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The Institute: A Novel by Stephen King
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The Institute: A Novel (edition 2020)

by Stephen King (Author)

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3,0831243,606 (4.06)89
In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis' 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 10-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.… (more)
Member:Thebeautifulsea
Title:The Institute: A Novel
Authors:Stephen King (Author)
Info:Gallery Books (2020), 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:None

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The Institute by Stephen King

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This Constant Reader picked up a copy of Stephen King’s THE INSTITUTE last Christmas, and finally got around to reading it. As a very long time fan of King’s work, I’ll gladly read almost anything he puts out, but I’m more than willing to concede that much of his 21st Century output often falls short of his great early works. That might just be natural as The King does often recycle tropes and themes he explored thoroughly in previous books. I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing. THE INSTITUTE could easily be described as King Classic as he again tells a story with kids possessing the psychic powers, often telekinesis and telepathy (CARRIE and FIRESTARTER, and recently DOCTOR SLEEP), a mysterious and sinister quasi government organization that do not have the best interests of the protagonists at heart (The Shop), colorful small town characters (start with SALEM’S LOT), and a knockabout male character who turns out to be a rock when things hit the fan (Stu Redman from THE STAND). THE INSTITUTE centers on 12 year old Luke Ellis, a kid from Minnesota who happens to have a genius level IQ. Not only that, but Luke is showing signs of incipient telekinesis. One night, intruders break into Luke’s home, murder his parents, and abduct him away to an installation in the Maine woods where Luke’s powers are forcibly developed and used for mysterious purposes. If Luke, and the friends he makes among the other kidnapped children, cooperate, then they are given tokens for vending machines and not treated harshly. If they resist, they are punished as if they are Al Qaeda. It is abundantly apparent that the adults in charge are not interested in the welfare of these children, only what they can squeeze out of their brains before they are tossed away like used batteries. No one has ever escaped from this place, but Luke puts his IQ to work on the challenge and with the help of his newly made friends, comes up with a plan and puts it into action.

I found a lot to like in THE INSTITUTE. My paperback copy comes in at just over 650 pages, not a short read, but I found that the story moved along at a good pace. Right from the start, King violates one of the rules of novel writing 101 by not introducing his main protagonist first, but instead we get the story of Tim Jamison, a former Florida cop and how he gets the job of night knocker in the very small South Carolina town of DuPray before the story shifts to Luke and his impending kidnapping in Minnesota. We know these two plot threads will meet at some point, and the anticipation of how and why is planted. The suspense is built nicely as Luke encounters the occupants at the Institute, and enough of the truth is slowly revealed to raise the level of tension. By far the best part of the book is when Luke is on the run with no one to turn to for help, and desperate to put as much distance as he can between himself and his tormentors, who will soon discover his escape and come looking. This part of the book is King at his storytelling best. The author has always had a true talent for creating compelling and sympathetic young characters, and it is full display here, not just with Luke, but also Avery, Kalesha, Nick, and George, other luckless young occupants of the Institute. As with most horror and suspense novels, a lot rides on how well the antagonists are drawn, are they villains who inspire fear. The men and women who run the place that imprisons Luke and his friends are clearly drawn from the men and women who ran the Nazi concentration camps, the cogs in the death machine. They also have more than a slight resemblance to the torturers at Abu Ghraib. If Mrs. Sigsby and Trevor Stackhouse don’t at first appear to be on the same level as some the other monstrosities King has created, I would say look again. They are lovers of authority, happy to serve whatever the whims are of those above them, and more than happy to wield it ruthlessly over those below them. The kind of people who “get the job done no matter what.” I do like how King makes a point to show that the Institute has more than a little internal sloppiness, which does occur over the long haul in many enterprises when expectations are allowed to sag, and things just roll along like they always have. The weakest part of the book is the resolution, a common complaint among King fans. I think the story came easy to King up through the final confrontation, but then comes a clunky and talky sequence meant to resolve the remaining lose ends that is not nearly as satisfying as what has come before.

A number of reviewers have compared THE INSTITUTE to Netlix’s STRANGER THINGS. They share many similarities, but it should be remembered that the Duffer brothers were inspired by King’s work from back in the ‘80s which had young characters who could move objects and start fires with their minds. Like I said, this is classic King pouring some old ingredients into a new bottle. And if THE INSTITUTE is adapted to a film, I think it would be a great opportunity for that other successful Steve from the ‘80s named Spielberg to finally collaborate with The King. ( )
  wb4ever1 | Aug 8, 2022 |
“Between midnight and four, everyone should have permission to speak freely.”
― Stephen King, The Institute

OK..I finished and..

I started off disliking this book. I just could not get into it. It reminded me of John Saul's "The God project" which I read a really long time ago. The brutality was almost to much for me but also I found some of it..kind of..boring. Such a long book!

I do like long books. My second favorite book in the world is over 700 pages and I flew through The Gold Finch. But this was a Horror/thriller and 5-600- pages was a bit much. I did not see finishing it.

Then it just got..good. The pace started to become faster. I wanted to know the secrets of The Institute. I wanted Luke to be OK as well as all the children. And I wanted..oh how I wanted..the bad people to get their just dues.

So I stayed up late to finish. Now I have and still do not know how to rate it. I guess a four. This is not going to be a favorite book of mine. However..it is at some points genuinely frightening.

This plot has been done so many times but in King's hands it becomes almost new. Aspects of it really did remind me of Fire Starter and aspects reminded me too of 1984. It was a creepy read but one that really takes time to get going..at least for me.

SPOILERS:

I am mixed about the ending. I have seen complaints on it and I do not really have any. My complaints are more about the length. I felt the ending was realistic though I did want ALL the bad people punished and that did not happen.

I found the bad peoples' justifications for their evil deeds fascinating. It is not unlike Robyn Cook's books, which are medical thrillers. Somehow all the villains think it's OK to do mass murder if it ultimately saves lives down the line. I do not mind admitting I wanted all these evil sadistic vile losers thrown in jail for life or maybe to experience some of the same treatment they gave the kids.

So to sum up..I am really glad I took a chance and read this. I did get somehow lost in the book but not until 350 or so pages or more! It really was slow going there for a long while.

I adored Tim (whom I also had a big crush on).

I had no issues with the political references in this book..heck I agree with most of them!

The afterword by King was beautiful.

Although parts of this book are unrealistic, not all of it is. I sometimes wonder how much one can truly know about what goes on in our government. This is so scary BECAUSE it is not inconceivable..same as Handmaid's tale and 1984 are not.

My quibbles..length of book, to many long periods where nothing happens, and my favorite kid doesn't make it!! (Avery!)

Good points..frightening, absorbing, incredible characterizations, good wrap of of book, extremely well written and something that is not easily forgettable.

Thanks Lisa for convincing me to read this! ( )
  Thebeautifulsea | Aug 5, 2022 |
Amazing! I haven't read King's books in quite a while so I was excited to read this new title and let me tell you this author hasn't lost his talent for writing at all. This story has to be one of his best yet. ( )
  awesomejen2 | Jun 21, 2022 |
Classic King

Enjoyed the book but dragged a little in the middle. I would like to know what the survivors did with their futures. ( )
  wincheryl | Jun 20, 2022 |
This was just okay, but I have a very difficult time believing it was written by Stephen King ! My conspiracy theory .... this was written by someone else. If it had someone else's name on it I would have given it 3 stars. If it was Stephen King it's a one star book, so I split the difference. ( )
  larocco | Jun 10, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Kingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Briasco, LucaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fontana, SantinoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Staehle, WillCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines...

And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lord, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. --Judges, Chapter 16
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones... it were better for him that a millstone were handed about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. --Matthew, Chapter 18
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For my grandsons: Ethan, Aidan, and Ryan
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Half an hour after Tim Jamieson's Delta flight was scheduled to leave Tampa for the bright lights and tall buildings of New York, it was still parked at the gate.
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In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis' 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 10-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.

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