|Author||Alexander Gordon Smith|
|Published by||Square Fish|
The gripping third instalment in Alexander Gordon Smith’s epic series about Furnace, a terrifying underground prison for teenagers – now with the bestselling US cover.
We had one last shot at freedom and we failed. This time our punishment will be much worse than before, because in the bloodstained laboratories beneath Furnace lies the horrific truth behind the warden’s plans.
Down here, monsters are made. I’m changing – something evil is being pumped into my veins. How can I escape when the darkness is inside me?
Plot Summary Edit
After a near fatal encounter falling from the incinerator's chimney and into the waiting flames, Alex, Zee, and Simon are retrieved by the Warden and sent off to the infirmary. Alex nearly dies, but is quickly hooked up with an IV of nectar, under the Warden's demand of making sure they stay alive. The nectar overloads Alex's senses and he quickly passes out into a nectar induced fever dream. His first dream is about being dragged into the mud by the hands of corpses. He sees a mirror of himself trying to communicate remembering his own name (something a blacksuit Monty told Alex before dying) before being completely pulled in and buried alive. For a moment after waking up, Alex doesn't remember who he was.
When Alex awakens once more, the Warden questions him about the dreams he had in his sleep and mockingly praises Alex for attempting to escape twice. He leaves Alex to the wheezers in order to have his eyes worked on. After slipping under the nectar's influence again, he has a second dream. In this one he is in a bare room with six other people kneeling against a wall with uniforms branded with swastikas. The boys begin to twitch and convulse violently before literally splitting open, turned into rats. Before they can attack Alex, the six rats are gunned down. The dream ends with Alex himself shot and executed.
Alex awakens alone this time his eyes blindfolded and in great pain as he realises that they've been surgical altered into those of a blacksuit's. He calls out weekly to infirmary for Zee and Simon and is met in reply by someone whispering for him to quiet down before he is noticed. Despite this warning, Alex calls out for them again and is targeted by a wheezer who knocks him out.
Between periods of waking up and passing out, Alex is approached by the Warden again, who asks why Alex fight's against the nectar. He claims to be offering Alex power in exchange, and has him open his eyes. With his new surgically enhanced eyes, Alex can now see in the dark every intricate detail of the room in outlines of grey. The Warden guides Alex to the experience, trying to coax him once more into embracing the power of the nectar and to rise into a dominant position of power. Alex continues to struggle against him, outright screaming his refusal and chanting his own name to keep a hold on himself.
The Warden has Alex's eyelid pinned wide open and his head strapped into place, forcing the boy to watch a reel of footage on loop for a day. The footage first starts off with animals of predator hunting killing prey, but the reel progresses itself to much more brutal deaths and into outright human massacres, executions, and genocides. With the nectar running in his veins, Alex can't help but fall into the Warden's trap, becoming much more remorseless and sadistic as the footage plays.
After the footage is finished playing, Alex blacks out and awakes in the infirmary once more, waking up and spiralling in anger with a vow to kill everyone who had ever wronged him now that he had the power to do so. Beside him, someone (presumably Zee) calls out to Alex, gently saying his name over and over, urging Alex to remember his own name, along with Donovan and Monty. This works to help Alex begin to calm down.
In his second dream, Alex is in an animal pound surrounded by row upon row of cages. Inside the cages are malnourished young boys dressed in cloth rags with the number "36" written above a swastika on their clothing. Two wheezers enter and drop a bundle of rags on the floor, looking straight through Alex. As they leave, a boy in one of the cages grabs Alex's ankles and pleas for him to let them out before it's too late. The boy is the version of Alex who orignally existed, crying for Alex to recognise his existence before he is dragged aware by guards.
Alex wakes to the Warden laying a cool cloth on his face and feeding him water. The Warden cautions Alex to take it easy as he cannot ingest fluids for the first few days after being subjected to the nectar, and that he cannot ingest foods period. Cross asks Alex what he dreamed, who only dismisses the question and dreams to be nonsense. Warden tells Alex to consider them more seriously, as those dreams contain memories from a long, long time ago.
Alex asks the Warden what the nectar is, to which he answers that the nectar is truth of humanity's primal self, and feeds on the emotions of anger, power, and vengeance. When Alex asks who the Warden is, the Warden simply replies that he is Alex's father, the one who has rebirthed him into this new form.
Surgery - Legs Edit
The wheezers escort Alex into the main operating room, where his surgery is being overseen by Cross. A blacksuit straps Alex down to the table, and quietly assures Alex that while the surgery is extremely painful, in the end he will be closer in joining their brotherhood. Despite blacking out in the beginning of the surgery, Alex is completely aware of the pain during the procedure and subconsciously remembers the worst physical pain he's endured in his life.
After the surgery, Alex is completely enraged at the thought of all the weakness in the world, almost losing himself completely then and there, the scrap of humanity an incessant but weak reminder in his thoughts. The Warden enters the operating room once more, praising Alex's hunger for strength and the success of the surgery as Alex is transported onto a gurney.
As he is transferred back into the infirmary, he overhears trouble. One of the blacksuits claim that "Number 195" is acting up again, moments before another blacksuit is killed. A large, imposing creature stumbles out of its surgical cubicle, and Alex recognises it to be Gary. Gary charges at Alex, who in turn throws himself off of his gurney and onto the floor to avoid being hit but is still singled out by Gary and is picked off of the ground. In a moment of lucidity, Alex urges Gary to remember his own name as he is strangled. Alex is spared due to blacksuits shooting Gary, causing him to buckle and drop Alex and is tazed by blacksuits into submission. The chaos comes to a stop by the time Cross steps into the scene, ordering the blacksuits to sate Gary's bloodlust by unleashing him on his old cellmate up in genpop.
Surgery - Arms Edit
The Warden also demands that Alex be locked in the screening room, with his feed doubled. Alex is dragged off the floor by two blacksuits, chanting his own name over and over until one of the blacksuits cover his mouth, threatening to dump Alex into the incinerator if he continues to hold onto his memories.
During the screening, Alex passes out once more. In his dream he steps out of a door and sees the Armageddon. Outside laid a muddy field under a sky of dark crimson smoke, bombs lighting up the field in flumes of bright flame and smoke. There were bodies on the ground writhing in pain, and in the horizon three wheezers march across the field carrying a stretcher, scanning the field for their next victim. A boy in a tattered uniform screams as the three figures swoop in upon him, claiming that he is not injured and can fight. This falls on deaf ears as the wheezers pull him out of the ground and strapped into the stretcher. The dream ends with the boy being carried away off in the horizon to a much, much more horrible fate.
Alex recovers his consciousness back in the infirmary again, this time with his arms enhanced without even being made aware of the surgery. Instead of laying in one of the infirmary beds, he is metal bound and strapped into a metal coffin leaning against the wall. The Warden is standing next to him, deciding whether or not Alex is a lost cause. When he realises that Alex has awakened, he asks if Alex remembers his name, and is pleased to hear that he cannot answer. He assures Alex that all that is left is one more surgery, and one small test for Alex to prove himself before becoming completely initiated.
While waiting for his final surgery, Alex is submerged with the dark thoughts of what he could do with his new body after he indoctrinated into the blacksuit army. He can faintly hear someone whispering in the stalls beside him and the sounds of someone cutting loose the leather bounds of the infirmary beds. Alex can hear them getting closer, until someone pulls back the curtain of his cubicle. Alex scares them off with a snarl, but they return with two other figures. Simon, Zee, and Ozzie argue amongst themselves over what to do with Alex. Simon says that they have to give up on Alex, as he is too far gone and has taken too much nectar. Zee refuses to let Alex be, and disappears from the cubicle, only to return with a pillow.
Zee calls out to Alex, pleading for Alex to give him a sign that he's still there, only for Alex to struggle against his restraints and try to attack him. Zee attempts to smother Alex the exact same way Alex did to Donovan. However, Zee is caught by a wheezer, who grabs him and Simon, inadvertantly saving Alex's life. The Warden comes into the scene, flanked by blacksuits and orders them to put Simon and Zee back on their feed and to find out how Ozzie got in. While inspecting Alex, he asks for a report on Alex, claiming that Alex looked weaker than before. Alex is incensed by the comment, staring the Warden down. This reassures the Warden, and leaves, telling him that he'll get his chance to get even.
Alex has one last dream before completing his transformation. Two versions of himself lay side by side on operating tables: one Alex being the blacksuit he was becoming, the other being the boy he used to be. His smaller self says that it's finally time for Alex to decide if he wants to hold onto the last of his humanity. This concern is dismissed with the thought that his old self was too weak and pathetic to ever consider being again. His old self defends having his own agency and accuses his other self of falling into the trap of the Warden's delusions. A wheezer then cuts out this younger Alex's heart, and transplants it into blacksuit Alex's chest.
Alex reality isn't too far off from his dreams, now that he had the torso to match his grotesquely huge limbs. He is in immense pain before getting hooked back up to the nectar again. The Warden tells Alex that most people die from the pain or that the nectar drives them over the brink of insanity. He also tells him that this is the last dream Alex will have in his transformation, and praises Alex for giving in and making him proud. However, there is one more test of physical strength before Alex can become a fully fledged blacksuit.
The Test Edit
Alex is put to sleep with an anaesthetic, waking up hours later alone in a chamber down in the lower levels somewhat like solitary confinement, but with a passage leading out of the side. His wrists have been bound and chained to the wall. Above him is a hatch dripping with water ten meters up that, to Alex's horror, is barely holding back the immense weight of the underground river above him. Alex uses brute strength to break free from his position changed to the wall, escaping from the brunt of the water that burst through the hatch and down the side passageway. Alex runs down the passageway, only to find a dead end in front of him, but a passageway up with another hatch on the ceiling. With no other choice, Alex scales the walls racing against the river, and punches through the solid metal hatch in order to escape.
The hatch leads into a large and wide chamber, sparing Alex from the fate of drowning. It does not spare Alex the fate of being mutilated by rats, of which the chamber is full of. Alex takes on the rats using his newfound strength and feeding into the adrenaline and anger that the nectar was providing him. It's as he is killing the rats that he hears an actual call for help: tied to a sacrifical pole in one corner of the chamber is Ozzie. Alex manages to kill all of the rats, but still caught up in a fit of rage smashes a rock into Ozzie's chest, killing the boy instantly with the blow. Alex spirals into hysterics, both trying to justify Ozzie's death and taking on the guilt that came from killing an innocent boy in such a brutal way.
Alex is tased by two blacksuit guards at the end of his trial, the Warden following in from behind to congratulate Alex's success. Alex is literally dragged to his new living quarters, the blacksuits carrying him seeing him as a brother and bring him to bed. Alex sleeps soundlessly for a night plugged into a fresh back of nature that almost completely heals his grizzly wounds from the night before. When Alex awakes, a blacksuit notifies the Warden, who comes down to present Alex with his final gift: a black pin stripe suit.
The Tour and The Truth Edit
The Warden takes Alex on a tour of the true underbelly of Furnace. They pass by the wheezer's quarters, though Alex is afraid of going inside, Cross assures Alex that they will not recognise him in his new form, but to take caution nonetheless. Moving past them, Cross shows Alex the true extent of the prison's experimentation as they enter a room of cages filled with monstrosities and the half dying creatures on operating tables. Alex tries not to look at the horror, but Cross demands him to do so and embrace it as his home.
Alex notices a creature taking up nearly the entirety of it's two meter high and wide cage that is connected to four bags of nectar at once. Somehow, Alex recognises it to be Gary, but feigns ignorance when the Warden catches him looking. Cross explains to Alex that the creature formerly known as Gary had all of it's sanity and humanity completely wiped from its being, but continued to thrive physically under the nectar's influence, thus becoming a beserker. Alex presses the Warden about what the nectar actually is and it's capabilities, to which the Warden tells that the nectar is the nature of a dying man, an essence that Dr. Alfred Furnace was able to reproduce artificially during the Second World War. Cross himself had lived during this time to see the birth of Furnace's new wave of creations. Alex is in disbelief that the Warden is a near century old Nazi.
Cross goes on to explain how this new breakthrough lead to the creation of the modern blacksuit and how the combination of surgery helped render the nectar to it's fullest potential. Furnace however, was not able to find the right balance before the war ended and was forced to flee Berlin when the Allies had arrived to take it. Alex immediately calls out the fact that Furnace was a Nazi war criminal, incensing the Warden's anger. He claims that Alex cannot possibly understand how awful it was to fight in the battlefield as someone who was forced into the army at Alex's age. Cross continues by saying without Furnace's intervention, he would've died then and there and would have never have achieved the strength and power he has now. Letting Alex go and leading away, Cross explains that he and Furnace moved to England to establish the prison as a way to replicate the terror and panic of a battlefield and continue their experiments without push back from the public. He finishes off his exposition with the promise of another great war, and that by becoming as powerful as he has become now, Alex has earned his placed in the Fatherland.
Alex feels the initial rush of pride and adrenaline that comes with that promise, but the feeling is undercut immediately with the red flags popping off in his head that this was all severely wrong. Before he can dwell much longer, the Warden leads Alex down a passageway, telling Alex that not everyone can join them in their cause. As they approach a room up ahead, Alex can hear a familiar shout of protest followed by the sound of a beating as Cross continues to talk about culling the weak.
Inside the room is a figure tied down to a chair, flanked by two blacksuits who just finished beating him. Alex realises that this is Zee, but is unsure of how he knows that. The Warden orders Alex to kill the boy, who in turn stares Alex down. Alex is torn in committing the act, his hesitation prompting the Warden to slap Alex across the face multiple times, trying to work up Alex into a rage to kill Zee, threatening worse if Alex disobey's him. Alex makes a move to strangle Zee, who continues to stare Alex down. Zee asks Alex to kill him, to give him an escape that Alex gave to Donovan: to let him go home. The word home triggers a reaction in Alex's mind, clearing the darkness from his thoughts and finally seeing clearly for the first time. Alex releases Zee, the memories that the nectar repressed finally resurfacing to his mind. Alex says aloud that he remembers his name, this enrages Cross who goes to strike Alex. But he never gets the chance to as Alex catches his wrist and cold clocks him in the face. Making quick work of the rest of the guards in the room, and Zee delivering a swift kick to Cross's head, the two make their escape into the halls.
Retreating through the main experimentation room, Alex unleashes Gary on to a swarm of blacksuits as a means of slowing them down while he and Zee run off. As they make their way back to the infirmary to find Simon again, Alex admits to Zee that Ozzie is dead, however when they free Simon from his bedside Zee is careful to break the news without revealing that Alex was Ozzie's killer. The three attempt to return back to the tunnels in attempt to lay low and reunite with Pete, only to find their entrance blocked off. There only leaves one possible room to lay low and figure out where to go next: the Warden's quarters.
Warden's Lair Edit
While all three are reluctant to step into Cross's office, inside reveals an interior of a desk, an old black phone, and a flag reminiscent of Nazi Germany's swastika flag (albeit with the Furnace logo instead) covering an entire wall. Upon closer inspection of the desk are macabre carvings of various prisoners being executed in different ways and the engraving "THEY ARE ALL GUILTY / THEY ARE ALL SAVED." Alex finds a secret button on the desk, pushing it to activate one of the walls in the quarters to open up, revealing to be a giant security camera setup and armory. Finding a map, the three deduce that there were no other secret exits in Furnace, and the only way up is going through the elevator in genpop.