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Review: Solitary

Solitary by Alexander Gordon Smith was released in the U.S. on December 21, 2010 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 July 5, 2011 by Square Fish, is 256 pages.

Solitary is the second book in the Escape from Furnace series. Book three – Death Sentence – is currently available. Books four and five – Fugitives and Execution – will be released in 2012.

Goodreads description:

Alex tried to escape.

He had a perfect plan.

He was almost free. Even felt the cool, clean air on his face.

Then the dogs came.

Now he’s locked in a place so gruesome—so hellish—that escape doesn’t even matter.

He just wants to survive.

***

The cells in Furnace Penitentiary are small. Those in solitary are even smaller. Solid walls. Pitch black. Soundproof.

Except for the sounds of scratching from above. As if something wants in. Something strong enough to dent the heavy metal lid that locks you in a cell that is not much more than a hole.

A solid lid that locks in place, leaving you no way out. And hopefully keeping you protected from whatever wants in.

They say that three days is the most that anyone can survive in the hole with their mind intact. But what if you had to survive for thirty?

After a month locked away from the light and from all human contact, with only nightmares for company, just who, or what, would you be when you were released?

And if escape is the only chance you have for survival, how is it even possible to plan to break free if your mind has snapped?

***

Solitary is the incredibly imaginative, unbelievably disturbing and downright chilling second installment in the Escape from Furnace series by Alexander Gordon Smith. Digging into this novel after lights out is a sure way to bring to life the nightmares that exist in and just beyond the walls of Furnace Penitentiary that unfold page after gruesome page.

In this sequel, the journey is darker, scarier and even more horrific than what Alex Sawyer encountered in Lockdown and is just as nail-biting, if not more so. And readers will quickly discover that the horrors that face the prisoners aren’t the only things crawling through the tunnels beneath Furnace penitentiary.

Solitary picks up right where Lockdown ended, on the edge of that cliff as Alex and the other escapees attempt their prison break. But as can be guessed from the title, things do not go as planned and they soon get to experience the blackness, isolation and terrors that solitary confinement has to offer.

And if Alex didn’t think things could get much worse than what he had to endure in Furnace, he was wrong. Dead wrong. Because the fear of being taken at blood watch is nothing compared to the panic that comes from witnessing just what happens in the infirmary.

Like Lockdown, Solitary ends with a cliffhanger. But where Lockdown left things in a hopeful, optimistic place, Solitary does the complete opposite.

Author Alexander Gordon Smith really knows how to grab readers, pull them into his macabre creation and make their blood run cold as they follow along with Alex as he is forced to suffer all the evils inflicted upon him by the Warden, the black suits, the dogs, the wheezers and the other atrocities that live in the depths below the penitentiary.

Solitary is an absolute must read for anyone stuck on the side of the cliff with Alex at the end of book one and for readers who enjoy a fast-paced, heart-pounding, grisly and terrifying adventure.

Reviewer gives this book

On a personal note:

This series, which I am totally in love with, is also so completely addictive. I finished Lockdown and I just had to read more. I couldn’t pull my mind out of this dark, gruesome and hellish world. I did not want to leave. I don’t think I could if I tried.

I couldn’t just stop reading with Alex on that cliff. I wanted to find out how he ended up in solitary or if it was even him that ended up there. I wasn’t sure if Solitary was a continuation of his story or not, as I refused to read the description.

The moment I finished reading Lockdown I purchased Solitary for my Kindle so that I could keep the story going. It was just so easy to pick up this next book in the series and fall right back into this brutal world.

Even the brief rehash at the beginning, for readers who might have had to wait between each book’s release, didn’t pull me out of the story. Although it did give me a new piece of information about the main character that I didn’t have before.

And I really, really wish I listened to the advice that was given in that introduction. Because with the way things ended, it would have been a much easier pill to swallow if I took that information to heart.

I had to put Solitary down for about a week, so that I could read my required review books. But it was always in the back of my mind. And when I did pick it back up again, I started it from the beginning so that I could experience it uninterrupted from start to finish.

I didn’t think I could enjoy this book any more than I did Lockdown because it was a second book and because I’d already met the black suits, the Warden, the dogs and the wheezers. I didn’t think I could be surprised again.

But I was. Oh, I most definitely was.

There were two new additions to this sequel that made it even more horrific than the first book. I will not go into specifics so as not to spoil any first encounters with these horrors, but they are terrifying, grotesque and incredibly chilling.

And one of these new additions, that was only just briefly introduced in this book, keeps the anticipation…dread might be more accurate…going until the next book. I thought nothing could be scarier than the Warden. I was so very wrong.

But it was the peek inside what was happening in the infirmary, the place only hinted at in the first book, that left me utterly horrified, repulsed and saddened. While this isn’t a story meant to break hearts, mine did feel a little squeezed when certain events unfolded.

And while I cringed at some of what happened in the first book, I actually groaned and shuddered at some of the extremely vivid and fairly disgusting things that happened in Solitary.

As fantastical as this world is, when you’re reading it, it just feels so real – as if you’re there with Alex experiencing what he does, seeing what he does, hearing what he does, feeling what he does…smelling what he does.

What goes on in Furnace Penitentiary is nothing compared to what happens behind the scenes or even beyond its walls. And I find myself more than morbidly curious about what’s going to happen next.

As much as Alex claims not to be a good guy, I can’t help but root for him. No matter how dire or hopeless his situation. And I am dying to find out what happens in Death Sentence. Especially after that peek they gave at the end of Solitary.

You can pretty much guess that I did end up buying and downloading it immediately. And that I started to read it the second it landed in my collection. But as Death Sentence is the last book currently available to buy – the next book doesn’t come out until 2012 – I’m terrified that if I do continue to read it, I’ll be left hanging in an even worse place than I am right now. If that’s even possible.

I cannot recommend this book, and series, enough. Maybe not to fans of happy endings, love stories, or heartwarming adventures. But for readers who love to be scared, who want to follow along with characters who are put in the most dire of situations, who want a book that really pushes the envelope on what it means to be afraid, or who just love an incredibly descriptive, well-written and exciting, if harrowing, story, then Solitary and all the books in the Escape from Furnace series are definite must reads.

How I “discovered” this book:

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

I heard about the first book in the series, Lockdown, through a promotional post and giveaway the publisher was offering to bloggers. As I don’t just auto-post anything here on the blog, I checked out the book to see if it might be something I, or my blog’s readers, would be interested in.

I don’t know about my readers, but I was definitely interested in checking out the first book in this series.

I loved it so much that as soon as I finished reading it, I immediately purchased Solitary, the second book, to see what was going to happen next.

That was a pretty big cliff Alex was left on at the end of book one and I just had to get, and devour, this next book.

***

If you’d like to check out my five-star review of Lockdown, click here.

Click to read The Night Childrena novella about how Warden Cross met Alfred Furnace, on Tor.com.

And be sure to head over to the author’s website, HERE, to check out all sorts of extras.

Escape from Furnace series book trailer:

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