Two great reviews for Solitary have just come in. The first is from the Voice of Youth Advocates:
Alex Sawyer has been sent to Furnace Penitentiary, a place where teenagers are sent to disappear. Alex and his friends have seen many horrors—the wheezers with their black suits and gas masks, the monstrous dogs that chase them through the corridors of Furnace, and the infirmary where the inmates are turned into creatures that are far from human. Alex wants out, and in a bad way. He and his compatriots have managed to blast their way even deeper into the confines of Furnace, but a way out still eludes them. Alex and Zee have now been sent to solitary, a place where most prisoners lose their minds. In the small confines of his cell, Alex begins to hallucinate, seeing the ghostly image of his friend Donovan who was captured by the warden. Donavan tells Alex to snap out of it, and thankfully he does, recapturing what little sanity he has left to formulate a plan. Will the plan work? There’s no way of knowing, since everything in Furnace has a way of going horribly wrong.
Once again, Smith has created a thrill ride that will leave the audience wanting more. Smith’s prose is fast paced, witty, and sometimes downright terrifying. Some of the images he creates could manifest into a nightmare or two. Teens who are looking for a great thriller/horror story will definitely want to pick up these novels. Look for the third installment in this series to debut in June of 2011.—Jonatha Bayse.
And the next, slightly less positive review, is from Kirkus:
After being swept away in an underground river moments after escaping from Furnace Penitentiary, Alex is quickly recaptured by the cruel blacksuit guards and placed in an isolation cell. Though confined, he clings to hope through tapped communiqués with his fellow failed escapee Zee, hallucinatory appearances from his friend Donovan and strange visits from a mysterious creature named Simon. Adrenaline-fueled action infuses the narrative as it did in Lockdown(2009), keeping the pages turning. Alex’s forays into self-reflection are less convincing; in Smith’s effort to create an antihero, he has given Alex too many flaws to generate much sympathy. Donovan’s dialogue is an especially transparent device to create emotional growth. The twisted monsters that patrol the prison are still satisfyingly brutal, however, even though readers now know to expect them lurking around dark corners. While the revelations and ending are not surprising, the author knows what keeps his readers locked to the page and delivers it soundly. (Thriller. YA)
Donovan’s dialogue wasn’t an attempt to create emotional growth at all, it was Alex’s (subconscious) way of staying sane and staying alive, but never mind!
It gives me great pleasure today to host the second stop in our gore-soakedChainsaw Gang tour!
For those of you who don’t yet know, the Chainsaw Gang is made up of the most twisted and talented horror and dark fantasy authors writing for young people today. If you like adventure, action and most of all horror then you’re right at home here – demons, zombies, ass-kicking Knights Templar, monsters, dragons, gunfights, sword fights, explosions, quests to hell and back, werewolves, armageddon, yetis, witches… The list of cool stuff is endless!
Remember to check the bottom of this post for a chance to win the Chainsaw Library!
During the tour each Chainsaw Gang author will introduce and interview another member of the club, and I’m absolutely thrilled that I get to give you one of the best YA horror writers ever to dip his quill into a pot of blood and guts, a writer so well versed in horror that he may as well have invented the genre. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to DAVID GATWARD!
I’ve just finished reading Dave’s debut YA horror novel, The Dead, and my ears still feel like they’re ringing. Why? Because this is just about as good as horror novels get. Let me start with a quote:
“The ﬁgure’s body was bathed in ﬁrelight, the rocking chair horribly still. Its head was bald, the skin ripped away in strips and in places Lazarus, horriﬁed and scared beyond anything he’d ever experienced in his life before, could see the milky glow of bone. Its ears were gone, nothing more than stumps that looked like melted candles. The face was a mass of tears and cuts, slicing across it this way and that, the nose severed in half. The mouth had no lips; just great, bloody wounds where they looked like they had been torn oﬀ. Its teeth reﬂected the ﬁre.”
How awesome is that?! The figure in the quote is Red, and one night he tells Lazarus Stone – the brilliantly named teenage hero of the novel – that the thin veils between the land of the living and the land of the dead are failing. And what happens when they fail? The Dead can cross over… Without wanting to give too much away – the plot is full of twists and turns that you’ll want to experience for yourself – Lazarus discovers a terrifying secret about his own father, and finds himself on a quest that will literally take him to hell and back!
There are so many reasons why I love this book, and one of the main ones is that David Gatward is so obviously a horror junkie. There are references in the book to some of my favourite movies (if you’re a horror fan too see if you can spot them) and it’s clear that he really, really loves the genre. What this means for the writing is that this isn’t just an all-out mindless gore-fest (although it is very bloody and gory, don’t get me wrong) but a beautifully crafted tale that can stand proudly amongst the stories and movies that inspired it. There is nothing about The Dead that feels like it’s copying what’s gone before, it really is uniquely unnerving and thrilling.
So, in short, if you want a book you can’t put down, if you like to be scared and excited at the same time, then read The Dead! Or click here to read Chapter 3 and see for yourself. And the good news is that there are two sequels to follow, the first of which, The Dark, is already out (and trust me, at the end of this book you will need to go straight out and get this)!
And now, so you know more about the man behind The Dead, here are his answers to the critical Chainsaw questions…
1. What’s your favourite book?
I can’t say I’ve ever come across a book that’s my all out favourite. Why? Because I fall for so many different books for so many different reasons. Biggest influence might be Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner. It was the first book I didn’t just read, but experienced. I was 11. It made me want to write stuff that would make people feel the same way I did when I read it. Particularly the bit in the cave, where they’re being chased by the svarts and the cave gets narrower, they can hardly move… then they come up against water and they’ve no choice but to go through. Unreal! And terrifying! I loved Lord of the Rings. I was really in to the Dragon Lance Chronicles. I think Bravo Two Zero is tremendous. If I want to be somewhere hot and lovely and delicious I’ll read Under a Tuscan Sun. Then, if I want to go dark and feel like the world’s seeping in through the cracks in the walls of my house, I’ll grab something by Lovecraft. Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts is annoyingly good. Jack Ketchum can confuse and horrify all at once. I’ve just read Mr Hands by Gary Braunbeck and loved it, the world he’s created, his writing, the sentences that go on for not just a few paragraphs but a few pages. Clive Barker’s Hellbound Heart, Books of Blood, Damnation Game. Arthur C Clarke’s Songs of the Distant Earth. See my problem?
2. Who’s your favourite monster?
I love Pinhead! Something about that crazy cat just makes me shiver. It’s that at his centre is not simply mindless evil, but humanity twisted and gone wrong, our own primitive drives left to go wild. I love that. I’m all for mindless killing machines, like Jason, but Pinhead does it for me.
3. Who’s your favourite bad-ass monster-slayer?
Well, it’s not a literary one this, and it’s a pretty short-lived moment, but in a film by Peter Jackson, called “Dead Alive” he has a crazy vicar who goes all karate on some icky undead creatures. Just before the fight begins (and despite the fact he gets totalled during it) he yells out, “I kick ass for the Lord!” I love that! Brilliant!
4. If you could make a pact with the Devil, what would you want in exchange for your immortal soul?
Does it have to be one thing? I’m guessing not, because this is my immortal soul we’re talking about, right? So, here’s a few things to start with:
– A house with a deep, dark wine cellar that would never run dry of the best fermented grape juice known to humanity. And a plentiful supply of candles to place on the little table I’d have down there to sample them at.
– A hotline to serious cheese. Seriously. I love the stuff. And I’d want the best and rarest I could find. Even that maggoty one that’s illegal…
– The ability to fly. Surely I don’t need to explain why…
– A chainsaw that never runs dry or falls blunt.
– The house off the film Casper the Ghost.
– My own creepy graveyard.
– A ghost called Gerald who enjoys horror movies and lives in the attic.
– A room dedicated to my record deck and my drum kit.
– A climbing wall.
– If you’ve read my book, the vehicle driven by Arielle.
I’ll stop, but trust me, that list could go on!
5. The Chainsaw Gang are all trapped on a desert island with no food. Who would you eat first and why?
Well, of all the Chainsaw Gang, I’ve only met Sarwat in person, so I think it would only be polite to at least consume him as a starter to the main course. Like the rest, though, I’d have to tenderise him first, so I’d have to dig a big pit and thrown them all in to it. With no way to escape, they’d go crazy, beat each other up to get out, and that’d get them all nice and soft and juicy. Then, when they were exhausted, bleeding in to the sand beneath them, I’d despatch them as cleanly and humanely as possible, then bury them in the sand to not only continue with the maturing process, but also preserve them. I might also consider distilling some sea water to a brine and seeing what effect that had on the meat. And wouldn’t it be great if the desert island had some coconuts on? Boil the meat up in some coconut… yum. Ooh, I’m salivating already.
Thanks Dave, those were awesome answers! Right, I’m off to go baste myself in some tikka spices. But just before I do, here are the rules for the Chainsaw Gang competition – it’s free to enter, and it’s really worth it because you could win a set of signed books from every single Chainsaw author!!!
Here’s how the competition works:
To win the Chainsaw Library you need to score votes. Each vote goes into a vast hat at the end of the competition and one winning name will come out. The great thing is you can enter per blog: that’s nine chances to win! So make sure you visit each and every blog on the tour.
Votes are scored as follows:
+1 if you link this blog/website to yours
+2 if you stick our Chainsaw banner (found at the top of this blog) up somewhere (and let us know)!