Constant Readers, it’s here. That joyous time twice a year when we are taken into a world crafted by a master storyteller. A man who in recent times has elevated his craft to a point where most of his novels have transcended beyond a genre, and have become living, breathing worlds that feel fleshed out and lived-in. The Institute, by Stephen King, is another such world. One in which had its ups and downs, but by the end takes you on a whirlwind of adventure and emotion.
The book follows two separate threads, which eventually become intertwined through fate. Tim Jamieson is a man with no particular direction. When we meet him, he’s on a flight to New York, but quickly becomes a drifter, in no real rush to get to his original destination. He eventually makes his way to the small town of Dupray, where things are eventually going to heat up. Our other main thread follows Luke Ellis, a boy genius attending a school filled with child prodigies. Luke is a genius who stands out amongst a crowd of other special children. Eventually, for reasons to be discovered, he is kidnapped and taken to a place called The Institute, where other children are held against their will and subjected to all manner of horrible experiments.
King does an excellent job of taking it easy and crafting the world his latest takes place in. This is a slow burn for sure, and while that’s mostly a good thing, there was a section of the book that felt a bit tedious. There was a part towards the tail end of the first half that had I not been such a big fan of King, I might not have finished the book. Despite this, I stuck it out to the end and ultimately am glad that I did.
Tim Jamieson is an ok character. I didn’t particularly like or dislike him. He felt more like a generic good guy archetype that you’d place in a random King story and he’d probably fit in. Luke Ellis was fleshed out more and it was interesting to follow him along. The supporting children in this book that you’ll spend time with during Luke's thread were also a much better cast of characters than the supporting adults in Tim’s thread. Most of those characters felt like one-dimensional country bumpkins with no real purpose other than to occasionally give Tim some dialogue and some country one-liners. For the most part, the book was very fascinating and played off of fears of government conspiracies. The children in this book are put through some horrifying scenarios, although it’s a far stretch to try to call this particular novel horror. The main complaint I have with The Institute is that somewhere after the first hundred pages or so, King went from world-building to boring, and the book didn’t pick up pace until about a hundred or so pages further. The last 200 pages flew by once King finally put his foot on the gas, leading to a satisfying conclusion and curiosity as to who ended up being right. (I can’t explain WHAT I’m talking about as it has to do with the purpose of The Institute.)
When it was all said and done, I needed some time to process this one. It felt almost like a tale of two books. The Institute starts off slow, yet strong. King uses the early pages to craft a believable world and set the mood. After a strong early start, King almost goes off the tracks and does a bit too much writing in circles. It felt like anywhere from 50-100 pages could have been trimmed for a much stronger novel. Just when I found myself questioning if I even wanted to finish, King stepped on the throttle and from there it never let up. It should speak to the quality of the rest of the book that not only did I finish The Institute, but I still consider it worth a read. As long as you don’t expect a horror novel, and you can power through a boring section of the book, there’s still something to enjoy.
John is a native of Cranston, Rhode Island. He served 4 years in the United States Marine Corps, deploying twice to Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s a lover of all things horror, pizza and cheeseburgers. When he’s not reading or watching boxing he spends his time with his amazing wife and two beautiful sons.
Goodreads synopsis: 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.
Stephen King is a master of his craft and The Institute is another great installment into the paranormal world he's created.
Sorry to disappoint all the fans that were hoping for a classic horror tale like The Shining, or Pet Sematary. This is just not one of those books. I suppose the characters are placed in some pretty horrific situations. Yet this still did not give me the chills like the early signature King books I have been craving so much. BUT, this is definitely a thrilling story any reader can enjoy. In my opinion, this book reminded me of King's The Body or even Dr. Sleep (the parts about the shine, not the vampire-like creatures). I had high expectations going into this read and Stephen King certainly prevailed. The Institute is proof that he can easily maintain his status as THE master storyteller of our time. Something I particularly liked about this book was the mystery his writing style sparked as I devoured the pages. I remained in a constant shroud of intrigue trying to figure out how the tale fits in the world King has built through his story’s. One thing that has always stood out to me in all of the author's books is character development. This novel was no exception. As I got to know the characters in this book, I became deeply attached and the story came to life for me. I will say that this was an excellent story and I had so much fun reading it, but it just fell short in comparison to the author's earlier epic tales that we all know and love. Again, I had high expectations and maybe that's why I felt the way I did in the end. That aside, This is a highly anticipated novel and is definitely one of the best books I've read in 2019. Can you really go wrong reading Stephen King? The answer is no, no you can’t.
Great events turn on small hinges.
The Institute was a very interesting read for me. Throughout the book, you will find little cookie crumbs of information that might make you think there is some ultimate connection that links to the author's previous work. Don't be fooled though, this is a stand-alone book. King threw in tons of short references from The Shining, Salem's Lot and even The Dark Tower. They were slight and even disguised but they were there. I kept waiting for that moment where I would slap the palm of my hand to my forehead and say "wow, it all makes sense now". That didn't happen obviously but my mind often wandered to thoughts of the True-Knots from Dr. Sleep or all the many characters with abilities King has written about over the years. How were they connected to The Institute? Although slightly annoying at times, I got a feeling of nostalgia from the authors writing style in this book. He made me reminisce about all his great stories and I really enjoyed conjuring up all the feelings I had reading those books for the first time. I really appreciate what Stephen King did with this book. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.
I love the feeling I get when I finish a book and it feels like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend. That feeling is confirmation of the writer's ability to create an emotional connection to the story through its characters. King is dutiful in doing this, hence the massive number of fictional icons we know and adore ranging from the lovable protagonist Danny Torrance in The Shining and Dr. Sleep to the sinister antagonist Randall Flagg who appears in many of King's books. Hell, Stephen King even inserted himself into The Dark Tower novels and I think we can all agree on how much we like that guy. In The Institute we get to know an extraordinary group of kids and follow them during their darkest days. I don't think it's even possible to read this book and not feel empathetic to these kids. They go through hell and you as the reader will want nothing more than to hug the crap out of them (you know, if they were real that is…).
He wanted to tell Luke that he was strong and decent and his folks would be proud of him. But there were no words, and maybe no need for them. Or telepathy.
Sometimes a hug was telepathy.
I think when I heard Stephen King was releasing another new book, I salivated. Probably not a little bit either. His storytelling just amazes me and like most of you King fans out there, I get really excited. With that excitement, there is always this nagging "what if" in the back of my mind. "What if" it's a new amazing epic story. Or "what if" you don't like it. Or worse, "what if you HATE it!? Growing up in the 90's I remember IT was the ultimate scary movie. That film haunted my childhood, it is an epic. And THAT is what I hope for every time King releases a book. So you can understand why I feel a little ripped off when I read one of his books nowadays. Don't get me wrong, I was enthralled by this book. I felt anxious, excited, empathetic, and paranoid. I felt all the feels. But I was never scared at any point. I think true fans of the genre and Stephen King might feel a little disappointed like I did but I don't believe anyone can honestly say they didn't like this book. It was a great read.
When it's all said and done, this is a genuine King novel through and through. Storytelling at its finest with a cast of complex characters that will pull at your heartstrings. I give The Institute 4.5/5 stars and I recommend this book for absolutely anyone, anyone at all. Seriously, it was entertaining as hell!
My name's Andrew. I'm a husband and father who loves to read all things dark, thrilling, mysterious, and suspenseful. I didn't always enjoy reading but have been nothing short of obsessed over the last five or so years. The obsession has lead to writing and so here I am fighting for time to read and write while trying to work a full-time job and satisfy my family’s needs (#1 priority).