Beneath Heaven is Hell. Beneath Hell is Furnace. Furnace Penitentiary: An underground hellhole. A place of pure evil with walls soaked in blood. Murderous gangs and vicious guards rule the darkness. Horrific creatures steal people away in the dead of night. And the impossible - escape - is the only hope.I had no idea what to expect from this book. I certainly knew what I wanted from it--good writing and a bit of a scare--and I got that. I got more than that.
Lockdown was... amazing. If you know me, you'll know that I don't often get attached to book characters, but not with this one. The whole time I was reading, I was afraid of what was going to happen to Alex and his friends. I have never worried about a character like that before. I didn't really like being stressed the whole time I was reading, but it really shows Smith's talent for characters. What I also loved about the characters was how flawed they were. Too often in YA books the characters are perfect, or only have one flaw you can tell the author only added to avoid perfection, but in Lockdown the characters were perfectly flawed. They all had something to offer the book, and I don't think it would have been as good as it was had even one of them been removed.
One thing I was not expecting from this book was humor. I mean, it's about teenagers being sent to a hell like prison full of murderers and insane guards (and many other frightening things), so humor was the last thing I expected to find here. I really don't think I would have liked it as much without this one element. The humor was perfectly woven in, never taking away from the story or ruining the scare factor.
Smith painted an incredibly vivid picture of Furnace, making it easy to imagine every horrifying detail. It definitely succeeded in scaring me, though I wonder how much of that had to do with the actual place or if it was more the things it contained. And yes, I means things. The beasts of Furnace were... Disgusting? Terrifying? Best left in the pages of a book? Let's go with all of the above. I have to say, though, I always imagined the blacksuits looking like the Stabbington Brothers from Tangled (mostly because I started the book the same night I saw the movie). That didn't make them any less terrifying, but they were definitely the most tame of the prison dwellers (after the inmates, of course). The wheezers and dogs *shudders* were definitely the scariest. I often regretted reading this late at night, because I rarely wanted to go to bed after scenes with the dogs and wheezers (especially since the wheezers only appeared at the blood watch).
I can't really think of anything else to say about this book, not without spoiling it. The pacing was excellent, and though one part of the story took a while to get going, I was never bored. In fact, there were times I wished less would happen just so I wouldn't have to worry about the characters so much! This is a new favorite, I'll definitely be reading the rest of the series and looking into anything else Alexander Gordon Smith writes. This book had it all; great characters, wonderful writing, interesting (and frightening) world, fantastic story. I don't think there was an emotion I didn't feel from reading this book. Not a lot of books can do that to me. This is a rare find, one of those books you read and wish you could give to everyone else. Pure awesome.
If I still used that rating system, Lockdown would get Too Much Rock for One Hand without question. But since that rating has been discontinued (I couldn't come up with a steampunk version), all I can offer is 5 cogs.