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.
If there is one thing I don't like in my books, it is thuggish criminals as heroes that we should somehow like and feel sorry for. Well sorry but no, I had no sympathy for Alex being locked up for eternity. He was a playground bully who took money from vulnerable kids and his gang causes misery for everyone they meet. He then starts breaking into people's houses and stealing things that these people work hard for, showing little remorse for his crimes as long as he gets what he wants. So I'm meant to feel sorry for him being set up for his thug friend's murder and sent to a psycho jail? Nope! Not gonna happen!
The idea of the book was good-kids being taken from their home to spend time for their crimes in a prison that is more brutal than you could dream of. I liked the idea of kids being selected during the lockdowns to be taken away to a terrible fate. The lockdown sequences were the best thing about the book. I liked the brutal guards, the dogs, the psycho prisoners. The story would have worked if we had arrived with someone who was totally innocent of any crime, someone you could feel sympathy for and root for ie Donovan or Zee. Instead though, we get Alex for our hero. It's a bit late now to start standing up for the kind of kids that you used to bully and make life miserable for, Alex. It doesn't make me forgive you for what you did on the outside.
Alex ends up in a cell with Donovan, sent there for killing his mother's abusive boyfriend, someone that I did feel sympathy for. He also has to put up with Alex moaning, complaining, breaking all the rules that Donovan explains to him and putting Donovan's own life in danger by drawing the attention of the creatures who collect victims during the night lockdowns. When they start to plan an escape, Alex continually draws attention to himself at every opportunity, getting into fights, talking back, being nosy, putting the whole plan in jeopardy for everyone. He is a pain in the butt character and I couldn't stand the sight of him by the end of the book.
For me, Donovan was the hero, and he was the one that I wanted to escape more than anything. When Alex causes him to be taken by the guards to his horrible fate, I lost all interest in the rest of the book. Why couldn't the author have surprised us by taking Alex and having Zee or Donovan become the main guy?
The other thing I really don't like is the way the book ended. I don't mind cliffhangers in general but it has to be put in the right place where you would naturally put it to tease the reader and make them want to grab the next book. But this one seemed to just come to a sudden and unnatural end with little thought for cohesion.
I certainly won't be continuing with this series. I doubt I could put up with Alex for another chapter, never mind a series of books.