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The Institute

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Goodreads Choice Award
Winner for Best Horror (2019)
In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. 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: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

561 pages, Hardcover

First published September 10, 2019

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About the author

Stephen King

1,991 books811k followers
Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

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Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,069 reviews38.2k followers
January 25, 2023
KING of the writers just released a book and I started my Single ladies/Staying alive combination happy dance, grabbed it into my hands and started my ritual I do when I start a new King book.

My ritual is simple. I pray for several things starting with better eyesight (Dear King always like to write encyclopedic sized books which I also used in my training sessions. I lift “The Stand” and “Dark Tower series” 50 times till my arms turned into jellies but now I got an amazing look. Some people confused me with woman wrestlers! Damn it!) and my healthy soul (probably I sold to the devil because I’m biggest fan of his fantastic villains. Randal Flagg, Jack Torrence, George Stark, Blaine the Mono were my dream quadruple! I visualized them start villain poker tournaments!) and healthy throat and ears! ( I was 10 when I started to read my first king Book and I was at my school chorus practice, hiding my book in my music notes but instead of singing that day, I was reading and then I started screaming. I terrorized my friends and teachers that day! So I found my life mission already, thanks to Mr. King)

As a summary, it is the toughest thing to start a new King book because he’s definitely my favorite writer. In 30 years, I left the country I was born, I cut drinking Coke ( because I moved to NYC and its Coke tastes the worst!), I stopped eating cakes instead of I addicted to Chardonnay and cupcakes! I got married and I resigned from my bank manager job to be screenplay writer (Yes! Everybody knows something is wrong with me!) after moving to L.A, learned fake smiling and not to scream when I see at a walking talking over tanned and botoxed Barbie doll. So many things changed, life molded me, tormented me, punched me but also gave so many gifts to me. But ONLY ONE THING in 30 years didn’t change: I resumed reading KING books and loved them wholeheartedly. So becoming objective and not putting your fingers on your keyboard to give gazillion FIVE SHINY STARS is one of the hardest test I have to pass!

Let's go back to talk about this book: in first few pages, I thought I started the wrong book because it seemed like Tim Jaimeson’s story, was ex officer at Sarasota and left his job, left his seat to a FBI agent, hitchhiking and found himself DuPray applying “Night Knocker” job. His story is hooked me up from the beginning. I thought I read another plot but that’s okay, I loved this story so much reminded me of old school King books.

But then next chapter, everything changed and we’re introduced to highly intelligent, gifted Luke’s story and his kidnapping. One night he found himself at the copied version his own room (but the copiers might have forgotten to add windows!) And the wonder kids of INSTITUTE story began!

I felt like somebody dragged Mr. King away from his keyboard while he’s writing this book and Duffer Brothers sat on his seat to create crueler version of Stranger Things with meaner adults and gifted but a little unlikable kids version. (I only resonated with Avery but he’s not Dustin!)

There are too many references to King’s older works on this book. Even the twins reminded you of Shining’s creepy twins Lisa and Louise Burns!) There are too kind of extraordinary kinds here: The kids who are telepaths or telekinetic! To differentiate them they have to find the ones seeing the dots! We don’t have Carrie White but Avery’s character was a little reminded us Danny Torrence who has its shining.

I missed his characters’ connections and growing friendship I’ve read on other books (his story “Body”, It, even at Dark Tower series was about different people’s connection) I found this one a little flat, dull, more artificial.

And the vulgarity, harshness the kids endured and the illegal, ruthless test methods the institute crew applied on them DISTURBED me so much. I can handle the violence. I’m die-hard Tarantino fan but when it comes to innocent kids, this kind of torturing methods churned my stomach! ( I wish I could puke on all the villains of the book!)

This time their methods put me on edge and I made a waterboarding list instead of slapping because other villains of the books seemed like Disney characters comparing with these nasty scumbags!

Of course honor member of my hating list is starting with Mrs. Sigsby (what kind of last name is this?) and Tony! I think I should put all the crew members of institute including Maureen because snitches are always the worst!

As a summary: because of its longevity, it’s not a fast reading, but it’s still intriguing, you never got bored. It’s quite a page-turner, riveting, nerve bending, surprising book. Even though there are too many references of his older books, writing was a little different from King’s usual style and the things the little kids fought against made me sad and frustrated. So I decided to stick with shiny four stars! It’s still a remarkable, smart-written, good book but not one of the best works of KING OF WRITERS!

Okay, now I started to FLOAT! I think Mr. King might feel I cut the last star! I wish I drank my last sip of Chardonnay before being punished. Well, all work no play make Nily dull person!

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Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
October 8, 2019
“Great events turn on small hinges.”

I think very few people will claim that The Institute is one of King's best works, but I, for one, think it's up there with some of his most entertaining.

The Institute takes a very familiar plot - the plot of a few thousand YA novels, it has to be said - and adds in King's trademark detailed characterization, long-winded but still enjoyable storytelling, and no small amount of fodder for conspiracy theorists everywhere. There's kids with special powers subjected to cruel experiments, secret government organizations, and faith in the idea that no enemy is too great if we all face it together. Exciting!

Reading this book it is easy to see why a) people rush out to devour every new King book, and b) the book snobs don't take him seriously. Any other author would have this manuscript shipped straight to the YA section. That's not an insult. This book was extremely entertaining, book snobbery be damned. And by "entertaining" I mean frequently so horrible and unfair that I simply had to keep reading to find out what would happen.

I really liked how King organized this story, beginning with small-town cop Tim Jamieson and then darting a thousand miles away to tell the tale of Luke Ellis-- a tale that seems about as unrelated as you can get. Except of course it's not unrelated and their paths are going to cross in the strangest of ways.

But back to Luke. He is a child prodigy, destined for greatness, when one night he is kidnapped and taken to The Institute, a place where children with special abilities are held captive and subjected to bizarre experiments. In this dark, evil place, all they have is each other, as they try to avoid cruel punishments. The ugly unfairness of it makes the story immediately compelling and, as bigger secrets come to light, I couldn't imagine how they were ever going to get out of it.

If King's continued digs at Trump didn't clue us readers in already, the overarching theme of this book suggests a whole new level of frustration and distrust of the government. But it also sends out a hopeful positive message that kids don't have to stand for it, which seems more apt than ever. A good read.

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Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,425 reviews9,009 followers
February 1, 2023




The Institute was absolutely everything I wanted it to be and more. I'm so in love with this story.

That's my full review. That's it. I'm done.



I have made peace with my frequent inability to write reviews for King's work.

It's okay. I accept my right to just fangirl and move on. I hope y'all understand.



One small thing I will mention is the phenomenal dynamic between this group of kids.

In my opinion, King writes children so well. Their honesty, innocence and way of viewing the world; he always hits it spot on.



And what's better than a group of kids banding together to fight the forces of evil? In short, nothing.

Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,390 reviews77.2k followers
October 19, 2022
After sitting on this review for a few days now, I've wrestled with how much to say, and I feel like "less is more" will be key in this scenario. The synopsis gives a distinct feel of kids facing an evil entity (in this case an institution), which is correct, but the focus is more on the journey that the kids experience, with a small bit of intense action closing out the story. After being enthralled for almost 600 pages, my only real critique is the fact that the ending felt like a bit of a let-down; after such a promising setup, I think I just expected more, and I even feel like the final portion after the big showdown was unnecessary and should have been left off. Looking at the big picture, this was a highly satisfying experience, and the author's note after the conclusion had me tearing up big time. Highly recommended for Stephen King newbies or longtime fans alike!

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Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,689 followers
September 26, 2019
4.5 Stars

In the past 10 years I feel like only Sleeping Beauties and Doctor Sleep have felt as much like classic King as The Institute. Many of the elements in this book are tropes straight from his early days: youth relationships (The Body, IT, The Long Walk), children with extraordinary powers (Carrie, The Shining, Firestarter), mysterious evil (The Stand, The Long Walk, The Tommyknockers, Christine), really despicable bad guys (Misery, IT), and a minor male protagonist reminiscent of Stu Redman, Andy McGee, Louis Creed, John Smith, Ben Richards, etc., etc.

Much of the plot reminded me of

The feeling I had through most of this book was frustration. Not a bad frustration – just engaged frustration. Every page I wanted to reach into the book and smack some people around. Then, the questions I was left with at the end have me really torn about how I feel about the resolution of the book. I think all these questions and emotions are the sign of a great book.

If you are looking at the size of the book and feel like it might be a bit daunting – no worries! I think you will find it to be a very quick read with the pages flying by! And, while I don’t often say this, I think you could start King with this one if you wanted to. Often, I send people back to the early ones, but this is a pretty good book with a lot of King feel to it that I think it would be a good one if people want to start out with one of his newer works.

In summary �� lots of nostalgia-inducing content for King fans and a great entry point for new King readers. I am always glad to see that the King remains the King!

Side note: Based on how Young Adult is designated these days, you could probably easily call this a Young Adult novel. In fact, I am going to shelve it as that and see if I get any guff! :)
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,155 reviews36.3k followers
September 26, 2019
5 Bright and Fabulous Stars

What can I tell you about “The Institute?” Besides the fact that it’s a phenomenal read and the narrator is fantastic?!

I simply adored the character development!
It’s something that I think Stephen King excels in. His writing draws you in like a toasted bagel with butter, that you can’t wait to sink your teeth into. Here, King features a large cast of characters, some of whom have been stolen away from home, and now reside in “The Institute.”

Luke Ellis was taken from his home in the middle of the night. When he wakes up, he’s in a room at “The Institute.” It looks almost exactly like his own room back home, except for the fact that there are no windows, none. Not a one. There he meets Sha, Nick, Avery and quite a few others. They draw strength from each other. Some are teens, like himself and a few are just kids. They go through some crazy experiments. A few of them have extraordinary powers: TK and TP. No matter what happens to them, they all end up going to the back half. Some, sooner than later. Don’t ask me to explain. You have to rip roar through the pages of this crazy read to find out what I’m saying.

What happens here is sheer insanity. You almost can’t believe it, however it actually seems real and it works and works well here because of how the story is told and that my friends is because of the genius of Stephen King’s storytelling. Time and again he reinvents himself and while there might be smidges of this story that seem familiar it is wholly new and fresh and I loved every second of it.

Stephen King - You have basically rocked my world since I was Thirteen Years Old, when I read IT and became terrified of clowns. It was then that I became a fan, and read every book of yours that I could get my hands on. The Stand, Cujo, Pet Sematary, The Shining.. the list goes on. Some are on my favorites list ((The Top 3: 11/22/63, IT and The Stand) with a few others coming close including The Outsider and this year’s The Institute)), some, not so much. Regardless, I remain astounded by your efforts, your ideas and your brilliant mind and I thank you for making me a reader.

To the Luke Ellis and Avery Dixon’s of the world. I wish I had your superpowers.

A huge thank you to audible and to Santino Fontana for the incredible narration of this novel. Bravo.

Published on Goodreads and Amazon on 9.24.19.
Profile Image for Marianna Neal.
462 reviews2,146 followers
March 30, 2021
At the time that I'm writing this the average rating for The Institute is 4.33 out of 5.

ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME.

I honestly don't even know where to start here. Do I start with this book being the most derivative thing I've read in a long time? Do I start with the fact that almost every overdone trope you can think of in relation to the premise is present here? Do I mention the incredibly forced and awkward pop culture references the only purpose of which is to wave a flag that says "see?? isn't this, like, SOOO relevant?" Do I talk about these kids that sound like they're from half a century ago because no modern kid or teenager in the US actually sounds the way they do? Do I mention how difficult it was to buy a lot of the logic behind how the things at this "Institute" were done? Or that barely anything happens in the first half of this novel? Or that in a book where children are treated very cruelly King somehow managed to NOT make me care about any of these characters?

It's all of the above, guys. It really is. For the life of me, I cannot understand how SO MANY people are loving this book, because no amount of Game of Thrones references can fix 561 derivative pages of disappointment.

***

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Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,284 reviews119k followers
October 28, 2021
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones…it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. -- Matthew, Chapter 18

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, roughly 800,000 children are reported missing each year in the United States. Most are found. Thousands are not.

Great events turn on small hinges.
It’s good to be King. As Stephen King well knows, 2019 is a banner year for him, with written production continuing apace, and with many of his previously written materials being brought to screens large and small. The second installment of the cinema-sized production of It is now the largest grossing horror movie ever. In April, Lisey’s Story was optioned by Apple TV +, to be produced by J.J. Abrams, starring Julianne Moore. His sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, starring Ewan MacGregor, will be released in theaters on November 8. Season three of Mr. Mercedes began airing on September 10. Season two of Castle Rock begins airing on October 23. In the Tall Grass, co-written with his son, Joe Hill, was released with Joe’s story collection, Full Throttle, on October 1, and the film was released on Netflix on October 4. A remake of the film Pet Sematary was released in April. And only King knows what else. Not counting upcomings, like a novella collection due out in May and a film of The Outsider, due in January. It’s good to be King.

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Stephen King - image from The Washington Post – by Shane Leonard

And just to make sure you know that the 72-year-old author is not resting on his considerable laurels, (and vast financial resources) he keeps cranking out new product. He is doing what he loves, calls it the best job in the world, and will continue pecking away at his keyboard until God tells him to stop, or if the quality of his work deteriorates, which is probably the same thing. So how does septuagenarian King hold up? Like fine wine, he ages well. The Institute may not be on the same level as the best of King’s work, not as scary as It or The Shining, not as epic as The Stand, but even garden variety Stephen King novels are still pretty good.

Tim Jamieson, an ex-police office through misadventure, is hitchhiking from Florida to a likely job in New York, when he finds himself at the back end of nowhere, a place called DuPray, SC, rich with free time and privately owned firearms. It has a certain appeal and they just happen to be in need of a little light constabulary assistance at the moment. Tim is in no hurry, which may be the town motto. The single significant business in town is a depot, that will figure later in the book. We get to watch Tim scope out the diverse personalities of the place. King does this so bloody well. And then we leave Tim for a considerable stretch until the back end of the book. The intention is clearly that you will forget about him, until the time is right, and then think, Oh, yeah, that guy.

BTW, Jamieson winds up in Dupray when the car in which he was hitching a ride gets stuck in godawful traffic on I-95, so much so, he is informed by the woman who had picked him up, that he’d do better just walking to the next town. King and his wife make the trip from Maine to Florida and back every year so he knows of what he writes when he tells of death by traffic jam on the South Carolina side of the interstate.

Things are much more unpleasant for young Luke Ellis. Kid has an unreasonable IQ. He is merely 12, but eager to move on to MIT AND Emerson, yes, at the same time. The head of the very special school he is currently attending thinks he is up to it. He also has a touch of telekinesis, or TK, although this is not on his school applications. It is this ability that gets him noticed, and not in a good way. A black SUV shows up on Wildersmoot Drive, in Minneapolis, one night, and Luke’s life is forever changed. He is dosed and carted away, (not, sadly, on a flying motorcycle) his parents eliminated. When he wakes up, he is in The Institute of the title, somewhere in the Maine woods, one of a handful of young people at the front half of the facility…for now. They are treated unkindly, brutalized for any resistance, featuring zapsticks and no-holds-barred slapping, and subjected to troubling experiments, by a harsh group of Nurse Ratched level caretakers.
The concept for the book dates back more than two decades, when King — who has depicted similar psychic characters as loners in books such as “Carrie,” “The Shining,” “Firestarter” and “The Dead Zone” — pictured an entire schoolhouse filled with such kids. When he began writing the book in March 2017, he thought of it not as a horror story but as a resistance tale, with 12-year-old telekinetic genius Luke, teenage mind reader Kalisha and 10-year-old power-channeler Avery forming a rebellion inside their detention center.
“I wanted to write about how weak people can be strong,” King says, speaking by phone from his home in Bangor, Me. “We’re each on our own island, and at the same time sometimes we can yell to each other and get together, and there is that sense of community and empathy. I love that.”
- from the NY Times interview
Luke’s TK is present, but is not considerable. The genius part, though, that’s fuh real. Kalisha is a barely teen with pretty good telepathic talent, and an attitude. But she and Luke hit it off straight away. Avery is a ten-year-old with scale-busting telepathic talent, which has also made him a major-league spoiled brat. There are others, but these are the core. The nice twist here is that there are so many tales of schools where kids with special abilities band together, but few are as tough on their charges. I mean Hogwarts had its Death Eaters, but it was still a pretty cool place. Professor Xavier’s school, ditto. The Institute? Not so much. Stranger Things also shows kids joining forces against the dark side, but it heads off in a very different direction.

King has always had a particular gift for writing kids. As they did in It, kids band together to fight off the evil forces that mean them harm. There is similarity to Firestarter in which a paranormally talented kid is taken by the government, eager to study and utilize her particular talents. This time it is a private entity, with a global perspective, and a nifty excuse for their wrong-doing. But global or local, public or private, it boils down to decent kids vs dark-hearted adults, no matter how they salve their consciences with ends-justifies-the-means logic. (One cannot help but imagine a Kevin Mulvaney, speaking for management, telling critics to ”get over it”.) Did I mention that King does kids supernaturally well? The guy’s still got it.

Just in case you thought SK was intending this as a political effort, pointing out our Mad King caging children at the USA-Mexico border, it turns out not so much. As noted above in the NYT quote, the notion seriously predated the political event. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, King says that he tries to keep his political opinions separate from his writing. I would take this with a shaker of salt. One does not have to look hard at Under the Dome to get the sulfurous fragrance of Dick Cheney, for example. But sometimes a story is just a story, and that appears to be the case here. There is an excellent bit in which kids at the Institute are allowed as much booze and cigarettes as they want, available in exchange for tokens they earn for cooperation, as a means of keeping them pliant. That looks to me like genius at work.

King’s gift for portraying human interaction extends from the kids forming a community to the people imprisoning them, and the population of Dupray, SC. He shows plenty of the sort of in-house politicking in The Institute that anyone who has ever worked anywhere knows. You can count on there being at least one maybe-friendly face among the staff. The portrayal of how Dupray’s natives interact is also a thing of beauty.

I liked that the best talent of all turns out to be brains. (That is not a spoiler) Of course brains alone do not suffice. TP (telepathy) and TK (telekinesis) factor in big-time. It is also heartening that King, as he has done many a time before, brings fear and awfulness to the stage early, but, as Cormac McCarthy did in The Road, uses that darkness as a terrifying background against which to shine a light on hope, on optimism, on the gains to be had when small players join together to challenge a large foe. Per usual, for me, I did not lose any sleep from reading The Institute. While I very much enjoy King’s work, it rarely leaves me with the heebie-jeebies. This is not a knock. Serious chills is a nice-to-have, but not a prerequisite for enjoying a Stephen King book.

The Institute is not a short book, at 557 pages. King’s novels rarely are, but I found myself extending my reading time every night while reading this, eager to see what happens next, and concerned for the safety of favorite characters. So, for me, certainly, it was a page-turner.

In short, while I would hardly rank The Institute among the top tier of King’s novels, it is certainly a fine, engrossing read that will hold your interest and probably raise your blood pressure for a while. And if the terror of kids being torn away from their parents, being held incommunicado, and being handled by people who can be very poor caretakers indeed, reminds you of any real-world outrages that should be raising your blood pressure, and if you are led to give more thought to the challenges of moral decision-making in matters of global significance, that would be a bonus. The king is not at all dead. Long live the King!


Review posted – October 18, 2019

Publication date – September 10, 2019


=============================EXTRA STUFF

SK's personal and FB pages

reviews of some other books by this King
-----Revival
-----Doctor Sleep
-----Mr. Mercedes
-----The Shining
-----Under the Dome
-----Duma Key
-----Lisey's Story

Other King Family (Joe Hill) books I have reviewed:
-----Full Throttle
-----Strange Weather
-----The Fireman
-----NOS4A2
-----20th Century Ghosts
-----Heart-Shaped Box

Interviews
-----The Guardian - Stephen King: ‘I have outlived most of my critics. It gives me great pleasure’ by Xan Brooks
The Institute is about a concentration camp for children, staffed by implacable factotums. To what extent did Trump’s immigration policies affect the book?
Trump’s immigration policies didn’t impact the book, because it was written before that incompetent dumbbell became president. Children are imprisoned and enslaved all over the world. Hopefully, people who read The Institute will find a resonant chord with this administration’s cruel and racial policies.
-----NY Times Life Is Imitating Stephen King’s Art, and That Scares Him by Anthony Breznican
-----Rollingstone - Stephen King on His New Horror Novel, the ‘Nightmare’ of Trump, and ‘Stranger Things’
By Andy Greene
“I wanted to write a book like Tom Brown’s School Days,” King says, referencing the 1857 Thomas Hughes children’s classic about a British boarding school. “But in hell.”

Long before Stranger Things and even It, children with supernatural powers were at the center of King books like Carrie, The Shining, and Firestarter. “Like a pitcher that has a great fastball or slider, you go back to what worked for you before,” says King. “I do think that kids are sort of magic. When I was a young man, I could draw [inspiration] from my own kids. Now that I’m so much older, I am drawing from my grandchildren and what I see them doing and how I see them interacting.”
-----Stephen Colbert - The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Items of Interest
-----The Island Packet - Stephen King’s new book finds horror in Hardeeville: Standstill traffic on I-95 - by David Lauderdale
-----Porter Square Books Presents Stephen King & Joe Hill at the Somerville Theater - video – 64 minutes – King and Joe Hill, Hill reads an excerpt from The Institute - King reads from Full Throttle, then they interview each other and take some audience questions. This is wonderful.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,128 reviews34.9k followers
October 8, 2019
"No one does ever live happily ever after, but we leave the children to find that out for themselves."-Stephen King

King had me at the very beginning when Tim Jamieson out of the blue decides to give up his seat on a flight and decides to hitch hike instead. He's not quite sure why he has chosen to do this, but he has and off he goes on a walk that takes him to a small town where he takes a job as a Night Knocker (a job his grandfather once had). He's overqualified for the job but decides to take it, nevertheless. There he meets some interesting people, as one often does in a small town, heck, that is where the truly interesting people live such as Orphan Annie who stole my heart and frankly hasn't given it back.

Just when I was getting into this plot, King changes things up a bit and introduces us to a brilliant twelve-year-old named Luke Ellis who has big plans for his future. Unfortunately, those plans did not involve being kidnapped late at night and being taken to "The Institute" where other teens are being held. Teens with special abilities such as telepathy and telekinesis. There they are all subjected to various tests, shots, experiments.

I'll admit, I felt a little let down when the plot changed from Tim to Luke. I was just digging that story line, them *bam*, start over with this one. The second one started off slowly for me but gradually gathered steam and sucked me in. With over 60 books under his belt, King is a master of character development and creates both likable and non-likable characters which make an impact. I was rooting for the kids at the Institute, hoping that there would be an end in sight to their suffering...but this is King, and you know that he is going to draw it out and makes things truly unsettling and unbearable for his characters.

“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud. ” - Stephen King

I can't say that this book was horrifying, but it did cause me think "what if" as in "what if, places such as the institute existed? What secret things is our government (or any other government for that matter) involved in secretly? Could such things exist?

Remember that beginning that sucked me in, King brings the story full circle and had me loving some characters even more. He had this reader cheering while at the same time he broke my heart and no truer statement (or thought) was ever written: it's good to have friends. Damn it, King, just damn it...you left me gutted with that one.

This is a big book as his books often are. After the slow part, it no longer felt big, and I found myself flying through the pages. Thought provoking, captivating, heartbreaking, and engaging, he didn't disappoint with this book.

Not only is it good to have friends, it's also good to read a King book from time to time. Can't say this was my favorite, but I enjoyed it. Stephen King proved he's still got it, and hopefully he has it for many years to come. Long live the King!
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,574 followers
June 13, 2020

Many thanks to Scribner for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

[12/10/19] - Congratulations, Stephen King, on winning the 2019 Goodreads Choice Award for Horror!

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”Great events turn on small hinges.”

I knew it. I was right. Institutes are always evil. That said, I didn’t expect them to be this evil.

So, what’s this book about?
Stephen King’s Institute follows Luke, a twelve-year-old genius who has been captured by The Institute. Luke is now being held against his will in the strange place where the staff are doing experiments and tests on him against his will. The computers are restrictive, the staff is abusive, and the whole place his creepy. It’s not all bad, though. Luke quickly makes friends with his fellow captives. Together, they start to plot their escape from the awful Institute.

I always forget how well Stephen King can write. I also didn’t realize how much I missed his writing. I haven’t read any Stephen King since... I think last winter? It’s been a while. I will forever be in awe of his talent. And the fact that he’s publishing about two six hundred page books per year… And they’re well written?! That sh*t's bananas.

The Institute took a nice dive into paranormal/supernatural in contrast to the mostly mystery/thriller The Outsider that King wrote last year. Throughout the book, the kids display psychic powers, telekinesis, and telepathy. This was super interesting partly because superpowers are interesting (duh) but also because my analytical brain was whirring and I kept wondering if the kids had the Shining (a.k.a. the psychic power that Danny from The Shining had. It is also theorized that the Losers Club from It had the psychic abilities and used them to defeat Pennywise but that’s another theory for another day.)

On the note of It, I really loved the break from adult thrillers. This book isn’t marked as Young Adult on Goodreads. It really should be. Yes, there are some adult main characters but the story mostly focuses on Luke and his friends who are young adult or more accurately, middle grade.

In fact, The Institute reminded me a lot of It because it was the same basic outline. Kids face evil. Kids are badasses. Kids defeat evil. Kids develop PTSD. Ya know? Fortunately, I didn’t feel like a copy + paste book that some authors will publish. It was still unique and a blast to read.

Unlike It, The Institute had a lot of redeemable adult characters. Except for Ms. Sigsby. F**K YOU, MS. SIGSBY. (did i spell her name right? Ah well, she doesn’t deserve to have her name spelled properly.) My favorite character was Annie. She was so funny and a bit… insane but in a good way. She just said so many weird, messed up, or crazy things in such a serious, almost deadpan, manner. Definitely one of the funniest characters in King’s books, in my opinion. I also loved Tim. He gave me Hopper (from Stranger Things) vibes so much that I literally imagined him like that for the entire book.

If there’s a movie and David Harbour doesn’t play Tim, I will be pissed.

That said, The Institute had the classic nail-biting suspense and potent fear that we all know and love Stephen King fear. There was one scene that was so terrifyingly graphic that I was literally covering my face and cringing. *shudders*

All in all, this greatly exceeded my expectations. I will never grow tired of reading King’s books and will always wonder how he writes so many.

Bottom Line:
4.5 Stars
Age Rating: [ R ]
Content Screening (Spoilers) - Educational Value (0/5) - [Computers (how to hack them)] ~ Positive Messages (3/5) - [Teamwork] ~ Violence (5/5) - [Character cuts off his ear, shooting, patients of The Institute are shocked, drowned, shot, and other awful things, Murder, Suicide] ~ Sex (2/5) - [Characters kiss, sexual references and inuendos] ~ Language (5/5) - [Frequent use of: F**k, sh*t, b*tch and mild use of d*ck, d*mn] ~ Drinking/Drugs (5/5) - [Underage alcohol consumption, smoking, medicinal and sedative drugs] ~
Trigger and Content Warnings - Child abuse, Physical abuse, Emotional abuse, Sezuires, Suicide, Murder, Suicidal Ideations, Removal of body parts, Bodily harm, Loss of loved ones, Racial slurs, Disability slurs, PTSD, Anxiety, Depression
Reps: [Women of Color, Anxiety, Disability, Children (is that a rep?)]
Cover: 4/5 ~ Characters: 4/5 ~ Plot: 5/5 ~ Audio: 4/5
Publication Date: September 10th, 2019
Publisher: Scribner Books
Genre: Young Adult/Horror


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i f**king knew it...

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AHHH! Thank you, Scribner!!!!

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If I've learned anything in my fourteen fifteen years of life, it's that institutes are ALWAYS evil. Always.

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Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,372 reviews9,447 followers
August 25, 2020
*I’m taking one star off for stuff that went over my head. And no, don’t ask, I’ll do a reread from the library, as I’ve unhauled my hardback copy!

That was good AND sad 😫

Okay, because I’m twelve and not the old beat up chic that I am, I love these kids and this quote:

"Stick your nose up my ass and fight for air, "Luke said, and began to laugh.




They just keep coming. It’s one of those have to be there moments. They are trying to find some happiness in the horrific situation they are in

Helen whacked the table, sending cards flying. "Oh God I’m peeing myself, gross, don’t look!" And she went running, almost knocking George over as he cane outside, noshing a peanut butter cup.

"What’s her deal?" George asked
"Peed herself," Avery said matter-of-factly. "I peed my bed last night, so I can relate."
"Thank you for sharing that," Luke said, smiling.


Happy Reading!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books553 followers
November 10, 2019
First, a disclosure, I’m a huge Stephen King fan. I read “The Dead Zone” when I was 14 and it was a revelation to me. The main characters were high school teachers and I felt like the book let me see into the world of adults – what they were thinking, feeling, etc. Then I read “Carrie” in high school and the story exposed cliques and bullying in a raw way that I hadn’t seen it discussed before. In college I read “The Stand” that post-apocalyptic American fantasy blew me away. Later, I made the journey to the Dark Tower and loved the ‘meta-ness’ of the epic tale. I went on to read and watch everything King and it continues today.

I’m amazed at the staying power of King, his ability to write at a high level for such a long period. Many creators dry up at some point, but not the King. While I found “Elevation” to be a bit ‘light’ the Mr. Mercedes series was excellent, and “The Outsider” was fine as well. Well, King continues right along with “The Institute”, delivering another excellent work. It’s not a masterpiece and I’ll explain why I feel that way, but it is right in King’s wheelhouse and delivers a nostalgic and emotional punch.

King borrows much from prior works to frame this book. The clearest connection is from “Firestarter”. Instead of “The Shop” we have “The Institute” and instead of Charlie McGee, we have Luke Ellis, special kids indeed. There are prison and prison escape elements that reminded me of “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”. There is a group of kids coming together to overcome evil that feels very much like “IT”. So, yeah, right in King’s wheelhouse – group of kids coming together-check, paranormal activity made to feel believable-check, slowly revealed evil-check, and wonderful observations about everyday life-check. The book was a comfortable read for me, even if it’s a bit slower paced in the middle. It felt like King was right at home telling this story and that allowed him to develop strong characters and show off his top-notch writing.

One of King’s strengths is his ability to make the paranormal seem, well, normal. He does this by inventing slang and describing character reactions honestly. He’s also great at planting questions in reader’s minds that pulls them along through the story. In this book, you’ll be dying to know things like:
- Who is this night-knocker (quasi-cop) and what does he have to do with the rest of the story?
- What happens to the kids when they leave the front half of the Institute?
- What’s in the back half of the Institute?
- What’s in the back half of the Back Half?
- Who’s going to live and who’s not? If you’re familiar with King at all, you know he’s not afraid to ‘kill his darlings’!

So, fantastic characters, an intriguing plot, and excellent writing. Well, what about the ending? If I have a criticism about King, it’s that he sometimes builds up such suspense and so much intrigue, that his ending can feel anti-climactic (an example for me is “The Outsider”). In my opinion, that’s not the case here. The ending felt strong and fitting for the tale. I didn’t want it end, and it was sad, but it tied up the story properly. It wasn’t a surprising twist or mind-blowing, but it was a first-rate conclusion. So, riveting beginning, gripping middle, and exciting finish, why isn’t this a masterpiece. What holds it back from the level of “IT”, “The Shining”, or “The Stand”?

While, I enjoyed myself all the way through this book, nothing blew me away. There wasn’t the shock of “The Stand”, or the horror (or revulsion) of “IT”, or the atmosphere of “The Shining”. One thing that holds it back is evil, the villains don’t have the paranormal element. While hateful, they really didn’t evoke the horror of IT or even the creepiness of a Brady Hartsfield. While I didn’t mind King storytelling in familiar waters there was nothing that really knocked me off kilter or opened a world of possibilities for me to consider. This doesn’t mean this isn’t an excellent book, I’m just explaining why it’s not a masterpiece for me. Four and a half stars rounded to five for me.
A masterfully told story about paranormal children ripped from their lives by an evil group and their struggle to escape the hell of “The Institute”.

Beyond this point, I’m going to discuss some hidden spoilers about the ending. If you don’t want a spoiler don’t expand the section below.

Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
733 reviews3,398 followers
March 27, 2022
Those pesky kids aren´t even good test animals when they get a nice room and, how ungrateful can one be in the professional hands of Josef Mengele's successors?

Things need to be tested, but we can´t just take any orphan kid, because they have to have special psi and telekinetic abilities
People just don´t get that one needs human experiments for product safety. Or breeding überhumans, mutant supersoldiers, psi killers, or extracting enough precious body fluids just certain groups of people have. So maybe it´s worth the price? Well, no, King goes full parental shock moments, drawing a picture of a hellhole humans use, used, and will use to keep the population clean from dirty mutants, make money with it, and test everything from drugs to firearms. One can insert the favorite euphemism and call it reeducation camp, secret prison, military laboratory, internment, or concentration camp, it stays the same and often comes close to genocide with extra steps. This novel isn´t just fiction, experimentations with everyone from baby to grandfather are a cornerstone of each good dictatorship. I wonder what was Kings´inspiration.

Humans running the machine
How the adults explain their actions to themselves and others, how they love their job or have a tendency to think about rage quitting (although this could be quite a deadly option because of the hardcore stipulations regarding leaving ones´ workplace), is in stark contrast to the emotions, interactions, and plans of the kids. The madness, inhumanity, and cruelty of people torturing and killing kids they deem objects while having own families, friends, and loved ones is something that has often come true in real

Extermination and concentration camps
King is referring to this throughout the novel which could be seen as one of the most disturbing descriptions of experimentations that have been done on humans. And, let´s face it, are done and will again be done because there are so many terrible states out there who commit any crime against humanity and atrocity possible. Not to forget secret prisons and laboratories run by secret services with endless amounts of black money in democratic states, which is a much better investment than infrastructure or social services because maybe they´ll find a cure for poverty and inequality.

Political King
I don´t really care about authors´ proselytizing for their ideology, as long as it´s according to my own. Seriously, the current system is so stupid, bigoted, and crazy that everyone spreading the word about its immense destructive potential can help reducing the harm. Of course, this would mean leaving one's comfort zone, consuming progressive, critical authors, understanding own biases, cognitive dissonances, and that the whole media landscape is completely cooptated by military industrial interest. But calling King a leftist is so much more easygoing, no matter how much he is owning society in 2 different ways by

Simply speaking out the truth
Protagonists can´t live without 2 jobs or more, schools, universities, culture, social service, are starving to death just as the ones dependent on them, education is unaffordable, the whole system is running on greed, debt, fear, and hate. Of course, this makes each bigoted, ivory tower conservative and do gooder nervous, because King goes so hardcore in your face with neoliberalism, Trump, the failed American dream, capitalism, and the unimaginable evil fueled by corporate interests destroying society. Added to this mix is the

Prodigy protagonist analyzing inherent structural problems
Be it debt, how humans are functioning, society, economics, his wise thoughts transport the big questions of what´s going on as an extra mindpenetration besides the terror and horror. King has hardly ever been so aggressively promoting an agenda, he was always ingenious at showing the evil sides of power, homophobia, and racism, but he avoided this extra digging deeper meta level. The reasons why the haters hate and who benefits from that.

His best new work
This is the first time that King (besides the short stories that are always great) reached his golden age mode again, leaving the paranormal psychothriller genre (good, but just not what one expects and wants to read) and cooperations with his son (let´s just do as if this never happened) to write a real, big, dark novel with full focus on human cruelty, some fantasy elements, and dissections of the banality of evil. I hope so much that he´ll continue to draw new, big pictures of horror and madness without crime and investigation elements and maybe fuse something like a second It, The Stand, or something added to The Dark Tower, because this is the same material some of the greatest novels ever written are made of.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.ph...
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
December 14, 2020
”The world is still here even though many nations have atomic weapons, even though primitive human emotions still hold sway over rational thought and superstition masquerading as religion still guides the course of human politics.”

But why are we still here? Why hasn’t some madman or a pair of bellicose leaders managed to destroy the world? We could say we have been living under the threat of imminent destruction since the 1940s. It certainly heated up in the 1960s and then moved into a Cold War, which for all intents and purposes has never ended.

If you ask Mrs. Sigsby, the only reason the world has never ended is because of The Institute.

They think of themselves as crusaders, as the only true shield between the world and pandemonium. The ends justify the means. To call them sadistic monsters is betraying your ignorance. To remove that naivety...well...they could show you all kinds of compelling evidence justifying their existence, but then they’d have to kill you.

Luke Ellis is just a typical almost teenager, except for the fact that he has been accepted into MIT at age twelve. He loves playing XBOX and shooting hoops with his friends, but he also reads voraciously. ”Just lately Principles of Sociology. Before that, William James. Before that, the AA Big Book, and before that, the complete works of Cormac McCarthy. He read the way free-range cows graze, moving to wherever the grass is greenest. That was a thing her husband chose to ignore, because the strangeness of it frightened him.”

Reading is frightening to those who don’t read.

I’ve always thought of myself as an eclectic reader. I like the idea of calling myself a free-range reader, free being the operative word. I’m not limited to one interest or three or even ten. I remember bringing a stack of books up to a bookseller in the Houston area a few years ago, and he asked me if I were buying these books for several different people. I said, no, they are all for me. He shook his head and said, these books don’t go together. Why do readers limit themselves to a narrow band of interest when the whole lexicon of books is at their beck and call? Stephen King reads voraciously on a wide range of topics. I believe it is one of the secrets to his success. King put a little of himself into Luke, and by doing so he gives a nod to a freakish reader like myself.

Besides being smart, oh how do I wish I was as smart as Luke, he also has some telekinesis ability. The Institute finds that a much more interesting aspect of the makeup of his mind than all the brilliance he has shown in math, science, and well...everything. When Luke wakes up one morning in his room, full of his possessions, but not his room, he soon discovers that The Institute has selected him for their program. He has been kidnapped, and the fate of his parents remains unknown. He makes friends with the other captive children, and the more he learns about where he is and the people who have him, the more he worries about what happened to his parents. They are on the Front Half, the part of The Institute where, with shots and various tests, they try to enhance the telekinesis and telepathy already inherent in their psyche. Luke soon discovers that, once children reach a certain point in the tests, they are moved to the Back Half and never seen again. The staff have become desensitized and don’t see the subjects as kids anymore. They are even tagged like cattle, and when they don’t do what the caretakers want, physical violence is perfectly acceptable. After all, the free world is at stake.

This is a mind race, not an arms race.

Luke knows, if he is going to have any chance to get out of The Institute, he needs to make someone really see him as a human being.

Stephen King is a gifted storyteller and hits more than he misses with his novels, despite being incredibly prolific for decades now. One of the things I find most impressive about him is the way he develops child characters. He was brilliant at this in his grand opus, IT, and he does a great job with it in this novel as well. His child characters all have distinct personalities, developed well beyond just brushstrokes. One of my favorite characters in the book is Nick, who is always sporting a black eye or a limp because he fights back, and sometimes the caretakers will be walking around with bruised faces or tender ribs courtesy of Nick deciding to give back a bit of what he is taking. ”The word for Nicky, he thought, whether in a good mood or a bad one, was alive.”

There is also Tim Jamieson, working as a nighttime door knocker in Dupray, South Carolina. He’s trying to put his life together, and either he will find it here or he will find it somewhere else further down the line. He hopes he can move up from rattling door knobs and wearing out his shoe leather to being a real police officer again. Little does he know that events in the backwoods of Maine are going to drop right in his lap. He’s going to have to step up or sneak out of town, and neither are pleasant options, but one gives him a chance to set a new course that could define the rest of his life.

If you have never read a Stephen King before, this isn’t a bad place to start. If you are a fan, you will find all the signature things that you have enjoyed in his best books. May the Lukes, Nicks, Averys, Kalishas, and Helens of the world always find ways to thwart the aims of soulless entities.

There is a limited TV series in the works by Spyglass Media Works.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten and an Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/jeffreykeeten/
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 9 books863 followers
November 3, 2019
It's been 45 years since Stephen King published his first novel, Carrie, and I'm glad to say the guy's still got it.

The Institute thrills unevenly, taking a long time to power up, but once the wheels are in motion it's a rollercoaster ride all the way to the finish. Luke Ellis, 12-year-old brainiac, is the perfect protagonist to showcase the vulnerability and capability of kids. He's the kind of character you root for and fear for. The villains, too, are well-drawn and scary in realistic, human ways. The reveal for why this Institute is locking up kids is also intriguing. You'll be glad to know it has nothing to do with giant spiders.

Other than the slow start, the only weakness is a slightly anti-climatic finish. It's not a "bad ending" in the traditional Stephen King sense--it's actually a very satisfying conclusion--but the tension is so high going into the climax, so relentless, that the climax feels more like falling action.

Overall, while it's unlikely fans will consider this book a Top Favorite, I would consider it a great success. Better, at least, than The Outsider and Revival because the ending actually makes sense.
Profile Image for Monica.
506 reviews156 followers
October 25, 2019
I’m not positive why but SK does such a great job writing about kids. He seems to remember the tiniest of details; not just what scares them, but how that fear smells, tastes, and breathes down our neck. That all seems to bring the fear that we buried long ago back to the surface.

The Institute was a solid 5 ⭐️ read for me. Immediately engaged by the “night knocker” and his backstory, part of the suspense was waiting on his path to cross with our prodigy. Luke and the others in the Institute are nothing more than pawns in this horrific game to supposedly save the world from evil. Ironically by destroying the young lives of so many.

Although this book has been compared to some of King’s older novels, I found this one much more plausible and compelling. After all, it’s the humans who are always the real monsters. As every Constant Reader can confirm...
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
615 reviews4,242 followers
November 18, 2019
“Great events turn on small hinges.”

Deep in the woods of Maine, there is a facility where kids, abducted from all across America, are incarcerated.

Oh man, starting a new King just feels like coming home after a long day and wrapping yourself in a huge blanket... It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about King’s writing that evokes such feelings, but if I could bottle it up and sell these feelings, I would, because everyone needs to experience it!

We all know that King does kids best. From the Loser’s Club in IT, to the boys in The Body, he always seems to nail it! And the kids in The Institute were no exception - Avery was my personal favourite. Add in superpowers and a mysterious Institute and this has all the makings of a binge-worthy story!

It’s a little slow at the beginning, but this is usually the case with King as he introduces the characters and the setting, before he puts his foot down and increases the pace. The parts within the Institute were my favourite, I loved getting to learn more about what was going on, whilst simultaneously worrying for those poor kids. King executes all these parts so perfectly.

The cons, for me: it just felt a little TOO much like Firestarter in some ways. Don’t get me wrong, The Institute stands firmly as its own unique story, but I kept thinking of Firestarter similarities and it put me off slightly. Also, Tim and Wendy were two typical cookie-cutter good guys, who’s names I will undoubtedly have forgotten in a week or two. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I feel like these types of characters are more memorable in his older novels.

Lastly, wasn’t a massive fan of the ending - it felt somewhat predictable. I’m not one who usually gets frustrated with King’s endings, but this one left me a little more on the dissatisfied side.

That being said, I did really enjoy it overall, but unfortunately I just didn’t LOVE it. I do think it’s one of his stronger works in recent years though.

3.75 stars - I’m introducing a new star rating for the occasion.
Profile Image for Maciek.
558 reviews3,229 followers
October 25, 2019
I have been a Stephen King fan for a very long time, but recently he's just not been very good. His short novella,  Elevation, was horribly disappointing, as was his novel from last year,  The Outsider. I tried to read Sleeping Beauties, the book that he wrote with his son, Owen, but couldn't get through it. What is sad is the fact that I was actually excited for The Institute - and I can't remember the last time that I was excited for a new Stephen King novel.

It might sound silly, but I really liked the title and the cover - something in the image of a boy sitting in a train car made to look like a room immediately drew my interest. I couldn't evade the short synopsis, which was everywhere, but I consciously avoided early reviews and any other information about this novel. I was setting myself up for a real treat. Surely, after these forgettable duds the author who defined my youth and helped shape me into the person I am now will once again prove his talent in writing unforgettable, unmatched stories and memorable characters who will stay with me for years? Surely?

Have you seen Stranger Things? Even if you didn't watch the Netflix show, chances are high that you at least heard about it. Basically, the series is a full-on homage to small town Americana and the culture and media of the 1980's. Stranger Things is very aware of the cultural bedrock on which it bases its entire tone: it consciously references many movies from that decade, sometimes down to replicating the exact same scenes.  The series became a surprise hit with millions of fans across the world, and received many awards.

The old aphorism states that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and there's some truth in that. There's little originality in Stranger Things, but that's not the point of it show. It doesn't aim to be original. It thrills us, but in a very familiar way - in fact, in the very way that we've already been thrilled before.  it shows us scenes that we have already seen set to music that we've already heard. We root for its characters, because we already know them. We have met and liked them before under different names in earlier TV shows, books or movies. Stranger Things is supposed to feel familiar, and we are supposed to react to its tropes and homages exactly as we did when we first saw them. Younger viewers can enjoy it as well, because it employs tried and tested methods, which have imprinted themselves on an entire generation of viewers - and if something is proven to work, why change it? By regurgitating these tropes Stranger Things sells us nostalgia, and millions of people love it for it.

However, Stranger Things is just the most obvious example of a wider phenomenon. We're currently living in the age of a 1980's renaissance. Contemporary films such as Drive with its aesthetic and soundtrack are reflecting the era, as is the adaptation of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, the book itself being a homage to the decade. We're seeing a wave of sequels to classic movies from that time, such as Blade Runner or Indiana Jones, and even tv shows such as Twin Peaks. Classic films and TV series from the decade, such as  Ghostbusters, RoboCop, The A-Team or The Karate Kid, have already been remade, and plenty more will undoubtedly follow. The eighties' influence of synth melodies and automatic drums is widespread in popular music - which is something I personally very much appreciate - and it gave birth to an entirely new genre of electronic music: Synthwave, inspired by the decade and presenting fresh, new music that is purposefully made to sound familiar. It's definitely modern music, but purposefully made to sound vintage, which is what makes it wonderful.

There's a reason behind this phenomenon - it isn't new. In the 1990's, the biggest hit was...the 1970's. Boogie Nights, Forrest Gump, Dazed and Confused and That '70s Show are examples of movies with 1970's nostalgia from that decade, along with the return of disco and pop music to mainstream popularity. In the 1970's it was the 1950's, with movies such as Happy Days, American Graffiti or the movie version of Grease. What was old is new again; and with the slowly creeping remakes of movies and tv series from the 1990's (such as or Power Rangers) we are heading for a rebirth for a new wave of nostalgia for that decade. And twenty or thirty years from this point TV shows, movies and music will be made about the times we live in now.

Why do cultural trends resurface every twenty or thirty years? I think that the main explanation for these nostalgia cycles is that it takes this amount of time for a collective memory of a period to develop amongst the generation that experienced it. In this time said generation also grows up unavoidably develops nostalgia for their own youth; children turns into adults and consumers of culture turn into its creators. Filmmaker, writers, musicians and other artists are now often parents themselves, and are trying to recapture their vision of their own childhoods in their works, and in turn appeal to the entire market of people who are nostalgic for this very childhood, and are willing to spend money to vicariously experience it again. Sometimes this work of art is an organic result of the experience of its creators, and sometimes - as it's the case with Stranger Things - it's a deliberately calculated effect to  gain the emotional attachment of its audience. Some works of art even play on this literal cycle - in Back to the Future Marty travels back 30 years, and in the German TV series Dark and Stephen King's IT strange events happen in small towns every three decades, binding its protagonists with the past.

But let us get back to The Institute. It's nostalgia without nostalgia, bones without meat. It does not offer anything new or original, and in fact offers very little at all. Its story is horribly banal. its plotting terrible and its protagonists instantly forgettable. It took me so long to read this novel not because it was very long, but because I kept losing my enthusiasm as it went on - in the end I could barely be bothered to finish it. At times I felt as if I was reading a Dean Koontz novel - and if you ever read my Koontz reviews, you'd know that it's not a compliment.

Consider the characters first. The novel opens with a Tim Someone (that's not his actual name, that's how well I remember it after reading the novel), a former cop making a sudden decision to give his plane seat to a government official in exchange for a hefty sum of money and hitchhike north.  He eventually arrives in a very small town deep in the sticks, where he gets the job of a night knocker. So far, so good: it's classic King with his small towns where everyone knows each other, with a few kooky characters and a possibility of something dark hiding just around the corner. Remember Needful Things? However, Tim won't be allowed to enjoy his new life for very long. "Great events turn on small hinges", flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil causes a tornado in Texas and so on.

Fast forward to somewhere in Minneapolis, where the parents of a young Luke Ellis are both murdered and the young boy is abducted and taken to the eponymous and mysterious Institute. He wakes up in a room which looks exactly like his own, but isn't - there are no windows. He soon discovers that he's not alone, and that other kids have also been brought there - they all share special talents, such as telepathy and telekinesis. Obviously Luke isn't exactly thrilled with this situation, and wants to get the hell out of Dodge. But how?

We'll get to that in a second. Let us begin with the characters first: none of the children in this book ever seemed to me to sound like children, but like an adults' impression of a child. Imagine 12 or 13 year old children in 2018 (this is when the book is set) referring to each other as "Kreskin"... a mentalist who appeared on American television in the 1970's. Which 12 year old would even know who he was? Another kid says "jeepers". Would 12 year olds today even understand that word? There are more examples to be found in the text, and I honestly can't be bothered to look at the book again to find them. Suffice to say that the main young protagonist is an extremely gifted and intelligent (he's not only telepathic, but got accepted to both MIT and Emerson at twelve). Certainly a convenient explanation for his precocious vocabulary. To think that King did so well with writing the children in IT - perhaps because he wrote it in the 1980's, and he himself was a child in the 1950's? This novel is full of little anachronisms like this, which don't sound right; they throw the reader off-track, as we're hit with references which shouldn't be there.

It gets worse. Characters in The Institute are one thing, but the plot is horrible. It almost makes The Outsider look good in comparison, which is an accomplishment in itself. I have to mark this section as spoilers as to not ruin the book for any potential readers, but with there being perilously little to ruin you just might want to peek behind the curtain.



I could write more, but I have no characters left. This book is derivative and boring, and not worth your time. I have no doubts, however, that it will sell millions of copies and will be adapted into a series or a film enjoyed by millions of viewers; exactly as expected. After all, Ka is a wheel; its one purpose is to turn.
Profile Image for Dennis.
724 reviews1,385 followers
September 12, 2019
The Institute has easily become my favorite Stephen King novel, ever! It may be over 500 pages, but this book reads so fast, you won't put it down. I would say that this book is a combination of X-Men meets Stranger Things—with the literary horror writing style that you've expected to love by Stephen King. The characters were multifaceted, the story was gripping and original, and there wasn't too much exposition—we got right into the story early on. This story really will take you on an adventure that you weren't expecting, and you will definitely not expect how it turns out. The Institute will get you thinking and I see big things for this release.
Profile Image for Ginger.
721 reviews319 followers
October 25, 2019
5 STARS!!!

Uncle Steve's still got it! I know the hype train has been hot for this one but I kept myself in check.

...but it's warranted folks.

The Institute was a fast paced thriller from the beginning to the end and I really loved this one. The characters were fantastic, the writing was great and the whole plot was well thought out.

The Institute starts off with introducing us to Tim Jamieson. I wasn't quite sure where this character's arc was going to go in the beginning, but I'm glad I kept reading.
Because Stephen King has a plan with this character and I loved everything about Tim!

After following Tim's journey for a bit, we're introduced to Luke Ellis.

Gosh, I love Luke! He's such a great character. I loved all of the kids that are at the Institute and I felt so bad for them.
From Sha's positivity, Nicky's rebellion to Avery's sweetness. Each kid had their own voice and I felt King did a great job writing each one of them.

I hated everyone that was part of this program and the role that they played. You could tell that their fanatical and uncompromising pursuit of the agenda was in full effect.

The ending was NOT a disappointment!
I've suffered with other books by King in where the ending fizzled out but that's not the case in The Institute. The pacing was fast and I just kept flipping the pages. I had to find out what would happen to Luke, all the kids and what Tim's role would be on taking out the Institute.

I'm really glad I read this one and I hope King keeps rolling books out like this. It's definitely worth they hype!
Profile Image for Baba.
3,504 reviews736 followers
May 9, 2021
Luke thought that the most traumatic mind-breaking devastatingly shocking thing that ever happened to him in his life was being separated from his family and being held in the Institute; a few days later he realised, that he had a lot worse to come. The Institute, captive children, poked and prodded, abused and tortured, and this is just the induction! As Luke's days progress he begins to realise that he might never get out of the Institute, ever!

A bit of a non-stop hi intensity ride is this one, from the off Luke is in jeopardy and remains so throughout the book, to a degree this becomes the driver and the rest is just window dressing. A story with a strong King feel, protagonists in a horrific situation with no end in sight; friendship being the one tool that gives them solace; hyper mad/bad antagonists;n and a shadowy overpower. I suppose everything a Constant Reader would want in a King horror? I got very much caught up in this read, but still managed to put it down for over two months before getting round to finishing it. Still, a good read 7.5 out of 12.
Profile Image for Tina.
2,306 reviews1 follower
January 29, 2022
This is a Paranormal Thriller/Horror/Mystery/Science Fiction. I have to say I loved the character development in this book. The writing was so good I could pictured the setting while reading this book. This book is about an institute that takes kids without anyone knowing. All these kids has high ID and shows other signs to be able to read minds or move things with their minds. I do not want to say to much to spoil anything for anyone, but I have to say I do not normally read these kind of books and I loved it so much. I picked this book up because one of my friends told me I had it read it. I know this is a big book, but I hope if you have not read this book that you will give it a chance.
Profile Image for Amora.
181 reviews137 followers
May 15, 2020
Stephen King at his very best in my opinion. Anytime King writes a novel about kids fighting evil it’s clear it’s going to be good. This book is no exception. I became hooked on this book quickly and came to adore all the kids at the Institute, especially Luke and the Averster. Every page in this book felt like I was the experiencing the story. I do wonder if the characters here will appear again in future King novels.

Edit (5/14/20): I should also add that this novel manages to connect with almost every novel King has written, including The Shinning and Carrie.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
673 reviews1,028 followers
October 14, 2020
“Hell is waiting, I’ll be here to meet you.”

4 stars ⭐️

This was an absolute ride! Although I will say, I wouldn’t class this as horror - considering it won the a Goodreads choice award for horror, for me this was firmly in the thriller genre. But I loved it nonetheless!

We start with Tim Jamieson, an ex cop flying from Florida to NYC. When someone is required to give up their seat Tim volunteers and decides to hitch hike. He makes it to DuPray North Carolina, where he takes a night knocker job for the local Sheriff.

Just as we get settled in with Tim though, the scene changes to 12 year old Luke Ellis. A boy of extremely high intelligence, who wakes up one morning to find he has been kidnapped and taken to The Institute, a place of violence and fear.

As the book continues we find out more about The Institute and it’s purpose. I will admit a fair bit went over my head - I’m not one for conspiracies or psychic abilities but the action filled plot kept me reading. I wanted to see what would happen.

I was saddened by how some of it played out, but overall it was a thrill ride and I would recommend. Also Orphan Annie is the BEST character 😊

******************

In my attempt to read more Stephen King I’ve checked this one out from the library 😊
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,850 reviews34.9k followers
September 18, 2019
I survived.... now let’s have some cake!!!!

The audiobook was 18 hours and 19 minutes long.
The narrator, Santino Fontana, was superb as the reader for Stephen King’s new sinister novel.

I actually liked the ‘reader’ of this book - more than I did the overall story.
The plot moved along slow —
but I adored the characters.

I enjoyed the individuality of each of the kids... and many of the adult characters.
The kids each had some unique gifts.

The friendships were heartwarming.

The plot...frightening.

And... my goodness... there is sooooooo MUCH eating....
Food became a main character.

I was hoping to be giddy-rapturous towards this new King release.....
not quite... but I still enjoyed it.

The story was inventive...but drawn out too long.

The kids were priceless.
The kids were priceless.
The kids were priceless!!!!!

Overall - about a 3.6 rating.



Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.6k followers
March 20, 2022
The Institute, Stephen King

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV (sport utility vehicle). The operation takes less than two minutes. 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: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extra-normal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز بیست و دوم ماه آوریل سال2021میلادی

عنوان: موسسه؛ نویسنده: استیفن (استیون) کینگ؛ مترجم مهتا عافیت‌طلب؛ تهران، البرز، سال1398؛ در660ص؛ شابک9786222351335؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده21م

عنوان: موسسه؛ نویسنده استیون کینگ؛ مترجم سعید دوج؛ تهران، روزگار، سال1399؛ در728ص؛ شابک9786222330729؛

عنوان: موسسه؛ نویسنده استیون کینگ؛ مترجم امیرعلی فتح‌اللهی؛ ویراستار حسین دوستی؛ تهران، آوای دوستی؛ سال1399؛ در584ص؛ شابک9786226460514؛

فهرست: درباره نویسنده؛ نقدهای کتاب موسسه؛ فصل اول: پاسبان شب؛ فصل دوم: پسر باهوش؛ فصل سوم: تزریق‌ها برای نقطه‌ها؛ فصل چهارم: مارین و آوِری؛ فصل پنجم: فرار؛ فصل ششم: جهنم منتظر است؛ فصل هفتم: جهنم اینجاست؛ فصل هشتم: تلفن بزرگ؛ فصل نهم: مرد لکنتی؛

ماجرای عجیب و مرموز پسری به نام «لوک الایس»؛ که پس از کشتار والدینش ربوده شده، و در مکانی اسرارآمیز اسیر می‌گردد؛ «لوک» از خواب که بیدار می‌شود، و خویشتن را در مکانی همانند اتاقش می‌بیند، ولی آن اتاق پنجره‌ ای ندارد؛ «لوک» سپس درمییابد، که در موسسه‌ ای ترسناک است و تنها هم نیست؛ کودکان دیگری نیز در آنجا هستند که هر کدامشان به شکل مرموزی به آن موسسه آمده‌ اند؛ آن کودکان را نیز، کارکنان همان موسسه دزدیده اند؛ چون آنها تواناییهای ویژه ای دارند، و کارکنان موسسه تلاش می‌کنند، تا تواناییهای ویژه ی کودکان را، از بدنشان بیرون بکشند؛ «لوک» درمییابد اگر همکاری کند تشویق و جایزه می‌گیرد، اما اگر سرکشی و شورش کند، مجازات‌های ترسناکی در انتظارش است؛ و ...؛

نقل نمونه از متن برگردان جناب «سعید دوج»: («تیم» یک ساعت بعد بر روی تخته سنگی، کنار خطِ دو طرفه راه‌آهن نشسته بود؛ و منتظر عبور قطار باربری بدون انتها بود؛ قطار که شامل واگن‌های باری، سازه‌های مخصوص حمل اتومبیل -بیشتر آن‌ها پر از اتومبیل‌های کهنه بود نه نو-، مخازن، واگن‌های روبازی که خدا می‌دانست با چه نوع موادی پر شده که ممکن بود، با از خط خارج شدن قطار، جنگل کاج اطراف را به آتش بکشاند، یا مردم دوپرای را، به سم یا حتی گازهای کشنده، مبتلا کند، بود؛ با سرعت ایالتی سی مایل در ساعت، به سمت دوپرای حرکت می‌کرد؛ عاقبت اتاقک نارنجی ایستگاه قطار ظاهر شد؛ مردی با لباس سراسری بنددار، نشسته روی یک صندلی باغی، در حال خواندن کتابی با جلد کاغذی، و کشیدن سیگار بود؛ او سرش را از روی کتاب بلند کرد، و دستی به علامت سلام، برای تیم بالا برد؛ تیم هم دستش را بالا گرفت

شهر دو مایل عقب‌تر واقع شده بود؛ دور تقاطع بزرگراه نود و دو ساخته شده بود -که حالا خیابان اصلی نام داشت- و دو خیابان دیگر هم داشت؛ به نظر می‌رسید که شهر دوپرای از چشم فروشگاه‌های زنجیره‌ای که شهرهای بزرگ را تسخیر کرده بودند، دور افتاده بود؛ در آنجا یک اتومبیل فروشی وسترن بود، اما بسته شده بود؛ پنجره‌هایش صابون‌زده شده بود؛ تیم متوجه یک مغازه خواربارفروشی، یک داروخانه، یک واحد تجاری که به نظر می‌رسید هر چیزی می‌فروشد و تعدادی سالن آرایش شد؛ یک سالن سینما با علامت «برای فروش یا اجاره» بر روی سر در آن هم وجود داشت؛ یک فروشگاه لوازم یدکی که خودش را به عنوان فروشگاه خرید فوری دوپرای معرفی کرده بود؛ و رستورانی به نام عذاخوری بِوز؛ در آنجا سه کلیسا وجود داشت، یکی با نشان فرقه‌ای خاص از مسیحیت، دوتای دیگر بی‌نشان، اما همگی به انواع مختلف فرق مسیحیت مرتبط می‌شدند؛ بیشتر از یکی دو جین ماشین و وانت در محوطه‌های پارکینگ قسمت تجاری شهر قرار نداشت؛ پیاده‌روها تقریباً خالی بود

تیم سه بلوک بعد از یک کلیسای دیگر، مُتل دوپرای را دید؛ پشت آن، جایی که خیابان اصلی احتمالاً به خیابان ایالتی نود و دو می‌رسید، یک تقاطع خط آهن دیگر، یک مجموعه انبار، و یک ردیف سقف فلزی که در نور خورشید می‌درخشیدند، قرار داشت؛ پشت این سازه‌ها، مجدداً درختان کاج محوطه را بسته بودند؛ در نظر تیم آنجا کلاً شهری خارج از محدوده کشور آمد؛ مانند یکی از آن قطعه موسیقی‌های دلتنگ کننده آلن جکسون یا جورج استوا��ت؛ تابلوی مُتل قدیمی و زنگ‌زده بود؛ نشان می‌داد که آن محل مانند سالن سینما تعطیل شده باشد، اما از آنجایی که هوا در حال تاریک شدن بود و به نظر می‌رسید آن جا تنها محل اقامت شهر باشد، تیم تصمیم گرفت به سمت آن حرکت کند.)؛ پایان

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 30/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ 28/12/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,121 followers
September 24, 2019
The five star beginning takes place on a totally booked Delta flight bound for New York where we meet Tim Jamieson who gives up his seat and ends up with a job as a Night Knocker in a small backward rural town, population 5,400.

There we learn more about Tim's eventful previous life and meet some crazy good people of the night....like homeless Orphan Annie, my favorite.

As SK states in his author notes, THE INSTITUTE is mostly about kids, and with a group of exceptionally gifted kidnapped children is where we spend most of our reading time as we leave southern Carolina for the secretive, deadly compound hidden deep in the woods of northern Maine.

As the brilliant 12 year old Luke Ellis awakens in a similar, but unknown environment, he soon discovers a scary, threatening new life of horror among other draftees like himself....escape his only hope of survival.

Another winner for KING but instead of horror, a mystery-thriller with lots of evil characters and some psychic phenomena. As always, KING brings back memories of old....remember candy cigarettes (yum!), "prehistoric" (lol) sitcoms like Bewitched and Happy Days, and once again, he also gets in some personal political digs about current republican leadership. The only reference to his other novels I picked up was mention of "twins of an old horror movie” (The Shining) and The Outsider(s).

GREAT story - GREAT characters - GREAT read, but personally I wanted more of Tim Jamieson and the people of the night!

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