Laura at Faber has just sent me this review of Solitary from Bookbag. It’s the first review I’ve seen for it, and I was a bit nervous about how the book would be received, but this review has certainly put me at ease! Thanks!
WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST BOOK
In this second instalment of Smith’s Furnace series Alex Sawyer and his companions continue their bid for freedom, desperate to escape the hell on Earth that is Furnace Penitentiary.
Filled with hope, Alex and his cohorts battle their way through the underbelly of Furnace, convinced that they have found the way out, the path to the daylight they never thought they’d see again. But Furnace isn’t done with them yet and their hopes come crashing down as they are recaptured and put into solitary confinement, deep below the ground and at the mercy of the Blacksuits, the Wheezers and the warden.
Alex soon discovers that there are other things down in solitary confinement that are far scarier than anything he’s ever come across before and he knows that if he doesn’t find a way to escape quickly he’ll go mad, or worse. Divided by his need to escape and his sense of loyalty to his companions, Alex’s struggle continues as he is forced to restart his bid for freedom even further away from the surface than before.
Smith’s writing style instantly grabs you by the throat and drags you into the alternate reality where Furnace Prison exists. His well crafted writing keeps your attention and relentlessly drags you through the story regardless of whether or not you are familiar with Furnace: Lockdown, the first part of Alex Sawyer’s adventures.
Fast paced and punchy, Smith barely gives you time to breathe between the action sequences of the book from the moment it begins to the moment it ends. Even when you are alone with Alex in his tiny, pitch black cell, Smith refuses to let you relax and his urgent narrative keeps your mind racing, trying to figure out Alex’s next move before he does it.
The characters in Furnace: Solitary are as intriguing as the prison itself and the journey through Furnace is enhanced spectacularly by the teetering friendships formed between them as their sanity is stretched and tested in ways they’d never dared to imagine, not even in their darkest nightmares.
Personally, I found the non-stop pace tiring and by the time I was nearing the end of the novel I was almost wishing for a moment or two of calm because the constant tension seemed to become a little stale as it went on. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it, just that reading it became a bit like hard work in parts. Towards the end there were moments of sheer brilliance, Alex’s character developing brilliantly in a way that made the whole situation feel much more horrific than it already did. It certainly made me think about some of the darker nuances of human nature and highlights many of mankind’s flaws that we so often overlook.
Despite my issues with the pacing, I imagine that if I were fourteen and male I’d have lapped up every word and reached the end desperate for more. Well written, gripping and bursting with excellent characters I’d give Furnace: Solitary three and a half stars and recommend it to anyone who wants a blood-thirsty, mind-twisting romp set in a world hauntingly similar to our own.
I’d like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.