No, Mesh is Not a Stephen King Rip-Off

I was watching the Colbert Show today – catching up on Youtube as one does – and I ran across Stephen King talking about his new book, “The Institute.” King described his book as a story where kids ‘fight the power,’ and I immediately got scared. Would readers of The Institute think Mesh is a rip-off of Stephen King? I’m happy to say the answer to that question is: no.

Here’s how I know. Quick google-fu gets us to the synopsis, which reads as follows:

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.

My story’s about kids going to a school for super-smart teens. No murder, no telekenisis, no brutality. Here’s the synopsis again, for the curious:

“My name is Roman Diaz. One day I was a nerdy kid. The next day I’m on the run. Everyone thinks I’m a terrorist. I just wanted an ‘A’ on my science project.”

Fourteen-year-old Roman is on the fast track to nowhere, as a wheelchair-bound nerd in a dead-end school. A prestigious technical academy offers him and his geeky best-friend Zeke a way out. How can they say no?

Miramar Technical High isn’t just another magnet school: it’s an incubator for the next Elon Musk and Albert Einstein. Their new principal, Doctor Gray, has created a strange community of geeks, gamers and geniuses. Roman and Zeke are addicted to the weird, techno-anarchy of a campus filled with tough, smart kids. Pranks, hacks, and androids are only the beginning.

The stakes for success are high: Roman and Zeke join the Snow Foxes, the top talent at Miramar, to build a tool that will not only win first prize at the Titan Conference, but will also change the world. Everything changes when they learn the truth about Project November, and their techno-god principal. Friends become enemies. Truths becomes lies. Rockstar students are criminals … that’s what it says on TV, anyway.

Roman is now the most hunted kid in America. What is he going to do? Miramar created a secret weapon that the bad guys didn’t count on: The Mesh. It’s a secret project, something nobody cared about. Is it really the only thing standing between the forces of good and evil?

MESH is the first novel in a science fiction YA series that will appeal to readers of Ernie Cline’s READY PLAYER ONE and binge-watchers of STRANGER THINGS.

So, yeah, no. Mesh and The Institute are nothing alike. Where King still weaves his love of the supernatural into the narrative, Mesh is very anti-supernatural. If you love The Institute, great. Mesh isn’t that. This is pure nerd, 99-point-forty-four percent. I wish him and his readers well, but my readers are into different things, and I write for them.

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