Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Review: Lockdown: Escape from Furnace, by Alexander Gordon-Smith (2010, Farrrar Straus Giroux)

Recommended for ages 13+

Recommended  by my then-12 year-old, this book has received strong critical and consumer praise and is a strong entry in  dystopian/post-apocalyptic teen fiction.

Set in dystopian England, Lockdown is the first in the Escape from Furnace series; horror novels set in a science fiction universe. It speaks to fears that teenagers have today, namely, fears of being wrongfully accused and the loss of freedom – within a fantastic setting. Readers meet Alex, a 14 year-old petty thief. When he and his friend Toby break into a home one night, it’s anything but business as usual when they find themselves confronted with a group of men in suits. Alex witnesses in horror as they shoot Toby dead, framing Alex for his murder. He’s sentenced to Furnace, a hellish underground youth prison constructed years earlier when gang wars escalated into mass violence.
Furnace, located a mile below ground, is a one-way trip – inmates are sentenced for life, which doesn't usually last long. Alex learns quickly that Furnace’s gangs are the least of his problems: nightly raids by creatures in gas masks drag inmates off for purposes unknown; vicious dog-like animals can attack at any moment, and something is going on deep in the tunnels of Furnace. The warden is conducting genetic experiments on the inmates taken in the middle of the night.
Alex and a group of inmates he befriends, stick together to stay alive and plot their escape from Furnace. The night before they are to escape, Alex’s cellmate, Donovan, is taken in a nightly raid. Shaken but undeterred, Alex promises to come back for him. The next day, the boys manage to blow a hole in an old passage using gas-filled gloves they collected from kitchen duty and jump to their freedom. But are they really free of Furnace?
Alex is a normal, if flawed, teenager. Essentially good, he is the moral compass of the book; he yearns for his family, for friendship, and for the chance to change. Told in the first person, Alex becomes the voice of the reader. 
Lockdown: Escape from Furnace has been selected as an American Library Association (ALA) Quick Pick for Young Adults and is on the Georgia Peach Book Award Master List.
Alexander Gordon Smith’s website offers information about the author, his books, downloadable wallpapers, and links to extras including a novella based on his Escape from Furnace series; there is also a link to his blog. The publisher also provides an Escape from Furnace website where visitors can play an Escape from Furnace video game, watch book trailers, and read character profiles.

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