Name: The Institute
Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 485 (Hardback)
Published: September 10th 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Thriller, Horror
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…
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.
Back in the Institute’s downtrodden playground and corridors where posters advertise ‘just another day in paradise’, Luke, his friend Kalisha and the other kids are in no doubt that they are prisoners, not guests. And there is no hope of escape.
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.
Thrilling, suspenseful, heartbreaking, The Institute is a stunning novel of childhood betrayed and hope regained.
Stephen King’s latest novel proved to be a real page-turner. The novel centres around a group of children, strangers until they’re drawn together in the Institute after being kidnapped from their everyday lives. There are no lengths the Institute staff will not go to in pursuit of their aims, and you’d think the odds were stacked against these kids from the outset, isolated in this strange place out in the woods, subjected to all manner of horrors, and yet… they’re not average kids. They’ve been selected because they have varying levels of power, either in telepathy or telekinesis.
It starts out with another character, former policeman Tim Jamieson, newly arrived in the small town of DuPray. This intro is engrossing and we come to know Tim and the residents of this small town fairly well before the story moves on. I mention this because once you leave Tim behind, getting settled into a new routine, the story won’t go back to him for a long time. I’d read this in a review beforehand, so never went into the rest of the tale wondering what was happening back in DuPray, but becoming fully immersed in the awful situation that Luke and his new friends are involved in.
The characters are so well realised, from Luke with his vast intelligence to Kalisha, one of the first people Luke meets at the Institute, to Nicky, the boy with enough attitude to always answer back, and Avery, who acts younger than his years and yet has great potential power.
The group draws strength from each other, and even when some of them are taken to the mysterious Back Half, they’re still thinking of each other and what best to do.
Luke and his group are smart and incredibly brave in a terrifying situation, and their friendship and determination not to be beaten by this system gave hope throughout that despite all the horrible things they would win through in the end. I’m saying nothing about whether this actually proves to be the case though!
And of course, there are the villains of the piece too, from the director of the Institute Mrs. Sigsby, to the doctors who go along with the requirements of the place, and those who oversee the kids on a day to day basis and ensure there is order – they’re mostly awful, yet even in such a place there‘s at least one decent person.
Faced with the prospect of being moved to Back Half and whatever new trials that entails, Luke sets his mind to the impossible – escaping the Institute and exposing the place and those working there to the wider world. Will he manage it, or is it just too great a task? What is the Institute and why are they doing the things they do? There’s only one way to find out…