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Author Alexander Gordon Smith
Published on August 2010
Published by Faber and Faber (U.K. 2009)

Farrar Straus Giroux (U.S. 2010)

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N/A Solitary

Lockdown is the first instalment in the Escape from Furnace series by Alexander Gordon Smith.

Plot Edit

The Last Job Edit

Alex begins his story with the moment his life went to hell when he and his friends jumped a boy for his money when they were twelve. From that point on, Alex stopped listening to his instincts of being a better person and succumbed to his path as a criminal. He and and his friend Toby began to break in and rob houses not long afterwards, continuing to do so for another couple of years.

This lifestyle stopped brutally on their last job together. In the midst of their heist, Alex and Toby are caught by strange giants of men and a twitching creature in a wheezing gas mas. Alex first believed they had been finally been caught by the cops and is horribly mistaken when they shoot Toby in the head. The men in black encourage Alex to run as fast he can, assuring that they'd end up catching him either way. Alex makes a break for it but is ultimately stopped by the police and arrested before he can make it home.

Trial and Going to Furnace Edit

Alex spends the three few weeks getting interrogated in police custody over Toby's murder. Alex denies killing Toby, explaining to the court that the men in black were the ones who were guilty. It's revealed that the same men that Alex was talking about are actually security guards at Furnace Penitentiary. Not believing in Alex's story, the jury comes to verdict that Alex is guilty, and that he is to be sentenced to life in Furnace. As Alex is dragged out of the courtroom, he encounters another boy who'd also been in trial for murder as well. The boy in question fought against his bailiffs and also denies having killed anybody, he's tazed for his resistance. He and Alex meet eyes just for a moment, before getting dragged away in different directions.

Soon afterwards, Alex, the boy who'd been tazed, and two other teenagers are sent off on the bus to Furnace. Arriving at Furnace, the exterior of the prison becomes clearer with its grotesque carvings and sculptures of prisoners getting executed. All four boys are sent shower and change into their new prison uniforms before beginning their descent into the prison and to a lifetime cut off from the outside world.

The Descent Edit

On the elevator ride down, Alex confesses the truth of Toby's murder. Zee, the boy from the courtroom remarks that he'd also been framed for a murder he hadn't commited. The other two boys in the car admit they'd been framed as well, one introducing himself as Jimmy while the other only saying that he'd been framed for his sister's murder. The boys all are incredulous that they'd all been falsely accused of murder, and Alex, Zee and Jimmy make a pact to escape together and find out the truth of what's happened.

Once the elevator made it's descent, the four newcomers step out into the true prison underground. Zee and Alex stick close together as they're greeted by the Skulls, one of the gangs responsible for the Summer of Slaughter. Before the gangsters can get too close to jump them, a siren sounds. The warden of the prison steps out to introduce himself as Warden Cross, and explains the rules of existence in Furnace before assigning each boy to a cell and cellmate. Zee is assigned to the fourth floor with his cellmate Carlton Jones. The other boy in the elevator is introduced as Montgomery Earl, assigned to the fifth floor with his cellmate Kevin Arnold, the current leader of the Skulls. Alex is assigned to the sixth floor with his cellmate Carl Donovan. Alex is too distracted to hear where Jimmy would be and follows Carl who guides Alex up to the six floor to where their cell would be.

Settling In Edit

As Alex begins to take in what would be of his future, he immediately imagines jumping out of the sixth floor to commit suicide. To Alex's surprise, his cellmate seems to know what he was thinking, by saying that the sixth floor isn't high enough. With that, Donovan introduced himself with a smile, saying he prefers the name Donovan over Carl. Alex asks how long Donovan has been in Furnace, to which Donovan answers that he'd been inside for five years, charged for his actual murder of his mother's abusive boyfriend.

Donovan goes on to explain that there isn't a concrete sense of time and that the day is divided up by sirens. The two start to go back downstairs in time to catch dinner, when Alex notices five faint marks clawed into the wall. Donovan cryptically tells Alex that those marks were made by his former cellmate, who'd been taken kicking and screaming and that Alex will soon know all about that.

The two make their way down to the trough room, Donovan once again back to an air of hard indifference. In the trough room, Donovan and Alex pick at a table to eat dinner and are shortly joined by Zee. Alex introduces the two to each other, then proceed shoot questions to Donovan about the idea of escape. Donovan answers that the prison's layout only goes further down into the infirmary, the storage tunnels, warden's offices and for the hole (solitary confinement). Donovan himself had been down in solitary for three days for a fight. He talks about how there was no food or light and that the only water was the condensation from the walls. He reiterates that there's no point in trying to escape the prison, and to be cautious about who to talk to about escape and avoid getting into trouble.

The conversation is cut short however as a fight breaks out in the trough causing a lockdown, forcing Alex, Donovan and Zee to sprint back to their respective cells. Alex gets knocked down by the rush of the crowd trying to get back into their cells, but is saved by Donovan who drags him back to the cell. Once settled down, Alex thanks Donovan for saving him, but Donovan brushes it off telling Alex that he was not his guardian angel. The two share a laugh before settling in for the rest of the evening in their cell. Donovan abruptly warns Alex to never get up at night if the siren sounds and the blood red lights are on, before wishing him goodnight.

At lights out Alex is overwhelmed by the sudden darkness of the prison, describing the sound of Furnace at night: inmates crying, jeering, and praying out loud. In his sleep Alex suffered various night terrors, the worst one about having to watch his parents executed by the blacksuits, but unable to do anything in a glass prison.

First Day Edit

After waking and getting ready for the morning, Donovan and Alex head down to the yard to find out what jobs they had for the morning. They both had been assigned to chipping duty, which entails trying to carve new rooms in the bedrock with pickaxes and shovels. Later, Alex and Donovan meet up with Zee in the trough room for lunch. Zee made it through his morning unharmed, but is still mortified about his shift of scrubbing toilets..

In the background, Alex notices the Skulls beating on someone out of sight and asks Zee and Donovan if they knew who it was. Zee doesn't know, but Donovan tried to lie and due to his hesitance Alex figured out that the victim was Monty, Alex is angered by the fact that nobody would come to Monty's aid. He ends up picking an argument with Donovan who counters that there always has to be a scapegoat, and that Alex doesn't have any business trying to fix the system just on his first full day. Donovan threatems to ditch Alex if he tries anything stupid, but Alex goes on and picks a fight with the Skulls anyway.

Donovan left the trough room without stepping in, but Zee rushed in and whacked a couple of Skulls with a lunch tray, saving Alex. A lockdown siren sounds and Alex and Zee find themselves in pursuit by the warden's hell hounds. During their run the dogs were distracted by one of the Skulls who begged to be let into his cell, and ate the Skull. Alex and Zee ran up the level platforms, by the time they reached the sixth floor all the cells are locked tight - except Alex's thanks to Donovan who propped the door open with a toilet seat. They didn't have enough time to run down the platform to get in, as the dogs gainined quickly on them. Instead, Alex and Zee ran up to the seventh floor, jumped down a level to grab onto the sixth floor platform and are helped by Donovan to get back into his cell safely. All three make it after the close call, but Zee is removed and taken back to his own cell as per lockdown rules.

Warden's Punishment Edit

The day after the chase, the warden closed down the trough room for the day and put out a warning for a week in the hole if there are any more skirmishes. Alex reaches out to Monty, but to Alex's surprise, Monty is angry with Alex for stepping in to save him. In the remainder of hard labour that morning the prisoners quickly fall behind in work from hunger and exhaustion, though Alex, Zee and Donovan find themselves refreshed by a mysterious rush of fresh air from Room Two.

Later, the three made their way up to Alex and Donovan's cell, only to be stopped by Kevin and a couple other Skulls. The Skulls claim they were only there for Alex's business and leave with a threat to Alex, who in turn realises that the Skulls came by to piss on his bed.

Kitchen Edit

Four days after Alex's fight, Alex, Donovan and Zee are in the kitchen for hard labour. They reminisce their lives before prison, Donovan remarking that the one thing he wished he could've learned was how to cook a proper meal. Monty, who had been posted with them, overhears the conversation, admitting that cooking was the only thing he could do well. As an action of kindness and apology, Monty prepares a homemade meal for the three boys.

Blood Watch Edit

It's the night of that meal when the Blood Watch strikes. When the night siren first sounds, Alex, curious and anxious about the Blood Watch, sits up to get a better view. When Donovan hears Alex moving around he curses at Alex to stay put and to not bring attention to the cell. As the blood watch proceeded, Alex climbs out of bed to get a better insight on what was happening. As he looks out the cells, Alex sees Kevin shove Monty into the view of a wheezer. This view is interrupted when a wheezer appears in front of Alex for a minute, before disappearing. After the wheezer left, Donovan asks Alex if there were any marks on the cell. Relieved when Alex confirms that they weren't marked, Donovan repeats one last time for Alex to get back to bed. Alex does not and instead ends up watching Monty pulled out from his cell and stabbed by the wheezer in the neck with a hypodermic needle. Monty and a few other boys who'd been selected are dragged off into the vault in the courtyard, the blood watch now officially ended.

In the morning, Donovan refuses to speak to Alex, furious from last night's events. During hard labour, despite being posted together Donovan positions himself to be as far away from Alex as possible, and returnes to his cell by himself after work. Alex meets up with Zee in the yard and discusses the events of the previous nights. Zee theorised that the prison is using its inmates for human experimentation, much like the Nazi Party and Japanese army diqaewDFXcgbkhjjjjgfvcdrxzesdfxcgvbhjd in the WWII. Alex is doubtful, but agrees that nobody on the outside seemed to know what was actually happening in the prison. Alex changes the subject to escape, sure that there is a way out. Alex presses Zee for information on Room Two in the chipping halls, who says that he heard there was a cave-in in that room months ago, and that thirty inmates had died in the room. It's Zee's turn to be doubtful, but Alex is adamant about checking it out the next time he can.

New Fish Edit

Their conversation is cut short with the arrival of three new inmates: an older boy named Gary Owens, and two younger boys named Toby Merchant and Ashley Garett. After their arrival, Alex apologises to Donovan for what he had done in the night, at the time not really realising how serious the blood watch was. Donovan accepted the apology, but is still wary. Alex then asks Donovan about Room Two and tries to get him into considering a way out, but is met with rejection. Before he could interject more, the conversation is interrupted by a commotion in the yard. The new kid, Gary, overthrows Kevin's leadership of the Skulls. Almost every inmate is enthused that somebody finally took down Kevin.The enthusiasm is turned upside down once Gary declared himself as Skull leader.

Room Two Edit

The next day, Alex and Donovan are posted for the chipping halls again. Alex sticks close to the entrance of Room Three and pretends to work long enough until the guard leaves to do his rotations. Alex darts into the equipment room outside of the boarded up Room Two, and manages to pry the board discretely enough to get inside and begin to explore the abandoned chipping hall. In the darkness, Alex hears a faint growling that only grew louder by the second. Scared it was one of warden's dogs, Alex recklessly ran back to the hall's entrance. Alex manages to escape the chipping room in one piece but is caught by one of the guards. The guard had assumed Alex had gotten into a fight during work and though he smacks Alex around, Alex is ultimately let off with a warning.

Later in the trough room, Alex talks about what happened in Room Two to Donovan and Zee. Zee is beginning to be more convinced of escaping by Alex's story, but Donovan remains uninterested. The discussion gets cut off by Gary coming over to their table, threatening Alex and then leaving once more. However, Alex is struck with the idea that what he heard in Room Two is an underground river. Alex, Donovan and Zee all argue over the theory. Donovan believes nobody would've built an underground prison and not notice a river. Alex is adamant that it's the most logical explanation for the noise, and that a river must appear up top somewhere.

The Return Edit

That night however, the Blood Watch strikes again. Alex calls out to Donovan again, scared of being taken, but Donovan replies that the new particular siren meant someone was coming back. At that, Alex sits up trying to get a view of the yard, earning a slap around the head from Donovan and a warning. As the blood watch resumed, the thing that was being returned is revealed to be a grotesque, mutated version of Monty who was returned to kill Kevin.

The morning afterwards, Donovan wakes up Alex and calms him down from a panic attack. When asked about why Monty was brought back, Donovan confesses that this wasn't the first time somebody was brought back. The first couple of times somebody had been returned, Donovan wasn't able to tell what the creatures were until one night in which he recognised the tattoos on one of the creatures. Alex takes the chance to convince Donovan once more about escape. Donovan concedes and admits it would be better to die in the escape than become one of the warden's creatures.

River Edit

Now accepting the possibility of escape, Donovan begins to help out with Alex's plan. He distracts the guard in Room Three, while Alex and Zee sneak into Room Two. Inside Room Two Zee figures out the source of the growling Alex had previously heard. They discover that the cave-in did crack a huge rift in the hall, but that the rift was not wide enough to jump into. Alex and Zee return, bearing the bad news that the river is too small to get into.

New Plan Edit

Alex's spirals into a depression, now convinced that his one way out was no longer an option. Donovan and Zee continued to speculate the different ways to get into the river by themselves when Alex refuses to cooperate. A couple weeks later, Donovan tries to initiate conversation with Alex again, hurt and angered by the fact Alex had completely given up. He then slaps Alex with a meat filled rubber glove, which unintentionally triggers a plan in Alex's head of using gas filled rubber gloves to blow up the rift. After the two apologise and make up, Alex and Donovan each smuggle a few gas filled gloves from the kitchen and hide them underneath Alex's mattress, then run off to tell Zee about their new plan. Alex, Donovan and Zee make a pact between the three of them to escape, sworn to secrecy. Only minutes later however, Alex spills the escape plan in order to stop the new kids - Ashley and Toby - from killing themselves. Toby agrees to help and Ashley still jumps but attempts to take Toby down with him. Donovan and Zee reluctantly help pull Toby over the railing but not before Alex punches Ashley off of him, killing the boy.

The group headed back to the cell with this new development. Donovan doesn't trust Toby at first, insisting that they keep him out of the plan until the day of escape comes. Toby equally insists to be a part of the plan, and comes up with the idea of hiding the gloves just behind the tunnel boards of Room Two. All four boys enact their plan with relative ease. Toby eventually wins Donovan over by smuggling eight whole gloves into Room Two without being caught. As the plan takes motion, Alex, Zee, Donovan and Toby became more and more confident in their escape. Ten days into their plan, Donovan and Alex sneak into Room Two to move over the gloves to the rift of the river. Once finished, the two head back to Room Three in high spirits only for Gary to show himself and mark Alex for a fight in the gym.

Gary Edit

Donovan and Alex inform Zee and Toby about the fight, Alex making the three promise that their plan continued on regardless whether or not Alex makes the fight. When the Skulls came pick Alex up, Donovan accompanies Alex to the gym. In the gym, Gary calls over the Skulls Alex initially fought in the trough room weeks ago. When it's clear that Alex is about to lose, as a last resort, Donovan pleads with Gary and lets him in on the escape plan in exchange for saving Alex's life. Gary complies and breaks up the fight. Alex is dragged away from the gym and up back into his cell by Donovan, Zee and Toby. When Alex reveals that Donovan had dragged Gary into the plan, tension among the group arose as Donovan defended what he had to do to keep Alex alive.

One More Day Edit

Despite the worry of having Gary on board may be, the plan continues on just as it had been before. After another week of collecting gas filled gloves again, Donovan and Alex return into Room Two to prep the explosives in the rift. Additionally, Donovan comes up with the plan to rig the extra gloves in the entrance tunnel, that way if they blow up the entrance first they would have more time to blow up the river. With the river and entrance readied, the plan is finally complete. Between the two of them, Donovan puts out the suggestion of leaving then and there. Alex is surprised to hear the thought, but truly believes that Donovan wouldn't just abandon Zee and Toby. At this, Donovan sheepishly agrees. Alex and Donovan return to the cell with the good news for Zee and Toby that the plan would be in action the next day. Giddy with the idea of escape, the group talk about what they'd do once they were free. Their lightheartedness is cut off when their talk is overheard by Jimmy, who had been passing by. Despite their denial, Jimmy is suspicious and mentions that the other inmates are spreading a rumour about the four of them knowing a way out.

All four boys go to sleep nervous but still confident in their plan. In the middle of the night however, the Blood Watch return. Even in their best efforts to be invisible, a wheezer marks Alex and Donovan's cell. Neither are sure who'd be taken, but agree that whoever it was, the other would return and rescue them. Donovan pulls Alex into a hug, and says his final goodbyes before being taken away.

Escape Edit

Zee finds Alex in the through room, and agree the plan was still on, but swear to come back for Donovan. Alex, Zee, Toby, and Gary enter the chipping hall together, positioned by the entrance of Room three. They all wait for the blacksuit on guard to leave his post before they entering the equipment room. Jimmy spots them and tries to stop them by calling out for the guards. The four boys scrambles into Room Two in time, but as the blacksuits charge in, Gary lights the fuse for the explosives in the tunnel. One of the blacksuits catches Alex and Toby, but is stopped by the explosives going off. The explosions manage to hit the blacksuits but severely injure Toby as well. Toby insists to jump into the river anyways and asks Alex to not leave him behind. To give Toby and Zee enough time to get the river, Alex stays behind to fight off the blacksuits. One manages to pin Alex down and would've finished him off weren't it for a second injured blacksuit to come up from behind and take down the guard.

The second blacksuit calls out to Alex, simply saying "Don't forget your name." Alex is confused by this before recognising the blacksuit to be Monty. Before Alex could do anything to help him, Monty dies from his injuries. A second explosion goes off in the room, where Gary had opened up the river. Gary had already jumped in, but Zee and Toby wait for Alex to join them. With the pursuit of the warden's dogs on their trail, the three boys jump in.

Characters Edit

  • Montgomery "Monty" Earl - An inmate, who initially resents Alex for trying to help him.
  • Moleface - A blacksuit guard who first tracked Alex down and continued to torment in prison.
  • Kevin Arnold - The first shown leader of the Skulls.
  • Gary Owens - A new inmate who becomes the next leader of the Skulls.
  • Toby Merchant - A new inmate who joins Alex's escape plans.
  • Ashley Garett - A new inmate who ends up comiting suicide.
  • Jimmy - An inmate who rats out Alex's escape plan
  • Toby - A friend of Alex from school, who is murdered in the beginning
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