If, at the age of 71 and with dozens of wildly successful novels under his belt, Stephen King decided he wanted to take a couple years off to do whatever it is Stephen King does in his downtime, he would be forgiven for doing so. The man has given us more than enough; no one is tapping their foot impatiently, wondering where his next novel is. Stephen King's a machine, one constructed - for better or for worse - without an "Off" switch.
As such, it will probably not surprise you to learn that his next novel, The Institute, arrives in September. You may be surprised, however, to hear how similar it sounds to The New Mutants (and a bunch of other things).
Here's the synopsis, from StephenKing.com:
"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."
Look, y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. Know I love Stephen King more than just about anything in this godforsaken world. But I gotta be frank here: this plot synopsis is not setting my world aflame. It sounds surprisingly derivative, like a million other movies, books and TV shows we've already seen ... some of which, yes, originated with Stephen King himself (our man loves the "kids being kidnapped, exploited and/or experimented on by those seeking to harness their psychic powers" trope almost as much as we love Stephen King). It's kind of disappointing!
Then again, there's no telling what this synopsis is keeping from us. Last year's The Outsider certainly sounded like one thing before turning out to be something else entirely in its back half, and it's entirely possibly that a similar game is being played here. Maybe we'll crack open The Institute and find out it's actually an epic space opera in disguise. You don't know.
In any event, you know we'll be picking up on day one, because we are Stephen King completists and that's what Stephen King completists do. How about y'all? Are you intrigued by the description above? Not so much? Are you worried this might turn out to be a stealth sequel to Firestarter? Sound off in the comments below, and stay tuned for further King updates as they become available.