I have never, ever bought a brand new Stephen King book until now. Why? Well, partially because I got into his work very late, and I’m also very cheap and usually do not buy a book at cover price. Buuuut… I love this cover, and I just really, really wanted to read a brand new Stephen King. I also recently read Firestarter by him, and The Institute sounded like it was in the same vein.
On the spur of the moment, Tim Jamieson decides to hitchhike north instead of flying. An acquaintance may have a job for him in New York, but along the way Tim finds a job as a night knocker in a sleepy South Carolina town. Far up north in the Maine wilderness, Luke Ellis wakes up in a room that is not his bedroom. Luke finds that he has been abducted in the night from his Minneapolis home and put into a government facility with several other children. And what is the reason for his and the other children’s abduction? The children are said to have telekinetic and telepathic powers. But why are they locked away from the rest of the world? Tim and Luke’s paths eventually cross, but the effects may be far reaching.
If you’ve read Firestarter, you probably see the similarities already. I also got some strong It vibes with there being a group of children characters fighting against an evil. If you haven’t read those two, you should. But concerning The Institute, it was actually a lot of fun. There was a lot of adventure and excitement, and the secrets of the government facility are unraveled at a good pace. It was great to cheer for the kids in the face of a shady government entity. I wouldn’t call this horror even though that seems to be its given genre. Horrible things do happen, and they even happen to children, but I guess I would call this book more of a dark, modern-day sci-fi? Is that even a real genre?
Anyway, the pacing of the book starts a just little slowly. The book is separated into several sections, with the first forty pages focusing entirely on Tim Jamieson. From then on we focus primarily on the kids in The Institute, so don’t be disappointed or confused by the early focus on Tim. Tim returns later in the novel, and introducing him in depth early on makes more sense in the latter part of the book. Speaking of the latter half of the book, although Stephen King is known for sometimes not ending his books well, I thought that the ending for The Institute was pretty satisfying.
What I disliked about the novel actually bothered me quite bit though. The kids do remind me of the children in It, but one of the reasons for this is that the kids sometimes talk like those kids from the 50’s and 60’s. Maybe I’m just out of touch with the youth, but I haven’t heard phrases like “starvin’ Marvin,” “jeepers,” or “yankin’ your chain” from many people younger than me or even my own age. King threw in a fair amount of modern references that make more sense, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the children’s dialogue often felt too old for them. Luke is a boy genius, so his dialogue was forgivable, but some of the other children just felt a bit off.
You don’t need anyone, especially me, to tell you that a Stephen King book is good. This one is good though, and I would recommend picking it up if it sounds interesting to you. Again, it’s not quite scary but more disturbing. I don’t think it will be a classic like It, but I gave it a solid four out of five stars, and I’ve thought about the book a while after I finished it.