• The Institute

  • A Novel
  • By: Stephen King
  • Narrated by: Santino Fontana
  • Length: 18 hrs and 59 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (42,832 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A 2020 Thriller/Suspense Audie Award winner!

A New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2019 selection

From number one New York Times best-selling author Stephen King, the most riveting and unforgettable story of kids confronting evil since It. 

“This is King at his best” (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch). 

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis' 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 10-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 “is another winner: creepy and touching and horrifyingly believable, all at once” (The Boston Globe). 

©2019 Stephen King (P)2019 Simon & Schuster Audio

Critic Reviews

"Stephen King's newest audiobook is compulsively entertaining and features a dazzling performance by narrator Santino Fontana.... Fontana does wonders with this diverse lineup of young characters who band together to fight their captors. Each of them sounds authentic and unique. Meanwhile, the adult characters, with a few exceptions, are a nightmarish bunch. Through them, Fontana shows that evil can have many different voices.... [King's] and Fontana's talents are a winning combination." (AudioFile magazine)

Featured Article: The Shining—Book vs. Movie


Set in the claustrophobia-inducing snow-covered peaks of an isolated hotel in the middle of the Rockies, The Shining is a classic work of psychological horror that’s just about as chilling as it gets. But it’s so, so much more than your classic story of spirits and a man’s descent into madness—it’s also a tender yet deeply painful meditation on addiction, family, abuse, and redemption. Stanley Kubrick rejected Stephen King's initial treatment of the screenplay, and the author was largely dissatisfied with his novel’s jump to the big screen. So what exactly are the differences between The Shining movie and the novel?

Editor's Pick

The King is back!
"Stephen King’s new thriller, The Institute, takes its place at the head of the table—comfortably seated alongside his other great works. As a huge Stephen King fan, I have been impatiently awaiting this listen for quite some time. To make it an even bigger deal, it’s performed by the great and all-powerful narrator, Santino Fontana. Talk about a wonder team! The story starts off with Luke Ellis, whose life is turned upside down literally overnight. After his parents are murdered and he’s kidnapped by mysterious people in an unmarked car, Luke is dropped into The Institute, where some kids disappear behind doors for being bad (Back Half) while other kids are awarded tokens for being good (Front Half). Will Luke be able to escape, or will he soon fall victim to what’s behind the Back Half of The Institute?"
Nicole R., Audible Editor

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What listeners say about The Institute

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this novel.. but..

Sometimes Stephen keeps me glued to a story. I have called in sick to work because I had to read a new section of the 'Green Mile,' and I think I ran and hid at the library and neglected my family for a day when I read 11-22-63. There have been so many others that I have devoured voraciously, and I *really* wanted to like 'The Institute,' but alas I did not.

The story starts out with a drifter in New England who takes a job as a door knocker/security person. He seems interesting enough. Then we get into the kiddos who have found themselves at 'The Institute' where weird things happen. Seemingly gifted children are subjected to several movies, food, and testing- and we really don't know why. It seems that there is a government conspiracy to suck the smart out of children for a greater purpose.

The problem is, it's repetitive and boring. I couldn't quite get into it. I felt like I was skimming the surface of the story because there was just, well.. no point where I could bite into it.

King's books are often hit or miss for me, and this one wasn't terrible, but it wasn't anything to write home to mom about.. And, I am disappointed.

-Wendi

205 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Entertained But Disappointed

Ultimately, Stephen King’s “The Institute” left me disappointed, but I am not unhappy that I downloaded it. The narration is great, the characters and their motivations are portrayed clearly, and the plot, although one of King’s weakest in my opinion, is solid enough to keep my interest. In fact, I got through the audio (18 hours of it) very quickly and am sure I will go back for more. And yet, the book as a whole is unsatisfying: not bad but not one of his best.

Without revealing too much of the plot, I will say simply that it follows a “revenge” pattern, with the protagonist suffering horribly for two-thirds of the novel before getting anything like what might be called justice. After the brutal and (if I’m being honest) tiresome, torture sequences end, the action accelerates, story lines converge, and (some) mysteries are explained, all of it accompanied by a grand finale of the usual, imaginative depictions of The Big Good-vs-Evil Showdown.

Pardon me if my tone seems somewhat negative, but I was hoping for more. The world that King depicts in “The Institute” certainly seems to have more to it than what is presented here. It says a lot that if a sequel were offered, I would be back in line for more since even a mildly disappointing King novel is better than most of what is available, yet, I can’t help feeling disappointed. I was hoping for King to knock it out of the park with this one.

145 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • MK
  • 09-12-19

Top Five King Novel

If you’re considering this book, chances are you’re a fan of King. And you’ve probably noticed that some of his novels are super weird and out there, while others are just regular weird—and I say that with the understanding that all of King’s books are awesome.

This one is just regular weird. It’s more like Doctor Sleep and Mr Mercedes than it is Tommyknockers.

For me - and I don’t want to spoil anything, so this will lack substance - this book pulled me in more than any other. Maybe it’s some unknown childhood baggage that my therapist will uncover one day. Or maybe King continues to get better and better—which doesn’t seem possible for someone who became the literal king of this genre decades ago.

King has used this “abused child” theme in other books and his use of telepathy is not new. He intertwines the two in a masterful way. He gets you rooting for the hero’s and pissed and the abusers—like really pissed. I was mad.

To my surprise, there were a few hours where I just could not stop listening (and I paid the price the next day at work!). I was too engrossed and wound up. That rarely happens for me.

Definitely worth a credit.

141 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Disappointed

I remained hopeful for the full 18 hours of listening, but alas the last hour held all the juice, and was crammed into such a fraction of what I felt like was a large investment of my time. This is not the King I know and love. There seemed to be multiple missed opportunities to expand and develop these characters and instead those voids were filled with snarky political jabs that didn’t contribute anything to the story. I was also disappointed that Tim and his SC crew were bookended instead of developed a little more. The entirety of the story just felt like something was...missing. I got a Nazi Germany vibe from The Institute the whole time, but throwing in the visit from the Lisping Man after the fact (that went nowhere) was the only link to that, and felt very much like an afterthought, a quick add-in to give it some background that definitely deserved a little more.

The narration was top notch and quite honestly the only thing that kept me listening until the end. Otherwise, I was rather disappointed.

129 people found this helpful

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  • DT
  • 09-19-19

Did the King Really Write This?

I wanted so badly to like this book. A fan of King since around 1981, I've seen the grail, the great, the good and the not-so-good. I had hoped for a bit of the King of old, where character development was not something you noticed happening. Where laugh out loud moments were commonplace, not because something was necessarily funny, but because you were hit with just how TRUE something was. And really really mean and nasty bad guys. I mean, Mean.
Now, the bad guys in The Institute are mean, don't get me wrong. But they're mean like you're reading a textbook about mean people written by a person who normally writes math problems. Does that make sense?
Maybe the narration gets in the way a bit, as it has a habit of doing. It takes a very special type of person to do justice to an SK novel (Frank Muller, may he rest in peace).
Also, and I'm not sure if this is something that's always been present in King's novels...I don't think it is, but what's with the political jabs? Nothing stops your roller coaster with a brick wall like an ill-placed, almost non-sequitur of a political statement. I have to be honest, I did almost stop listening at one point.
All that being said, this book is better than most of those in the thriller and horror genres out there today, in my opinion.
Please keep them coming, Constant Writer.

89 people found this helpful

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I love LOVE Mr. King's work... but

I think that Mr. King is an amazing author, one of the best of the 21st and 22nd century. I have read almost every one of his books... and I am working on the rest. I know how his works and writing styles have changed with different life events that he has lived through, and I think you can see how his writing styles have changed over the years. But here it is... since 2016 he has started really pushing a WOKE view into the background of his stories.... and this one is the most political that I have read. like I have stated, I love Mr. King's works, but his subtle little political jabs just take away from his stories. completely my opinion... I will continue to read his books, but it just makes his new books not as enjoyable as his past works. This is his art, his talent that he shares with us. Buyer, be aware that this book will have a political undertone that you may not enjoy.

87 people found this helpful

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Fantastic

For the life of me, I couldn't stop listening to this audiobook without experiencing some kind of weird withdrawal.

73 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • M
  • 09-13-19

Meh

Very, very predictable...
I didn’t hate it, but I was disappointed. I wouldn’t recommend it I don’t think. Maybe if someone was looking for an easy read.

66 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Not number one, but still a really good read!

Spoiler Free Review:
This really was a good read and I don't think it was as incredibly predictable as some people claim. There were certainly aha moments, where you could piece together what was going on with the Institute and where things were going to go. In general though I wasn't predicting every little thing and waiting for things I knew would happen. the book still kept me guessing. Yes, this is not a terribly uncommon premise for a book, but I think King added enough of a unique twist to make it a nice addition to the collection of stories about kids getting kidnapped for experimental psychic testing.

It is a bit long and drags a tiny bit in some parts (any longer book will have this problem), so if a big book intimidates you, this might not be for you. Also, as the description for the book reveals, this is a book with quite a bit of unpleasant things happening to children, so if you're not a fan of child abuse, this probably isn't a book for you either.

I really enjoyed the narrator for this book. Like a lot of novels it is read in third person and the narrator has a "narrator voice" he uses. However, if the third person observation is the thoughts of a specific character, is describing what a specific character is doing, or is just about a certain character, he will use that character's voice instead of the narrator one. I thought this was a nice touch and I haven't heard it done like that before (although I will say I haven't read THAT many books on Audible yet so it could actually be very common). He did struggle a little bit with accents, but it wasn't the worst I've ever heard and personally didn't find it overly distracting.

The characters were all fairly interesting. There was strong development of our main characters throughout the book and I was able to connect and feel for them and their struggles. There were maybe a few too many side characters that didn't add as much to the story and could have been left out, but overall I enjoyed the main ones and understood their emotions, struggles, and growth in the story.

Overall, I would recommend the read. Although not an incredibly unique premise, it was still well written and brought some interesting ideas to the table. It has a dark atmosphere like any traditional King book, but still has that sliver of hope that everyone will get out okay. If you want to find out what happens to Luke and his friends and the secret of The Institute, you should dive in and find out!

With Spoiler Review:
I did not expect the book to go the way it did. I expected it to be almost entirely about the main characters' time in the Institute and maybe the last section be an escape. Based on the fact so many people in the reviews described it as boring and incredibly predictable, I was actually really surprised that a basic story about children being tortured for their powers and a simple escape at the end was actually NOT what I got.

Instead we open with the story of Tim and how he ends up in a small town in South Carolina (which at the time was weird, but we soon learn why he's important to the story). It then shifts to the main story of Luke and his time in The Institute. For the first 2/3 of the book we follow Luke and the abuse him and his friends have to go through. The reader is left in the dark for a LONG time on what exactly is going on at the Institute. You're given bits and pieces and it is possible to guess and figure out (especially if you have seen movies/read other books with a similar premise). Since it's not a new story, figuring out Big Brother is real, is not incredibly hard to figure out.

2/3 of the way into the book, Luke actually escapes quite easily and the rest of the story is about his revenge, trying to stay safe, getting the other kids out, and finally learning all the details of what's happening at the Institute. This is also where Tim comes back into the story as he helps Luke on this journey of revenge and freeing his friends. A secret organization trying to protect the world from itself and abusing kids to do it (again, not an incredibly new story, but still has a unique way of telling it). At the end Luke and a few of his friends are able to escape after a pretty intense climax at the institute. We find out there are many like this one around the world and that they all came crashing down (literally) because of the children and their revolt.

The book finishes with the children escaping and going on to live their lives free, but with the remains of the institute still existing. Will the institutes come back? King leaves it open for the reader to guess if this world will once again see the secret kidnapping and abuse of children for the "good of the world". At least for now we know that a few children are free, including Luke, and they get to go to live "normal" lives.

I would be interested to see if there will be a sequel to this with Luke and his friends as adults coming back to defeat a reformed Institute, It Part 2 style. Or maybe even a prequel going into how the Institutes first started and the experiences of the different kids trapped there. I guess time will tell. It would also be cool to see King expand on the Institute and it's leading organization. This book goes through a lot about what the one location does and how it fits into the bigger whole, but I would have liked to see at least a little more about this secret Illuminati like organization that runs the operation. It was a great read and I enjoyed the journey. It's far from perfect and somehow still needed a little more despite it's length. There were some sections that could have been left out or at least tidied up a little bit, but that is usually the case with King books and for me is something I've grown to like with his style.

This was a great read and I recommend taking a look!

63 people found this helpful

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Disappointment

Was this written by the REAL Stephen King???
It dragged on forever and I only stuck with it to see if it would get better. It didn’t. No disrespect, Mr King. I am a huge fan, but I will be returning this one


52 people found this helpful

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