Review: Lockdown

Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith was released in the U.S. on October 27, 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It is currently available to order online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback, audio and eBook formats.

The paperback edition, published on August 3, 2010 by Square Fish, is 304 pages.

Lockdown is the first book in the Escape from Furnace series. Books two and three – Solitary and Death Sentence – are currently available. Books four and five – Fugitives and Execution – will be available in 2012.

Goodreads description:

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.


There’s not much to do to pass the endless days and nights in Furnace Penitentiary except wait.

Wait out a life sentence. Locked away a mile beneath the surface of the earth in a cell barely big enough to lie down in. Wait in darkness so black it seems infinite.

Wait for the next day of hard labor, cold showers and food that is barely edible. Wait to die.

And hope.

Hope that the gangs don’t notice you. Don’t choose you as their next victim. Don’t break what’s left of your spirit. And don’t beat you too badly that you require a trip to the infirmary. Because that trip is always one way.

Hope you’re not forced to jump. Because jumping almost always ends badly. And won’t necessarily end your time in Furnace. Not high enough means a trip to the infirmary. Too high and it’s as if you never jumped. Get it right or you’ll wish you never even tried.

Hope that a fight doesn’t break out that calls for a lockdown. Locked out and it’s over. Quickly. But not painlessly. Because the guards will come. And their dogs. Monstrosities that will tear you limb from limb.

And pray.

Pray that they don’t come in the middle of the night. During the blood watch. When Furnace is bathed in the glow of the red lights. When the sirens blare. And when the wheezers come, with their inhuman cries, their rusty masks and their dirty needles.

Pray that it’s not you they choose. Because if you’re marked you’ll wish you had died. What awaits you is something worse than the Skulls cruelty. Worse even than the quick and brutal end promised by the dogs.

Pray for death. Because when they take you, you almost never come back. But if you do, what you’ve become can no longer be considered human.


Lockdown is the dark, disturbing and chilling story of the unimaginable horrors that face the young offenders that are incarcerated in Furnace Penitentiary. This fast-paced, action-packed and gruesome tale will keep readers who enjoy the macabre riveted.

There is no love story in Lockdown. There is no real hope for these prisoners who may or may not have committed the crimes they are accused of. The threat from other inmates is minor compared to what the warden, the guards, the creatures with only a vague resemblance to dogs and the wheezers can do.

This first book in the Escape from Furnace series introduces Alex Sawyer, who is framed for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in Furnace Penitentiary. As a backlash to the recent heinous crimes committed by children, adults are quick to embrace this form of harsh justice which locks these boys forever away beneath the ground. But what they don’t know, and don’t care to know, is just what cruelty awaits these kids.

Alex is quick to learn that Furnace isn’t like any prison he’s seen on television. Failure to follow the rules can mean death…or worse. Getting injured is something to avoid at all costs. Getting sent to solitary for more than three days will break your mind. And even if you do everything right, they may still come for you.

Author Alexander Gordon Smith has written a story that is exciting and terrifying and will leave readers on edge of a cliff, both literally and figuratively, as they follow the main character Alex through his induction into Furnace and his attempt to break free.

The author paints a vivid picture of life in Furnace – one that is beyond horrifying. The stuff of the worst kinds of nightmares. Guards who laugh at the terror they invoke in their charges. Creatures whose only wish is to bite and rip and tear. A warden whose gaze is and depthless and soulless. And one where the darkness is far less frightening than when the red lights come on.

This story is not for the easily frightened. It’s not one for the squeamish. But for readers who don’t mind a little bloodshed, Lockdown is an incredibly well-written, gripping and nail-biting adventure.

Reviewer gives this book

On a personal note:

I have to start off with the cover. That thing absolutely freaked me out. It is the stuff of nightmares. Fortunately as I read the book I didn’t have to see its face. I would have if I had to set it down, but as this book was unputdownable, I didn’t.

What I’m glad I didn’t notice until I was most of the way through the book was the back cover. If I had seen that it said that the walls were “soaked in blood” I would have been even more freaked out. Lockdown can definitely be called a young adult horror book, because Furnace Penitentiary is a waking nightmare and this story is disgusting and terrifying, but so unbelievably good.

Anyone who reads this who has a very vivid imagination and takes the author’s words and constructs a visual will be horrified. I was. I still am. It’s Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker all rolled into one story with a little Resident Evil thrown in for good measure.

I liked the characters, especially Donovan, but it was what went on in Furnace that kept me glued to this book. This is definitely the darkest young adult book that I’ve read. It was really twisted. It’s cruel and scary and violent. And the tagline – Beneath heaven is Hell… Beneath Hell is Furnace! – just so perfectly describes the world the author created in this book.

I was rooting for Alex, Donovan and Zee. Even poor Monty. While not good boys, they didn’t deserve the brand of justice that Furnace dished out. But as this story is a horror story I wasn’t very hopeful.

While I won’t give any spoilers away, I will say don’t expect the perfect happy ending. But do expect to be left on the side of a pretty huge cliff. Fortunately book two is already out, so there doesn’t have to be a wait. And I couldn’t help but pick it up to find out what happened next.

I love books that are dark, hellish and creepy. And this was definitely one of those. While it doesn’t cross that line into horror stories aimed at adults, it comes close. Some of the scenes the author describes in detail, but others are left to the imagination. So, depending on just how dark and vivid your imagination….

Lockdown is the perfect start to this series. Not everything is revealed in this first book. There is definitely much more to learn about Furnace – about the warden, what happens in solitary, what a trip to the infirmary is really like, and what exactly happens to those who are taken during the blood watch. And I know I’m morbidly curious to find out.

How I “discovered” this book:

Lockdown is a “Just Discovered” just learned about book.

I received an email from the online public relations team for the publisher, Macmillan, with an opportunity to receive a copy for review and host a giveaway. As I only like to promote books or have giveaways for books I’ll enjoy, or think I will, I made sure to check this book out thoroughly.

I hadn’t heard of the author or series before. But this cover was… twisted… and disturbing… to say the least. So, of course I was intrigued. But the description really did a good job on selling me on this book. It was dark and kind of horrifying. And since I hadn’t really read any books for young adults that classified as horror, I just knew I had to review this book.


Check out The Night Children, a novella about how Warden Cross met Alfred Furnace on

And there’s all sorts of extras on the author’s website, HERE.

Book trailer for Lockdown:


This review is based on a finished copy I received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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