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Old 10-04-2019, 06:38 AM
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The Institute by Stephen King - anyone else read it? (open spoilers)


Audible tried to recruit me with a free book, so I decided to use it to pre-order the audiobook of the newest King book, The Institute. I was kind of excited to go into this one totally blind. I am not the biggest King fan, but I have read the Dark Tower and about 7-10 other books of his over the years.

All I knew was the title and not a single bit of synopsis or anything else. I just decided to go into this one completely clueless and see how it goes.

My thoughts:

Wow, hugely disappointing. I'm sure at least a little bit of my disappointment was that I was excited about it, but mainly, this book was forgettable. If I had not known King was the author, I would have just figured this was another generic "psychic kids" or "kids being abducted for experiments" book. There, to me, was nothing to make this stand out in any special way.

In the opening 20-30%, I began to figure that there must be a significant twist or development that would reframe the story and elevate it. I kind of figured that the opening was to make us think this was just a typical book about kids being abducted and experimented on, but that it would evolve into something grander. Nope. Just a standard book with no major twists coming. The basic plot synopsis is the book, nothing hidden or coming to make it anything more than a decent read.

Anyway, hardly a terrible book, but it will be forgotten. I have heard they may make a TV adaptation. That might improve it, might not.

5/10 would be my score if forced to rank it.

Has anyone else read it?
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Old 10-04-2019, 07:21 AM
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Read it, pretty much agree with you. No tie-ins to the Dark Tower universe, no profound mysteries, a lot of playing with reader's emotions via multiple adults being needlessly cruel to children.

And I come from the point of view of an SK fan, who's ready (nearly) all his fiction. I couldn't finish the one collaboration he did with his son (Sleeping Beauties?) but generally have enjoyed if not loved most of his other works.

Oh well, I'll still read whatever he publishes.
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Old 10-04-2019, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
Read it, pretty much agree with you. No tie-ins to the Dark Tower universe, no profound mysteries, a lot of playing with reader's emotions via multiple adults being needlessly cruel to children.

And I come from the point of view of an SK fan, who's ready (nearly) all his fiction. I couldn't finish the one collaboration he did with his son (Sleeping Beauties?) but generally have enjoyed if not loved most of his other works.

Oh well, I'll still read whatever he publishes.
I"m kind of surprised he published it or even finished it. I would have believed he looked at it half-way and realized it was very generic and backed out.

If it were a movie script, I would believe it was a cheap pay-to-write script that he threw together for the money.
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Old 10-04-2019, 09:28 AM
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Oh well, I'll still read whatever he publishes.
Just started reading The Institute. So far, so good. But, yeah, I'd read his grocery list if it became available.
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Old 10-04-2019, 11:45 AM
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I enjoyed it a lot. It didn’t grab me hard from the start as his work sometimes does, but once I got into it, it did, and I found it very absorbing until the conclusion.
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Old 10-04-2019, 06:05 PM
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I enjoyed it too. It's not my favorite of his work (that's reserved for things like It, The Stand, Carrie, and others) but it kept my interest and I read it through in a couple of sittings, which I rarely do these days.

I find King to be very hit-or-miss these days, and this one, for me, was a hit. Just please don't let him write any more books with his son, and I'll be happy.
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Old 10-04-2019, 06:16 PM
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It was ok. It won't be up there with my favorites (Stand, Eyes of the Dragon), but it won't be hanging out on the bottom with Gerald's Game. Or the Tommyknockers. I'm re-reading all his work in pub order and I just hit Tommyknockers and it's really hard to motivate myself to read it, especially as it's so long. And while I liked the Dark Half enough, it's the one up next and it's not like "Ok, get through Tommyknockers and you'll be reading one of your favorites."

Anyway, I liked the main character and I found the whole premise very unsettling. So that automatically makes it in the positive in the King column.

Also, he announced on Twitter today his new book cover and title. If It Bleeds, with a very creepy Church/that-one-from-Creepshow cat on the cover.
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Old 10-04-2019, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
Read it, pretty much agree with you. No tie-ins to the Dark Tower universe, no profound mysteries, a lot of playing with reader's emotions via multiple adults being needlessly cruel to children.

And I come from the point of view of an SK fan, who's ready (nearly) all his fiction. I couldn't finish the one collaboration he did with his son (Sleeping Beauties?) but generally have enjoyed if not loved most of his other works.

Oh well, I'll still read whatever he publishes.
I started The Institute but got distracted by other things and haven't yet got back to it. I will say, though, that Qadgop sums up my feelings exactly. I've always been a great fan of Stephen King but I never did finish Sleeping Beauties -- the first time I've ever abandoned anything by SK. King has a brilliant writer's mind and is a master of his craft, but I fear that sheer volume has diluted the quality of his work and the peak of his writing is probably behind him.

ETA:
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Originally Posted by Fair Rarity View Post
Also, he announced on Twitter today his new book cover and title. If It Bleeds, with a very creepy Church/that-one-from-Creepshow cat on the cover.
The man just can't stop! Contrast that with Erik Larson, admittedly a completely different genre and not even fiction. But his latest book on Churchill was supposed to be out this fall, like about now, and he's been doing so much revision and rewriting that now it won't be out until March 2020! But for just that reason, I'm sure it will be as terrific as all his other books.

Last edited by wolfpup; 10-04-2019 at 06:51 PM.
  #9  
Old 10-06-2019, 09:29 PM
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My father was a Presbyterian minister. He voted Republican, was socially moderate but otherwise pretty politically conservative. To my Mom's consternation, he liked a good horror movie, and while Dad always made fun of Dark Shadows, he would somehow manage to be in the room when it was on in the afternoon. He also liked books, and was a member of a couple of those "Book of the Month" clubs, where they sent you the monthly selection or you could be pick an alternative. I never paid much attention to the books, but one day back in 1975 (when I was an impressionable age 14) my father handed me the one he had just read and said, "I think you might like this one." It was Salem's Lot and it just blew me away. After that I read pretty much everything Stephen King ever wrote for years.

That was 44 years ago. I was on vacation this week with my wife in the North Carolina mountains in the same family cabin I have visited most summers since I was born. I have read countless Stephen King books here and I thought fondly of my father and that history as I read The Institute.

The thing is that back in 1975 Stephen King was a new voice. His horror fiction was so much better than the standard contemporary horror novels of the time. He can still tell a good story, and the 500 pages of The Institute flew by. I cared about our heroes and disliked the villains. I had fun.

But the voice of King is not "new" as it once was. We know his character types, many of of his his tricks, his way of expression. It's all so familiar. And because the storytelling is familiar it is not going to ever be as good as The Stand, The Shining, or (still my favorite) Salem's Lot. But that's ok.

I don't read everything by King nowadays. The reviews of Sleeping Beauties, for example, kept me away from that one. But in a mountain house in the woods on a cool October night The Institute worked for me.
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Old 10-06-2019, 10:03 PM
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I enjoyed it- my only complaint was I wish there had been more of Tim's story in between the scenes with the kids at the Institute instead of devoting so much time to him in the beginning then leaving him out until he crosses paths with Luke Ellis. It reminded me of IT and ,of course,Firestarter. At times it was slightly eye-rolling (I'm looking at you giant telephone) but it still made for an entertaining commute.
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Old 10-07-2019, 06:49 AM
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I enjoyed it- my only complaint was I wish there had been more of Tim's story in between the scenes with the kids at the Institute instead of devoting so much time to him in the beginning then leaving him out until he crosses paths with Luke Ellis. It reminded me of IT and ,of course,Firestarter. At times it was slightly eye-rolling (I'm looking at you giant telephone) but it still made for an entertaining commute.
I also was puzzled by the structural setup of the book. Starting with Tim and then not coming back for a long time was weird. I get that a book could do this, but it did not work well in this one, at least not for me.
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:03 AM
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I agree with all y'all; this wasn't his best effort. I always enjoy the familiarity of King (like Biotop, I started reading King's stuff when he was fairly new and grew up right along with his career). I was glad it didn't veer off into bizarre territory, because I've always liked the more plausible stuff, so it was good in that respect. However, I did feel like the story got pretty bloated in the middle with the everlasting escape, and nothing happened for a while. I also was reminded of Firestarter, which IMO is a much better book.
One moment grabbed me emotionally
SPOILER:
The guy who found Luke on the train and gave him the food
That was great. But for the most part I just wasn't that connected to the (many, many, many) characters.


I've already pre-ordered If It Bleeds.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:23 PM
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That was 44 years ago.
Wow, this comment just crushed my soul because I did the math and I've been reading him for a still-respectable 30 years. Like, there are whole fully formed adults who weren't even born when I picked up Carried for the first time (and for you, those unborn people might even be grandparents!) I always felt like I came to the fandom late because so many of the classics were already written, but math-wise, I've been around for 2/3 of it and things like "Needful Things" are not the "new" books any more.
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Old 10-08-2019, 03:11 AM
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Most of his child characters speak and behave like adults, which I find a little tiresome, this has it in spades. But I got through it, and agree with Dung's spoiler.

Would have liked it better if
SPOILER:
the dire warnings of apocalypse had come the pass "2 years later: The bombs began to fall. The End"
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Old 10-09-2019, 11:49 PM
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I found King's latest to be interesting and worth the read but I really thought it was going to have a bigger twist when it was least expected, I was surprised he didn't include an Easter egg tie-in as he tends to do with his Dark Tower genre, I figured that The Institute would have had some connection with that sinister government agency "The Shop" from Firestarter.
I really hope that his book "Duma Key" gets developed into either a miniseries or picture. It is my favorite novel by him!
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Old 10-10-2019, 04:32 AM
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Hated it. Very, very tedious. I was hoping for something and it never came.

I LOVE Stephen King, I really do. Unfortunately I believe his best books were written when he was 'under the influence'.

A few after, but few and far between.

And I HATED the Dark Tower crap.
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Old 10-10-2019, 04:27 PM
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And I HATED the Dark Tower crap.
Stone him ! Stone him!

Anybody got a packet of gravel?
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Old 10-10-2019, 05:04 PM
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Stone him ! Stone him!

Anybody got a packet of gravel?
Gonna have to stone me, too.

I never got into the Dark Tower series. I think I liked a couple of the books okay (like books 2 and 3). The first one was tedious and the rest got increasingly self-indulgent as King inserted himself into the series.

But then again, I don't like the Princess Bride, either. I fully acknowledge that I'm weird.
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Old 10-14-2019, 08:42 PM
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I listened the Audible version and enjoyed it. The reader did a good job with the voices and kept me interested, even during the dull or eye-rolling sections.

I've been reading King since a friend loaned me a copy of The Dead Zone when we were in 9th grade. (That was 1983. Good goshalmighty, that's 36 years ago!) I've only quit one of his novels partway in. That would be Lisey's Story. Yeah, I even read Insomnia cover to cover. I've always been partial to Christine, since I grew up in the Pittsburgh area and am quite familiar with that infamous airport parking lot.
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Old 10-15-2019, 06:13 AM
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Just started reading The Institute. So far, so good. But, yeah, I'd read his grocery list if it became available.
I finished the book a few days later and really liked it. Sure, it wasn't The Stand, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
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Old Yesterday, 02:31 PM
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Another long-time SK fan here. At 13, I saw the Kubrick Shining and came home too scared to sleep, so I decided I might as well start reading the book. Poor decision sleep-wise but it led to countless hours of pleasure over the years.

I think everything he's ever published has been at least pretty good. I'd put this one top half. Maybe top quarter if I reread the last hundred pages or so and they make more sense the second time.

The characters were vividly drawn and likable/detestable, the plot was fast-moving and suspenseful and the setting horrifically creepy. I was really into this book most of the way, and the twin climactic scenes in South Carolina and back at the Institute were gripping, but the ending just sort of petered out. In particular, this may not reflect well on me, but after 300 pages of children being sadistically abused, I was ready for the abusers to get punished at some length in graphic detail. I was actually sort of hoping for the book to end with some trial or hearing scene like the end of the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, with Luke brilliantly foiling the villains' last-ditch to cover up their crimes. But instead, everyone just sort of shrugged and dispersed.

Also, although the climactic scenes were exciting to read at the time, neither of them were really very plausible, even given the degree of disbelief-suspension a book like this demands.

SPOILER:

I couldn't figure out how Luke was going to escape from the retrieval team, given that the good guys clearly had no realistic chance of beating them in a fight; and then it just turned out that they did so, anyway. Meanwhile, back at the Institute...it's THAT easy to magnify a kid's power to building-crushing levels just by accident? And this had somehow never happened before?


Mahaloth, how many books about kids being abducted and experimented on do you read? You make it sound like it's a whole subgenre.

I thought the structural gimmick worked; get the DuPray crowd established as characters at the start, so you don't have to interrupt the real story to introduce them when they come in. I liked Tim and his friends fine, but Luke Ellis was a great King lead character and the soul of the book. Stackhouse wasn't wrong when he called Tim "some generic hero the kid picked up along the way" (not a direct quote). I think I would have been found it irritating to have the hair-raising Institute narrative interrupted by chapters about Tim's job interview and the mini-mart stickup.

Given the extreme evil, large hi-tech operation exploiting psychic children motif, I was kind of expecting some Easter-eggy allusion to the Crimson King, but I don't see that having one would have actually made the book any better.

TLDR: 3 1/2 rectal thermometers out of 5.
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Old Yesterday, 02:34 PM
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Hated it. Very, very tedious. I was hoping for something and it never came.

I LOVE Stephen King, I really do. Unfortunately I believe his best books were written when he was 'under the influence'.

A few after, but few and far between.

And I HATED the Dark Tower crap.
So you LOVE him except for, like 4/5 of his books? (IIRC Cujo was the last book he wrote before getting sober...somewhere around then, anyway)
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