Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith

Amazon Summary:
Furnace Penitentiary: the world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to life without parole, “new fish” Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world. Except in Furnace, death is the least of his worries. Soon Alex discovers that the prison is a place of pure evil, where inhuman creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood-drenched tunnels below. And behind everything is the mysterious, all-powerful warden, a man as cruel and dangerous as the devil himself, whose unthinkable acts have consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the prison. Together with a bunch of inmates—some innocent kids who have been framed, others cold-blooded killers—Alex plans an escape. But as he starts to uncover the truth about Furnace’s deeper, darker purpose, Alex’s actions grow ever more dangerous, and he must risk everything to expose this nightmare that’s hidden from the eyes of the world.
So this book is a dystopian horror thriller that combines elements from Catherine Fisher's Incarceron, Charlie Higson's The Enemy and Roderick Gordon and Brian William's Tunnels.
Firstly, let's make it clear that while Alex is innocent of murder, he's hardly innocent. Before he was framed he and his best friends were house thieves. It, therefore, becomes hard to reconcile this "thief-Alex" with the seemingly reformed, "Alex-with-a-conscience" we meet in Furnace. Speaking of Alex, I find it irritating that he shares a name with the author, I mean, could you get any less creative??? Seriously???
Beyond that, I have trouble with the lack of explanation of all the weird things in Furnace - why the wheezers, blacksuits, warden, and flayed dogs are the way they are. Sure, the origins of the blacksuits are explained a little right at the end, but it's too little too late.
Also, the book spends too much time dealing with everyday prison life and not enough on planning for escape. The whole escape plan and the escape itself seem too easy to be realistic, and all that time spent on prison life gets monotonous.
Beyond that, the book is intense, action-packed, and a tad disturbing. I quite liked it actually. I'm not sure that I want to read on though, because this seems to be quite a long series and that can only mean that their escape fails. Sigh...
Recommended to fans of Gone, The Enemy, Incarceron, or dystopian in general.
4/5 stars

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