Review: Lockdown

Review: LockdownLockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith
Series: Escape from Furnace #1
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on October 27, 2009
Genres: Dystopian, Horror, Thriller
Pages: 273
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

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.

In response to an escalation in teen violence, a truly inescapable prison was created: Furnace. The saying goes that “Beneath heaven is hell. Beneath hell is Furnace.” Alex Sawyer gets a one-way ticket to Furnace for murdering his best friend, Toby, after a robbery went south. He deserves to be locked away for life, right? Except that he didn’t actually do it. He was set up. That’s what they always say, but Alex is telling the truth. Plus, Furnace is no ordinary prison. This one’s controlled by some serious monsters. And why are more and more kids claiming that they’ve been framed? Alex knows one thing: the possibility of death is better than the idea of giving up on escaping this worse than hell.

Kids these days are just a bunch of hoodlums. They don’t got no respect. They’re violent because of their video games and the like. It certainly is not too difficult to imagine that, should there be some event to set it off, that governments (and the people) might get the idea that some kids are irredeemable. Some people cannot be saved, cannot be turned into good citizens; they should be allowed to rot.

Of course, this is a serious waste of resources. They’re not okay with the death sentence, but they’re willing to condemn children to a life sentence without possibility of parole in a jail of horrors. Right. The logic of other people confuses me. Even though they don’t give the boys much, this still has to be an incredibly expensive operation.

Then you have to factor in the fact that the folks running Furnace are framing boys for murder to add to the prison population, probably because they’re dying off too fast, thanks to the violence of the guards and the violence of the inmates. I really am looking forward to continuing with the series. At the end of Lockdown, you don’t know much. Basically, you know enough to know that some seriously bad shit is going down.

I mentioned that Alex was framed, and he was, but I what I have not yet stressed is the robbery part. Alex is not a good guy. He was a bully and graduated from stealing classmate’s money to robbing homes. He definitely was a criminal. Even so, he does not deserve the treatment he’s receiving in Lockdown. It’s important to keep that in mind, because that’s much of the point; this setting makes even the boys harsher than Alex seem somewhat sympathetic.

Lockdown will definitely appeal to teenage boys, full of violence and creepy monsters. Of course, don’t let that limit you, because I enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to finding out more about the dystopian world that created Furnace.

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