The Institute (novel)

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The Institute
The Institute (King novel).png
First edition U.S. cover
AuthorStephen King
Audio read bySantino Fontana[1]
CountryUnited States
GenreHorror thriller, science fiction
PublishedSeptember 10, 2019
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
LC ClassPS3561.I483 I57 2019

The Institute is a science fiction-horror thriller novel by American author Stephen King, published on September 10, 2019, by Scribner.[2]


Tim Jamieson leaves his job in Florida and prepares to head to New York City. By coincidence, en route, he gives up a seat on a plane and finds himself in the fictional small town of Dupray, South Carolina. A decorated former policeman, Jamieson takes a job working for the local Sheriff.

In suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder twelve-year-old Luke Ellis's parents and kidnap him. He wakes up in a room almost identical to his own at The Institute, a facility located deep in the woods of Maine.

At The Institute are a number of other kidnapped children, each with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who live in rooms of their own. Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and (later) ten-year-old Avery Dixon and Helen Simms are all in the area known as Front Half while others have "graduated" to the Back Half of The Institute. Mrs. Sigsby, the institute's director, and her staff are dedicated to extracting the special talents from the children - known as TP's (telepaths) and TK's (telekinetics). To do this, experiments are performed on the children to try and enhance their talents. Additionally, it is hoped that some TK's will get increased TP abilities and vice versa.

Once the experiments are deemed to have reached their maximum effect, the children "graduate" to Back Half. None of the children who have gone to Back Half have ever been seen again. As each of his friends disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to escape and get help.

Maureen is a cleaner at The Institute, who had previously been a snitch for Mrs. Sigsby. However, financial issues caused by a messy separation from her gambling-addicted husband had caused her to seek - and accept - help from Luke Ellis. As payback, Maureen helps Luke to escape The Institute and then commits suicide in order to help hide the fact that he is missing. Security is so abysmal at The Institute that it is almost 24 hours before the staff there even know he has escaped, by which time he has found himself on a train (this was not part of the original escape plan). He jumps off of the train as it slows down in Dupray.

A hotel owner in Dupray is on the payroll from those in charge of The Institute and he informs them that Luke is in town. Meanwhile, Luke has managed to convince Tim Jamieson and several other police officers of his story and, when the Sheriff arrives, a USB stick containing a confessional from Maureen, along with a harrowing video taken secretly in Back Half convinces them to help him.

As this agreement is made, a large number of staff from The Institute arrive in Dupray and, following a shoot-out, several police and all but Mrs. Sigsby and a doctor from The Institute are killed. Tim and Luke take the captured Mrs. Sigsby back to The Institute, where her second-in-command, a man called Stackhouse, tries to ambush them. Since Tim made Mrs. Sigsby drive the car, she is killed accidentally.

Whilst Luke has been away, several Back Half children (including Avery Dixon, who was sent to Back Half as punishment for helping Luke escape) round up those who have been in Back Half for longer and whose minds are almost completely broken and plan a revolution. They are stopped and blocked in a corridor and Stackhouse gives orders to kill them using poison gas created by mixing cleaning chemicals. As the gas is released, Avery, Kalisha, Iris, George, Nick, and the others join together and fight back. They use their minds to levitate areas of The Institute into the air. Kalisha, George, Nick, and Helen escape, but the others are killed when the corridor they are trapped in is crushed when an area of The Institute crashes on top of them.

The remaining Institute staff are all killed or flee and Tim takes Luke and his surviving friends back with him. Months later, they are visited by Mrs Sigsby's supervisor (an unnamed man who speaks with a vague lisp), who explains that the children in The Institute were being used to eliminate those who precogs working for The Institute have seen threatening the safety of the entire world. The Institute is just one of several around the world, although all of them have suffered revolutions at the same time, apparently co-ordinated by Avery Dixon. Luke argues with the man about the possibility of predicting the distant future, claiming that knowing the future will cause it to go in a different direction. The lisping man leaves Luke and his friends alone for the promise that the USB Stick (which has been hidden in a safe, each of the surviving children has a key) will not come to public knowledge.


At the review aggregator website Book Marks, which assigns individual ratings to book reviews from mainstream literary critics, the novel received a cumulative "Positive" rating based on 26 reviews: 9 "Rave" reviews, 13 "Positive" reviews, and 4 "Mixed" reviews.[3]

Publishers Weekly gave the novel a rave review, writing, "King wows with the most gut-wrenching tale of kids triumphing over evil since It [...] Tapping into the minds of the young characters, King creates a sense of menace and intimacy that will have readers spellbound [...] Not a word is wasted in this meticulously crafted novel, which once again proves why King is the king of horror."[4]

Kirkus Reviews said, "King fans won't be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It."[5]

Booklist's Carl Hays praised the novel, saying, "King devotees will, of course, devour this latest suspenseful page-turner, but any reader looking for a smart thriller about an unusual black ops organization will find this compelling and rewarding. With his usual blend of plot twists and vividly drawn characters, King remains at the top of his game."[6]

Writing for The Sunday Times, John Dugdale called it "a captivating, hybrid novel" but questioned its meaning, saying, "What it all adds up to, though, is unclear."[7]

Television adaptation[edit]

On the novel's publication date, it was announced that the television rights were secured by David E. Kelley and Jack Bender (producers of Mr. Mercedes) for a limited series.[8]


External links[edit]