Deep in the woods of Maine, there is a dark state facility where kids, abducted from across the United States, are incarcerated. In the Institute they are subjected to a series of tests and procedures meant to combine their exceptional gifts – telepathy, telekinesis – for concentrated effect.
Luke Ellis is the latest recruit. He’s just a regular 12-year-old, except he’s not just smart, he’s super-smart. And he has another gift which the Institute wants to use…
But great events can turn on small hinges and Luke is about to team up with a new, even younger recruit, Avery Dixon, whose ability to read minds is off the scale. While the Institute may want to harness their powers for covert ends, the combined intelligence of Luke and Avery is beyond anything that even those who run the experiments – even the infamous Mrs Sigsby – suspect.
Far away in a small town in South Carolina, former cop Tim Jamieson has taken a job working for the local sheriff. He’s basically just walking the beat. But he’s about to take on the biggest case of his career.
Suspenseful and gutsy, The Institute is the latest horror novel from Stephen King, this time set within the walls of a facility tasked with testing children who show extraordinary abilities.
Hidden deep inside the American forest, more specifically in Maine, the organisation is responsible for kidnapping hundreds of children across the United States — shortly after killing their parents — and keeping them contained in the facility while they force them to undergo terrifying and sometimes painful tests.
The book begins with ex-cop Tim Jamieson, a loner who lost his job years earlier in an unfortunate incident. He arrives in DuPray, South Carolina and accepts a job working for the local Sheriff. Before too long, the POV shifts and we spend the bulk of the book following Luke Ellis’ story. He’s a twelve year old boy who is that latest kidnapping victim of the institute. Before too long, Luke and Tim’s stories will intersect.
“He ordinarily didn’t show off — it was the worst way in the world to win friends and influence people — but he was upset, confused, worried, and (might as well admit it) scared shitless. It was getting harder and harder not to label this experience with the word kidnapping.”
The Institute evokes ‘Stranger Things’ vibes and brings really incredible characters to life. All of the children at the facility are unique and three-dimensional, and the antagonists of the institute are all genuinely terrifying and believable as villains.
At its core, this book is about the power that children contain when they come together — when they combine forces and utilise their potential. This sounds like a preach, but Stephen King achieves this rather well, and the messages of the book are incredibly subtle.
“Gladys was small and pretty, but for all Luke knew, she was a black belt who could throw him over her shoulder if he gave her any trouble. Even if she wasn’t, they were watching, and he had no doubt reinforcements would show up in a hurry.”
Structurally, I think the novel is flawed. The pacing is appropriate and realistic for the first three quarters of the book, but then everything happens quickly and the conclusion of the book feels rushed.
Additionally, the book is so long that by the time you get to the conclusion you’re pretty exhausted and ready for it to finish.
“The ice machine. Where Maureen had spoken to him yesterday. That was sort of interesting. According to Kalisha, there were several places in Front Half where the audio surveillance worked poorly or not at all, but Maureen seemed to favour that one.”
Not overly violent, so suitable for young and old readers. Fans of horror and thriller will love this, as will Stephen King’s existing fans.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Hachette Book Publishers