Review: The Institute by Stephen King

RATING: 4.5/5


From #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephen King, the most riveting and unforgettable story of kids confronting evil since It—publishing just as the second part of It, the movie, lands in theaters.

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.


“He wanted to tell Luke that he loved him. But there were no words, and maybe no need of them. Or telepathy. Sometimes a hug was telepathy.”

This is the first Stephen King book that I have completed. I have picked up his Pet Sematary last year but I just cant finish it as I can’t get the feel of it. But The Institute changed my perspective towards King’s works.

In short, this is a story about the Institute who kidnaps children with psychic abilities namely, telekinesis (TK) and telepathy (TP). These kids are then subject to several tests and experiments (at the Front Half of the Institute) as well as the brutal treatment of the personnel of the Institute. They are eventually weaponized (at the Back Half of the Institute) to achieve the aims of some government conspiracy, mostly involving murdering someone in some parts of the world. Luke Ellis, the protagonist of the story managed to escape the Institute and together with his gang of friends in the Institute and some other characters at a small town of DuPray, manged to overthrow the Institute.

This story gives me the vibes of Stranger Things and X Men but with King’s own personal touch. There are some gut churning moments where I was left wondered on how adults can be so heartless and brutally abuse children. And I have to say, there are a few humorous moments between the interactions between Luke and his friends (Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris and Avery) and although some may say that the jokes are outdated but it works fine for me. I feel that King managed to tap into the mental state of the abusers, victims of abusers and prisoners very well. The ending and major showdown between the kids against the personnel of the Institute immediately spike up my initially 4 star rating to 4.5/5 star rating. This quote from the end of the story really is a food for thought: –

“Seventy years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated by atomic bombs, the world is still here even though many nations have atomic weapons, even though primitive human emotions still hold sway over rational thought and superstition masquerading as religion still guides the course of human politics.”

After reading the Institute, I think I will keep an eye of King’s works and maybe re-read Pet Sematary. There is indeed a reason why he is the most successful American author to date. 

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