Reasons not to post when you're traveling: you might not correct it quickly when Blogger's scheduled posting bugs out again.
By Alexander Gordon Smith
Available now from Farrar Straus Giroux
Read my review of LOCKDOWN and interview with Alexander
SOLITARY begins where LOCKDOWN ended: Zee, Gary, and Alex are in the river post escape attempt. But SOLITARY isn't a retread of LOCKDOWN. Alexander Gordon Smith turns down the gruesomeness (just a tad) and turns up the torture. Alex and Zee are thrown into solitary, with only themselves for company . . . well, themselves and the blacksuits giving them their food every two days. The blacksuits angry that two of their own died in the escape attempt.
But as I mentioned in my interview, Escape from Furnace is more about the monsters than psychological horror, although both play a part. So soon enough a failed experiment named Simon is taking Alex and Zee out for brief jaunts to create a new escape plan.
But the psychological hits hit hard. Not only is Alex's mind under a great deal of stress, but also Gordon kills off characters frequently. The only reason Alex isn't dead is because he's the narrator. That bit of narrative power doesn't offer his friends any protection, unfortunately.
As for things moving forward, there's also mention of an Alfred Furnace. I am excited by the hint that there's someone pulling strings behind the scenes. There's a place for horror where bad things happen to people for no reason. But Escape from Furnace does have a stated premise that needs a little bit of mythology to survive. After all, if the blacksuits are framing teens to keep the number of prisoners at a high enough level, then the crime rate probably isn't going down. Why maintain a system that doesn't prevent crime?
Alex continues to be sympathetic in spite of himself. In the first chapter, he warns the reader that he's a bad guy who deserves to be in Furnace. Hard to take him seriously when no one deserves to be in Furnace. It's also hard to take him seriously since he always does his best to help his friends, no matter how dire the circumstances.
SOLITARY and its predecessor are a good choice for young horror fans. It's fast-paced and has a nice bit of action to go with the chills. It might not be a great idea for kids under ten or twelve, but if they're into R.L. Stine and ready for Fear Street instead of Goosebumps, they'll probably do alright. (I may be afraid of escalators, but I'm a bad judge of scariness. Thus I'm trying to be conservative with the ages.) I'm eager to read DEATH SENTENCE and totally jealous of all the people in the lovely UK who can do that already.
P. S. I liked the original US cover of LOCKDOWN, but the ARC cover of SOLITARY is awful. I think the new red and green covers are awesome and fitting.