VOYA - Jonatha Bayse
Alex Sawyer has been sent to Furnace Penitentiary, a place where teenagers are sent to disappear. Alex and his friends have seem many horrorsthe wheezers with their black suits and gas masks, the monstrous dogs that chase them through the corridors of Furnace, and the infirmary where the inmates are turned into creatures that are far from human. Alex wants out, and in a bad way. He and his compatriots have managed to blast their way even deeper into the confines of Furnace, but a way out still eludes them. Alex and Zee have now been sent to solitary, a place where most prisoners lose their minds. In the small confines of his cell, Alex begins to hallucinate, seeing the ghostly image of his friend Donovan who was captured by the warden. Donavan tells Alex to snap out of it, and thankfully he does, recapturing what little sanity he has left to formulate a plan. Will the plan work? There's no way of knowing, since everything in Furnace has a way of going horribly wrong. Once again, Smith has created a thrill ride that will leave the audience wanting more. Smith's prose is fast paced, witty, and sometimes downright terrifying. Some of the images he creates could manifest into a nightmare or two. Teens who are looking for a great thriller/horror story will definitely want to pick up these novels. Look for the third installment in this series to debut in June of 2011. Reviewer: Jonatha Bayse
Children's Literature - Amanda Ledbetter
Alex Sawyer admits that he is not a good person, but he is innocent of the crime that sent him to Furnace Penitentiary. Fearful of the future that awaits him, Alex attempts an escape with three other teen inmates, only to learn they are trapped deep under the prison. When the warden and his black suits catch the boys, Alex and Zee face a punishment of solitary confinement, where psychological terror meets with physical torture and threatens to overtake their sanity. Here, Alex meets Simon, a former prisoner of Furnace whose mutated body gives evidence of the horrific experimentation conducted on the young inmates in the bowels of the prison. Together Alex, Zee, and Simon risk a new escape plan to avoid joining the ranks of the other boys who leave Furnace's infirmary forever changed for the worse. This tale of terror is the second in the "Escape from Penitentiary" series, with action that begins mid-story, keeps a quick pace through the page-turning climax, and ends leaving readers chomping at the bit for the next installment. Told from Alex's first person perspective, readers experience the sights and sounds of Furnace as he does, and the lack of omniscient narrator enhances the horror of the story. The discoveries that Alex and his friends make are gruesome and disturbing, akin to a modern-day telling of Frankenstein, with science and technology being misused to form hideous creatures. Reviewer: Amanda Ledbetter
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Alexander Gordon Smith's second book (Farrar, Straus, 2010) in the Furnace series picks up with Alex Sawyer, Z, and Gary Owen trying to escape the Furnace penitentiary. The attempt fails miserably and Alex and his friend are thrown into solitary, which is basically a hole in the ground. Soon, a boy disfigured by the Wheezers, the gas masked figures who do testing on the inmates, frees Alex to convince him to try to find a new way to escape. Alex must overcome his fears of the Warden, the black suits with their glowing silver eyes, and the Rats, who are failed experiments of the Wheezers, along with his sense of guilt over his life of crime before Furnace. Alex's loyalties are tested when he must choose between his friends and a fate worse than death or escape and the chance to stop the experiments. Smith takes listeners on a terrifying ride through the underbelly of Furnace providing gory descriptions and thrilling chases. Alex Kalajzic brings Alex to life with his British accent. His voices for the villains, especially the Warden, are chilling. Those who enjoyed the first book in the series and fans of novels with gory descriptions will enjoy this fast-paced, suspenseful book. The chilling conclusion will leave listeners anxious for the next installment.—Sarah Flood, Breckinridge County Public Library, Hardinsburg, KY
After being swept away in an underground river moments after escaping from Furnace Penitentiary, Alex is quickly recaptured by the cruel blacksuit guards and placed in an isolation cell. Though confined, he clings to hope through tapped communiqués with his fellow failed escapee Zee, hallucinatory appearances from his friend Donovan and strange visits from a mysterious creature named Simon. Adrenaline-fueled action infuses the narrative as it did in Lockdown (2009), keeping the pages turning. Alex's forays into self-reflection are less convincing; in Smith's effort to create an antihero, he has given Alex too many flaws to generate much sympathy. Donovan's dialogue is an especially transparent device to create emotional growth. The twisted monsters that patrol the prison are still satisfyingly brutal, however, even though readers now know to expect them lurking around dark corners. While the revelations and ending are not surprising, the author knows what keeps his readers locked to the page and delivers it soundly. (Thriller. YA)
Read an Excerpt
I have a confession.
I’m not a good person.
I always said that I only stole from strangers, that I only took stuff they’d never really miss: money and electronics and the sort of things you can’t cry over.
But that was a lie. I didn’t stop there; I couldn’t. I stole from the people I loved, and took the things that meant the most to them. I didn’t just break into their cupboards and drawers, I broke into their hearts and ripped out whatever I wanted, anything that would get me some easy money down at the market.
So don’t go fooling yourself that I’m a good person, that I’m an innocent victim, someone who didn’t deserve to be locked up inside the hell on earth known as Furnace Penitentiary. I’m not. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t kill my best friend Toby when we broke into that house. No, the blacksuits did it, they shot him then they framed me for his murder. But I’ve done things that are just as bad. I’ve killed little parts of people; I’ve cut them up inside, hurt them so much they wished they were dead.
There isn’t time to confess everything, but I have to get this off my chest. If I don’t do it now then I might never get the chance. Death’s coming up fast. I can feel its cold fingers around my throat.
Two years ago, when I was twelve, my gran died—had a fit in the middle of the night and swallowed her tongue. Mom was devastated, like any daughter would be. She cried for weeks, she didn’t eat, she hardly spoke to me or Dad. She’d just sit and hold the little silver locket that Gran had left her, gently stroking the scarred and crumpled photos inside.
I guess I don’t really need to tell you what I did. But I’m going to anyway. I need to.
I waited till she was asleep one night, ten days or so after Gran had been buried. Then I sneaked into her room and pried that locket from her hand. Ten quid. Ten lousy quid is what I got for it. A handful of dirty coins for the only thing my mom had left of her mom. I watched the man I’d sold it to rip the photos out from inside and chuck them in the bin, and I didn’t feel a shred of remorse.
Mom knew I was the one who’d taken it. She never said anything but I could see it in her eyes. There was no warmth there anymore, no love. It was like she looked right through me, at a phantom over my shoulder, at the son she wished she could have, the son she’d lost forever.
See what I mean? I’m not a good person. Don’t forget that. It’ll make my story easier to stomach if you know that I deserved to be punished for Toby’s death, even though it wasn’t me who pulled the trigger—that I deserved to be sent away for life in Furnace, deep in the rancid guts of the planet.
And that I deserved everything that happened to me there. Because Furnace is no ordinary prison, it’s a living nightmare perfectly designed for people like me. A place where freaks in gas masks—wheezers, as we called them—stalk the corridors at night and carry boys screaming from their cells. Where those stolen kids are brought back as monsters, all rippling muscles beneath stitched skin. And where the same poor wretches are eventually turned into blacksuits, the warden’s soulless guards.
I saw it happen with my own eyes. I saw it happen to Monty. I saw what he’d become, right before he died.
So, never let yourself forget that I’m a bad person, that all us cons are, even the “good guys” I met inside like Donovan and Zee and Toby (no, not my old friend I’m supposed to have killed—a new friend with the same name). The four of us thought we’d found a way to escape, blowing a hole in the chipping room floor with gas smuggled out of the kitchen. But nobody can run from their own demons. Donovan was taken by the wheezers the night before we broke, and as for the rest of us—me and Zee and my new friend Toby—well, maybe even Furnace was too good for us. It was certainly too good for Gary Owens, the hard-case headcase who discovered our plan and followed along like a bad smell.
No, maybe our fate was to find out what horrors lay in the tunnels beneath the prison.
Because that was our way out: the river that runs deep underground below the bowels of Furnace. We didn’t know where it led to. We didn’t care. Anywhere that wasn’t Furnace was good enough for us.
Or so we thought.
Oh yes, beneath heaven is hell, and beneath hell is Furnace. But the horrors that crawl and feast beneath that—now that’s a truly fitting punishment for someone like me.
So there you have it, my confession. It may not seem like the best time to share it, but it’s funny what races through your head when you’re plummeting into the darkness with only razor-sharp rocks and rapids to break your fall.
Excerpted from Solitary: Escape from Furnace 2 by Alexander Gordon Smith.
Copyright © 2009 by Alexander Gordon Smith.
Published in 2009 by Farrar Straus Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.