In a quiet Minnesota neighborhood, intruders kidnap 12-year-old prodigy Luke Ellis and murder his parents. When Luke wakes up, he finds himself in a room identical to his own bedroom, except that he is now a resident of the Institute—a facility that tests telekinetic and telepathic abilities of children.
The Institute, is another winner: creepy and touching and horrifyingly believable ... casual description of the looming unknown is emblematic of what makes King’s writing, and this book, so effective ... In some ways, The Institute reads like a re-working of Firestarter for our times ... It is also a tad long-winded. It’s always lovely to have more of a King novel to read, but this one could have lost some pages ... That’s a minor complaint for a major work, however. The vast bulk of The Institute is essential—plot and characterization working hand-in-hand to create an intimate picture of horror.
King’s most unsettling antagonists are human-size ... consummately honed and enthralling as the very best of his work ... these first 40 pages — low-key and relaxed, an unaffected and genially convincing depiction of a certain uncelebrated walk of life — demonstrate how engaging King’s fiction can be even without an underlying low whine of dread ... ruminates on the people who carry out the administration’s policies on the ground, the sort of working folk he usually champions ... Of all the cosmic menaces that King’s heroes have battled, this slow creep into inhumanity may be the most terrifying yet because it is all too real.
...a big shank of a book that reminded me instantly of many of the reasons I loved (love?) [King]. His characters are the kind of people who hear the trains in the night. The music is always good. He swings low to the ground. He gets closer to the realities and attitudes of working-class life in America than any living writer I can think of ... I read The Institute quickly and painlessly and I tried to enjoy myself. That I didn’t is partly a matter of temperament. I generally want to smack a (fictional) kid with special powers. I don’t care about quests or magic or Vulcan mind-melding. Yet I can suspend my predispositions. The right writer can convince me to stick around. King kept me marginally on the hook ... buries itself under a self-generating avalanche of clichés ... The right words are all we have in this world, and King too rarely pauses to search for them. He can access a good deal of genuine chrome-wheeled magic as a writer, but he reaches too often for the canned and frozen stuff, for the dried spices, for word-clusters that fell off the back of a Sysco truck ... feels antiquated and a bit gamey in other ways. The novel is set in the present day, but potatoes are 'spuds,' coffee is 'joe'...You may start to feel you’re in a ’50s-era cartoon strip ... This novel is less a motorcycle than a double-decker bus, but it does handle gracefully. The plot never stalls. There’s a fervent anti-Trump streak. And King still really knows what to do when he gets his characters out on the road.