Lockdown (Escape from Furnace 1) by Alexander Gordon Smith

Stars: 5 out of 5

This was terrifying y’all! 

My problem with a lot of horror books is that the characters in them are either not fully realized or so unpleasant that sometimes you wish the monsters got them, so it’s hard to root for them. Not so in this book. The author has a knack for writing reliable characters that feel real. Are they good people? Not by a long stretch, but neither are they bad people. They are kids. They are teenage boys trapped in a nightmare and left to fend for themselves. Of course there will be acts of extreme cruelty involved.

The premise itself is terrifying in its inhumanity. Imagine locking away children, since some of them are barely 10 years old. For Life. With no possibility of appeal and parole. In an underground prison. And they are never allowed visitors. As far as humanity is concerned, the prisoners cease to be human and become property as soon as they cross the gates into Furnace. What should have happened to society for the public to think that a prison like that was normal or even welcome? What happened that parents would agree to something like that? That human right activists aren’t up in arms and railing against this?

So the children stuck in Furnace have no hope, and no future. That in itself would be terrifying. No wonder they form gangs and lash out against each other – they are all desperate and, frankly, they don’t have anything to loose anymore. Now add to that the cruelty of the guards and their indifference to the violence happening between inmates. Oh, and things worst then guards prowl the halls at night, and sometimes they take prisoners. Those taken never come back, or if they do, they are changed. 

Like I said, just the premise would have made for a terrifying book, but what distinguishes it from other horror stories and YA books is that the author has a knack for writing relatable characters. I got to know and care for Alex, Donovan, Zee, and a few others. I grew to like them. So the sheer terror of their everyday existence in Furnace hit closer to home. They weren’t just two-dimensional characters destined to die in horrible ways just to add to the horror factor. Those were kids I cared about. I mean even Morty being taken was hard. The loss of another character closer to the end of the book was a real gut punch. 

The action is also pretty tight in this book. There are no slumps, and the sense of dread grows the closer you get to the ending. And while the ending provides some kind of resolution to the immediate issue of the book, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The most important of them being – where they actually able to escape and what will they do now that they did?

I am definitely invested in the characters and the world this author has created, so I will be picking up the next book in the series. In fact, I put the whole series on my TBR list.

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