Published by Macmillan on March 5th 2009
Genres: Action & Adventure, Friendship, Horror, Mystery & Thriller, Science Fiction, Young Adult
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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.
I think I’m going to bump this to 4.5 stars because I can’t stop thinking about it! In fact, when I went to sleep I was picturing the wheezers and literally had to remind myself that it was just a story… it’s not real, Brandi… it’s ok… you’re a big girl…. fine, just cuddle up to the mister, he’s asleep so he won’t know how big of a baby you’re being…
That was me at 1 in the morning. True story, haha.
I don’t typically read books that have a horror element to them because of the fact that I’m a huge wussy-pants. I’ll tell you what though, there was no stopping this once I started. The prose is gorgeous, and there was no point in the story that I had any trouble seeing what I was told. I even read some passages to my husband simply because they were so wonderfully written. Here are just two randomly chosen examples I want to share:
It was just like on the news: a towering sculpture of dark stone, bent and scarred like it had been burned into existence. The Black Fort, the way in. The windowless building stretched upward, its body merging with a crooked spire that resembled a finger beckoning us forward. Smoke rose from a chimney hidden behind the building, a cloud of poisoned breath waiting to engulf us. All in all it looked more like something from Mordor than a modern prison.
It was here, holding the bars of my cell like they were my only friends, that I first heard the symphony of Furnace. It started with the sobs, which rose up out of the darkness all around me like the gentle strings in an orchestra. They began as hushed moans choked back by the countless musicians that crafted them, merging together from every level to create a fountain of sound that ran down to the deserted yard below.
See what I mean?! I was as helpless to stop reading as Alex was to escape his fate. Speaking of Alex, I like him even though he keeps insisting that he isn’t a good person. He has made mistakes, and is certainly flawed, but he is just like most every other boy at that age. A bit selfish, a bit loyal, and a lot confused about life. The other characters are just as engrossing, and we barely find out anything about their lives from Before. I never felt frustrated by the lack of depth though. I’m not even sure if depth is the right word…. they were pretty fleshed out I think for the purpose of the story. I didn’t need to know what they had been like prior to being in Furnace, and I didn’t really care about what crimes had gotten them there to begin with. Maybe other people would be annoyed by that, but I never was. The one thing that did chafe a little bit was the fact that Furnace is supposed to be a prison for youths, and that would be both sexes, but yet the whole thing seems to be solely for boys. Unless I misread somewhere, that is the only thing that kind of got on my nerves a bit.
Furnace. What a terrifying place that is!!! Once again I have to point how amazing Smith was at showing us what kind of hell these kids were in. “And obedience is the difference between life, death, and the other varieties of existence on offer here at Furnace.”…”Obey my rules and you’ll do just fine. Disobey them and you’ll soon learn that here your nightmares exist on the same plane as you, they stalk the same corridors and haunt your cells. It’s only me that stands between you and insanity.”
“Beneath heaven is hell, boys, and beneath hell is Furnace. I hope you enjoy your stay.”
“Some go quietly, some don’t. Adam didn’t, he went screaming and clawing at the wall and fighting for his life” He ran his finger along one of the grooves, then he turned his attention back to me. “In the dead of the night they come for you Alex,” he said. “Sooner or later they come for everyone.”
Once I was finished reading this one, I immediately purchased the second one. Partly because Smith was kind enough to leave off at a massive cliffhanger (jerk), and partly because I was so enthralled with his world that I wasn’t ready to let go yet. I read book two in one sitting.
Fast paced and action packed is the name of the game with this series, and with every little twist and turn, and stomach dropping moment you are at the mercy of Furnace and those who are trying to survive within. I highly recommend this story to anyone who likes a lot of action and isn’t adverse to a little horror.