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Some books just immediately impress you, either by their concept, the writing, or the overall skill in storytelling. This book does all three. Alexander Gordon Smith has started a series that looks to be amazing if this first book is any indication. It has been about 10 years since I got this excited about a series by the first book, and that time it was The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks.

The back story. At some point in the near future youth crime reaches epic heights. The populace responds strongly after the summer of slaughter, a period where youth murder rates soar. They create a new super max prison for young offenders, carved below the earth: Furnace. They say that below heaven is hell and below hell is furnace. There is now a zero tolerance policy on youth felons.

The story written in the first person narrative style, is the story of Alex Sawyer, a young criminal mostly responsible for break and enters and petty theft. Alex is framed for the murder of his criminal partner. Even though he is innocent, he is convicted and sent to Furnace. He arrives in Furnace, a terrifying dark hole carved from the earth, a place ruled by vicious gangs, and even more brutal guards. A place filled with horrifying creatures who come and steal boys from their cells in the night. A place with no hope and no future. Yet Alex struggles to maintain hope - that hope is escape, something believed to be impossible.

Alexander Gordon Smith does an amazing job of capturing the brutality of a prison environment, without going into too much gore. He tells a dark tale without becoming overly depressing. It is very well written.

The story is very well written for a first novel. It flows fast and furious, running the gauntlet of emotions, from hope to despair, from joy to gloomy submission. Once you start reading you won't want to put the book down. Unfortunately it races to a cliff hanger finish, leaving you wanting the next book, Solitary, right away, and it is not due out in North America until the fall. This book has made the list of my all-time favourite fiction novels and I highly recommend it. Just as a side note, I love the North American covers and that is what attracted me in the first place; if I had seen the UK covers I doubt I would have read the book.
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on 20 October 2013
Oh but this was GOOD! So good. Anyone who thinks that YA is purely for girls who like shiny vamps, dopey romances and daftly happy endings NEEDS to have a read of this. It's brutal, and it's well-written, and there's not a single ounce of romance in it.

It's also, genius. So much so that I sat up 'til gone midnight reading it, and got the second book on Kindle as soon as I'd finished (bear in mind I have to be up at 5am) because I can't wait for the paperback to get here.

Huge thumbs up, along with a warning that this one isn't for the faint of heart. I can't wait to see how the series progresses!
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on 30 September 2014
Best book i have read in a long lass time. Fast Thriller and really gripes you by the heart. Going to buy the whole series it will truly amaze you!
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on 7 August 2013
So good and gripping and scary but couldn't put it down, need to move onto the next one to see what happens
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on 27 September 2014
NOT as good as the first book, and I hate what alexander did to Donovan
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Gold Star Award Winner!

The future has arrived, and teen gangs are ruling the streets. Due to major carnage during the "Summer of Slaughter," authorities have cracked down and opened Furnace Penitentiary, a prison set deep underground for the worst teen offenders, where they will never see the light of day again.

Alex Sawyer is sentenced to Furnace after being convicted of murdering his best friend, Toby. Alex says over and over again that he did not kill Toby, but his protests fall on deaf ears, even though it's the truth.

Alex descends into Furnace, a prison hewn out of rough rock. He immediately notices the weak are prey and the strong will live, as the prison gang threatens his life and his new cellmate, Donovan, educates him on how to survive.

There is more to fear than the prison gangs, or the slop called food served in the cafeteria. There are the black suits - enormous, hulking men with silvery-sheened eyes and shark-like grins who guard the prison. There are the wheezers - twisted, malformed creatures in leather overcoats, their faces obscured by gas masks literally stitched to their skin. And there is the bloodwatch - an eerie red light that will suddenly wash over the prison cells in the dead of night, letting the inmates know the wheezers are coming for one of them.

Alex struggles to hold on to his humanity, his sanity, and his hope that he will survive Furnace, even if survival means hatching an impossible scheme that could kill him.

LOCKDOWN is one of the best books I have read this year! Smith's debut of the ESCAPE FROM FURNACE series keeps the reader fascinated from the first page; this is the first of a fantastic series!

Reviewed by: Hayes aka Haute Librarian
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