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Death Sentence: Escape from Furnace 3 by Alexander Gordon Smith
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780374324940
Date: 02 August 2011 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Alex Sawyer has once again failed to escape the horrors of Furnace Penitentiary. Now he lies strapped to a bed with needles injecting him with a steroid-like fluid referred to as nectar. The fluid will dramatically increase his muscle size and fill him with rage, turning him into one of the dreaded Blacksuits that guard the juvenile delinquents. He is also forced to sit in the screening room and watch violent documentaries until the memories of who he once was are wiped away. Finally, he is subjected to brutal tests of strength and loyalty, tests in which his friends are sentenced to death and he is their executioner.

Between the Earth and Hell, there is Furnace Penitentiary, a fate worse than death. Alexander Gordon Smith's Death Sentence: Escape from Furnace 3 is a monstrous nightmare of nonstop violence and horror. It is by far the best in the series. The reader not only learns the fates of Alex's friends from the previous installments (Lockdown and Solitary), but he/she learns about the evil purpose behind Furnace Penitentiary. Alex endures one horror after another as he fights his way through a labyrinth of torture chambers until eventually discovering an elevator that returns him to Furnace's general population. Unfortunately, unspeakably hideous mutants of incredible strength will pursue Alex and massacre everyone in their paths.

Thanks to the nectar, Alex's body undergoes a hideous transformation. He looks like a professional bodybuilder whose muscles are morphed out of proportion; his skin, bulging with profuse muscle, has been pieced together like a hideous patchwork quilt sewn by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The highly addictive, steroid-like nectar fills Alex with rage and anger. He is the predator now, not the prey. He will destroy those who are weak, especially the one named Alex Sawyer. The warden has a significantly larger role in Death Sentence; he befriends Alex, urging him to become a member of the family of Blacksuits. He is likened to the Devil in the Hell-like Furnace who tempts and deceives. The reader has an opportunity to enter the warden's office and learn how perverted he truly is.

Alex's physical body definitely undergoes a metamorphosis. He looks like a Blacksuit but he never truly becomes one. He's not a killer. Having a strong willpower, being able to resist temptation, is much more important than having huge, powerful muscles. Also, it is extremely important that everyone has the freedom to choose their own destiny rather than having someone else choose it for them. Once again, friendship plays a significant role in this installment. Alex must rely on friendship and teamwork in order to survive. I recently read somewhere that friends are the best collectibles. I guess you can never have too many, especially in Furnace where one's life is constantly in danger.

The violence and gore in Death Sentence seems too graphic for the novel's intended audience of ages twelve and above. However, I thought the same thing about the Harry Potter novels and I recently discovered that my young nephews are reading those. Nevertheless, there are probably just as many adults reading the Escape from Furnace series as there are young adults.

These novels are highly recommended for anyone who loves thrilling science fiction horror novels. I strongly recommend that readers begin the series with the first installment, Lockdown, and proceed to Solitary and on to Death Sentence. These novels are like episodes in a soap opera and the series would best be enjoyed from the beginning. All nightmares have a beginning and, for most of us, they have an end. Not so for the inhabitants of Furnace Penitentiary. For them, the nightmare never ends. For the reader, the nightmare continues with the releases of Fugitives in 2012 and Execution in 2013.

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