pick it up again in a few decades, and it becomes the story of broken adults finally dealing with the loss that comes with growing up and growing older—accepting the painful fact that the past is only going to fade further and further into the background. In It, Stephen King finds a soft, secret, vulnerable spot hidden within all of us, and slides a story into it like a stiletto. Forget scary clowns—this is a book that will make you scared of growing up. You just won’t know it until it’s too late.

    Why do you think It endures?

    The post A Look Back at <i>It</i>, Stephen King’s Dark Fairytale for Grownups appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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