Thursday, October 8, 2009

Book Review: Lockdown; Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon-Smith

Title: Furnace Lockdown

Author: Alexander Gordon-Smith

Pages: 292

Summary (American version):

Furnace Penitentiary: the world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to life without parole, “new fish” Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world. Except in Furnace, death is the least of his worries. Soon Alex discovers that the prison is a place of pure evil, where inhuman creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood-drenched tunnels below. And behind everything is the mysterious, all-powerful warden, a man as cruel and dangerous as the devil himself, whose unthinkable acts have consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the prison.

Together with a bunch of inmates—some innocent kids who have been framed, others cold-blooded killers—Alex plans an escape. But as he starts to uncover the truth about Furnace’s deeper, darker purpose, Alex’s actions grow ever more dangerous, and he must risk everything to expose this nightmare that’s hidden from the eyes of the world.


Where did I get this book? (yes, I am abiding by your rules senseless-goverment drones. Are you happy?): from the lovely author, Alexander Gordon-Smith (Call-Me-Gordon). Sent me some nice swag as well as the sequel (which I'm gonna need).

Hot damn. Hot damn.

This book...it's something else. It's like nothing else you've seen. It is wholly and completly a work of it's own, thrilling and horrifying with a way to make you feel like the walls are closing in just with words. The characters have a good guy appeal that are impossible to dislike, and, goddamnit, it's scary.

I can tell you the exact moment my life went to hell.


Alex is a schoolyard bully turned break-in burglar. Along with his buddy Toby, the two hit an empty house rumored to hold enough cash and jewelery to keep them comfortable for a good long while. But they discover the house isn't empty after all--large, merciless men in black suits swarm Alex and Toby, shooting Toby in the head and giving the gun to Alex, telling him he just killed his best friend and he better get running.

Though the date is unclear, Lockdown is clearly in an alternate future, where there are 5+ Indiana Jones films, several Darren Shan movies, and a Super-Prison called Furnace. After a a ring of murders committed by teenagers years ago, known as the Summer of Slaughter, the goverment decided on a one-size-fits-all solution; one prison for anyone under eighteen, anyone who's killed somebody.

Well, not quite.

Alex, along with several other inmates who were framed for the crimes their accused of, are sent down into the pits of Furnace, never to see the light of day again. Furnace is filled with monsters, killers and gangs who have nothing to lose. There, Alex meets Zee, framed for the murder of an old lady, and Donovan, there since the very formation of Furnace, convicted of killing his abusive stepfather. Together, they plan hte ultimate escape--breaking out of the world's worst prison.

This is one of the only times while reading a book that I've ever felt actually claustrophobic, and that other time was while reading Orwell's 1984. Furnace is a place without hope, without a light at the end of the tunnel. It makes regular high-security jails look like a fucking brunch. Just the idea of a place like Furnace--a place thousands of feet underground, with a way in but no way out--was enough to send goosebumps up my arm. But that, along with the Weezers--distorted leather-heads with gas masks for faces--and the skinless Hell Hounds was simply, piss-pantesedly frightening.

Gordon has a certain, more refined Darren Shan-esque style of writing; mainly male cast, a surreal, evil, grotesque atmosphere that is more subtle. Furnace is colored in red, blood red covering the walls and the hands of every inmate. There is a hopeless dispair that grasps the reader and forces them to imagine--if only for a second--being in the closest thing to Hell we as humans can reach, with no way out and no end in sight.

Scared yet?

The characters were as layered as a book like this could allow. I wouldn't have minded a bit more emphasis on their pasts, but as far as I'm concerned this is the most an author (that I've read, anyway) writing a thriller as taken to pan in on the minor characters.

Alex especially stands out as a former bully who is completly aware of the error of his ways, the stupidity of his choices that landed him in Furnace--though it really doesn't matter what he did, what any of these schmucks did. Furnace is something no body deserves.

Every second of this book is heightened with an avalanche of emotion--from the break in, to the trial, to the bus, right down to the long elevator ride bringing Alex deeper and deeper into hell.

Rationally, I was griping about how little information they give on Furnace, it's creation, the Summer of Slaughter, the reasoning why humans would turn their back on such a place, etc. But, god help me, I was so compelled I had no reasoning left in me.

Lockdown ends in major cliffhanger and, luckily, I've been provided with the sequel, which I'm pretty sure I'll finish in five seconds over the weekend. Back on hand, however, Lockdown is undoubtebly one of the most frightening, adreneline-fueled YA novel--novel in general, really--you'll ever read. So ridiculously reccomended I'll probably break the keyboard saying it.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Also: Coolest website ever. Check it out.

4 comments:

Rhiannon Hart said...

Wow, FANTASTIC review--I've seen the cover and synopsis around, but not a review and you make it sound amazing. I can't wait to read a copy.

thekams said...

Wonderful review, this book sounds amazing! You definitely made me want to go out and buy it right now, so on my list it goes!

StephanieD said...

This seems very dark. And scary. I was looking for something to scare myself with this month.

Ana said...

Isn't it a GREAT book? : D

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