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Solitary
Solitary
Vital statistics
Author Alexander Gordon Smith
Illustrator
Published on 2009
Published by Square Fish
Publication order
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Lockdown Death Sentence

Solitary is the second instalment in the Escape from Furnace series by Alexander Gordon Smith. It is the sequel to Lockdown and followed by the third book Death Sentence.

Synopsis Edit

We thought we’d made it, we thought we were free. But we should have known there was no way out of Furnace.

All we did was slip deeper into the guts of the prison: into solitary confinement, where the real nightmares live – the warden, the Wheezers, and something much, much worse.

The clock’s ticking. Because if we don’t escape soon they will turn us into freaks – like them. Forever.

Plot Summary Edit

Confession Edit

The book starts off with Alex's confession about stealing from his family, specifically about his grandmother's locket before going into a quick recount of the details of the story so far.

The River and the Tunnels Edit

The plot picks right up where the last book ends, Alex is struggling to stay alive in the river, and blacks out vaguely between consciousness and unconsciousness. He then wakes up to Gary and Zee arguing about ditching him. Zee reveals he pulled Alex out of the river and that Toby hadn’t made it. It's also revealed they haven't actually escaped, only gone deeper into the prison. Alex, Zee and Gary are then in pursuit of the Warden's dogs, forced to go deeper into the underground labyrinth.

After getting lost once more, the trio is motivated into moving by incoming wheezer calls from a cavern above. Alex stops the group upon hearing a strange noise, then realizes they're being followed by some sort of beast. They all begin to run away, but Alex trips in his escape and is attacked. Before he could get killed, the creature is fought off of Alex by something else. Alex is urged to run, before getting shoved in the direction of safety by his saviour, who leaves before Alex can figure out their identity. He catches up to Zee and they make their way into a passage that leads to a distant light. Reaching the end of the tunnel, Alex and Zee realize they only made it right back to the Warden’s path.

The Hole Edit

Alex and Zee are confronted by the Warden after their false exit route. Gary has already gotten there first, severely injured and held down by a blacksuit. The Warden proceeds to congratulate the trio for their attempt at their escape, and that he was able to find them due to the rats trails. Here the Warden sentences Zee and Alex to one month in solitary while Gary is taken to the infirmary. The blacksuits give Alex and Zee a five second head start to run into their cells in solitary, else be hunted down by the dogs. After narrowly being eaten by the dogs again, the boys manage to haul ass into their cells: literally a hole in the ground. After being secured in place, Alex tries to call out to Zee but to no avail.

In the hole, Alex begins to hallucinate images of people in his past, his teacher, his grandparents, his own parents and Toby (his school friend) and others, all who berate him for being a criminal and a horrible person. Another apparition appears, Donovan, who rather than make accusations, laughs and brings good energy. He proceeds to tell Alex to keep his spirits up and to keep distracted to survive solitary before fading away. With this advice Alex begins to keep planning and checking the specs out of his cell before putting his thoughts into a way to contact Zee.

Communication Edit

Alex begins to wonder about what the Warden’s plans are, and if it is really demonic practices, or evil sciences at play that turns inmates into monsters and blacksuits. And who or what exactly attacked him, then saved him back in the cavern. In the meantime, he puts his physical efforts into kicking the bathroom grille out from its frame, trying to see if there was way he could use the pipe for communication.

It turns out that Zee had also wrenched out his own bathroom grille, and by hitting the pipe, Zee could send a signal to Alex. The two spend the next few hours coming up with a means of talking to each other (tapping out numbers to represent letters), keeping themselves busy. They are interrupted by a blacksuit who opens their cells to give them a meal, telling that they wouldn't get another meal for another couple of days. Zee and Alex marvel over the fact that it had already been two days since theyve been sentenced and play a game of I Spy. Donovan makes a brief appearance again as an apparition, but disappears once he alerts Alex to the sound of dogs from above. After hearing gunshots and a moment of brief silence, something tries to break into Alex’s cell - who tries to fight back to get it closed. Despite this, the hatch is opened once again and Alex is snatched away.

Simon Edit

He is then dragged away from his cell by the creature into an abandoned room, while the creature then reveals itself to be the thing that had saved Alex previously and that it needed Alex’s help down below the prison. Alex tries to ask questions about it and about the whereabouts of actual Donovan, but is cut off when the creature pushes alex away, urging him to go back to his cell. Before being completely locked away again, the creature tells Alex that its name is Simon.

After the ordeal, Alex sums up what had happened with Simon to a worried Zee, and the two speculate on what Simon was and what exactly his intentions were. Alex conjures his hallucination of Donovan again where they try to rationale their shared information about what is going on. Donovan tells Alex to see the actual Donovan in infirmary to find out, as whatever they're thinking is actually happening with the real him at the moment.

Simon later returns during a rat breach, this time taking Alex and Zee due to Alex’s insistence. While hiding, Alex and Zee press Simon for questions about everything that’s happened. Reluctantly, Simon gives in. Simon tells Alex and Zee of how the rats were regular boys that have “just gone wrong”. The truth is, since Furnace opened, the wheezers have been taking inmates into the infirmary and changing them into monsters. According to the warden, children are the only ones who can handle the procedures of being ripped apart and being put back together. Rats are the children from the experiments that have gone too far and lost their minds and humanity to the point where they only want to kill and destroy. This back and forth of the blacksuits trying to fortify against the rats is considered the true war under gen pop.

Simon explains that the breaches have been happening more and more frequently, the reason why he can only talk for so long to Zee and Alex. Their meeting is cut short by a rat crawling into their hiding spot, so Alex and Zee have to run back to their cells. The two hesitantly return back to solitary, consoling each others worries and sharing a hug before dropping back into the hole. Alone again, Alex wonders about Simon and if he's trustworthy, along with what would happen afterwards if Zee and himself survived the full month in solitary. If they were even to survive all that, how would they escape in the even darker depths of furnace.

The Infirmary Edit

A night or so later, Simon returns to Alex and Zee, explaining they have more time due a riot up in genpop. Even though the prisoners have been told the escape plan failed, the idea of finding a way out sparked hope for everyone up above. The three of them then sneak into the infirmary to find Donovan. Among searching the cubicles Alex also comes across Gary who now has his eyes replaced and is beginning to undergo the transformation. After a close call with a wheezer nearly spotting them, they finally find Donovan who is now in one of the more advanced stages of the transformation after having gone into surgery.

Donovan still recognizes Alex and Zee but is too weak and spaced out to understand what is happening. Alex tries to bring Donovan with him but Simon stops him. The reason why Simon brought them is to show that there's nothing they can do now. When the threat of wheezers close by, Simon, Alex and Zee have to leave, but not before Alex promises Donovan that he’ll come back for him. After slipping out of the infirmary with some ease, Alex and Zee are in sorrow spirits. Simon apologizes sincerely about making them see that, but returns them safely back to solitary. In the hole Alex contemplates what he’s seen in the infirmary. Hallucination Donovan is back, harder to recollect in visage and tries to talk to Alex again, assuring that the real Donovan is still in there and for Alex to get them all out of there.

Lost Boys Edit

While Alex waits for Simon's return, his cell is attacked by a rat that manages to break into the hatch. He is spared by a blacksuit that threatens to let the rat kill Alex without anybody else knowing, but spares Alex instead. Upon this, Alex begins to undergo a mental breakdown over the bleakness of his situation from either end, and contemplates suicide with a scalpel he stole from the infirmary. He ends up dumping the scalpel down the toilet drain.

Not long after, Simon finally returns. He leads Alex and Zee even deeper into the underground labyrinth and introduces the two to Pete and Ozzie: former inmates who escaped the infirmary and now live as rats like Simon. Simon and Ozzie show Alex and Zee the steeple, a cliff in the cavern with a rock pilar that scaled up seemingly towards the surface. Simon agrees it seems hopeless but its the only plan he had in mind. Alex and Zee reluctantly comply to help.

Return to the Infirmary Edit

After Simon returns Alex and Zee back to their cells, Alex finds himself scared and distrusting of Simon, who only seems to keep returning them back to Solitary so they'd have nowhere else to go. In the next couple of days, the boys get a visit from the Warden to see how they've fared so far, who in turn is surprised they've lasted so long. After the visit, Alex begins to formulate a plan on stealing supplies from the infirmary as makeshift climbing gear to scale the steeple. Once Simon came back, he, Alex and Zee immediately go to the infirmary to start collecting. Once inside, Alex tries to find Donovan again, only to his dismay is too far gone in the transformation to recognize Alex or Zee. As they're leaving, they attract the attention of a wheezer.

Alex and Zee are almost killed by one, until Simon stabbed it in the back, badly wounding it. The three manage to kill the wheezer by holding it down and ripping its gas mask off. They're soon chased through the infirmary by wheezers, blacksuits and dogs and into the incinerator filled with cadavers. Simon, Alex and Zee hide among the dead bodies to avoid being caught, then return to the infirmary to take as much equipment as they can before returning to solitary.

Taken Edit

Growing anxious and frustrated without Simon's visit, Alex attempts to strike a conversation with Zee. He's interrupted by the sound of someone (or something) overhead their cells. When the commotion quiets down, Alex attempts again to talk to Zee, only to dawn into the horrifying realisation that Zee was taken when the blacksuit on the other end replies with "What makes you think I'm Zee?"

Luckily for Alex, Simon arrives quickly to the scene and regretfully informs that he wasn't able to get Zee in time without being caught. Alex insists on trying to go after Zee, but Simon lays down a choice to Alex: go after Zee and definitely get caught, or to go with Simon and take their most probable shot at escape. Ashamed, Alex goes with Simon. As the two escape to the hidden tunnels, they overhear the phone ringing in the Warden's quarters - a sensation that almost drives Alex insane, but manage to regroup with Ozzie and Pete.

Escape Routes Edit

Alex and Simon mount up in their medical equipment/makeshift climbing gear to scale the Steeple, while Ozzie and Pete kept watch underneath. After a small farewell, Alex and Simon begin the hard climb up the gorge making good progress up the steeple until they hit a break in the rock and a platform between the route. However, the platform was a complete rats nest, preventing Alex and Simon from going further up. Forced to retreat, the two descend back down to the ground and relay the situation back to Ozzie and Pete.

Alex comes up with the idea instead to scale the incinerator, knowing that it extends all the way up out of Furnace and through the chimney of Black Fort. The four boys agree to go for it and start to make their way back to the infirmary, only to secretly overhear the Warden's orders to find Alex. With the blacksuits in the way, Simon proposes a plan to get the rats down as a breach in order to get the blacksuits and dogs out of their tracks - using someone as bait. The four boys all play rock-paper-scissors in order to determine who becomes bait, resulting with Alex as the loser. Reluctantly, Alex makes the climb all the way back up to the rats nest, shouting at the rats to come get him. And boy do they. The rats give chase to Alex, momentarily getting the better of him before Alex fights a couple off and goes falling down to where Simon, Ozzie, and Pete are waiting for him. The diversion works, as the rats and blacksuits are locked in battle. Ozzie insists on looking after Pete but Alex and Simon swear to come back for the two of them, and make their way into the infirmary.

Goodbyes Edit

Inside the infirmary, everything is clear: no blacksuits, no wheezers. Seeking the opportunity, Alex tells Simon that he has to find Zee and to Alex's surprise, Simon agrees and begins looking through the beds with him. Simon finds Zee first, but Alex runs off to find Donovan again. Remined of a vow his hallucination told him ("You don't have to free me to save me.") He finds Donovan, now almost a complete blacksuit. Donovan tries to attack Alex while still restrained, as Alex relives the memories they shared together. And with an apology and a bedside pillow in his hands, Alex smothers Donovan to death. Simon and Zee guide Alex away from Donovan's body and out of the infirmary.

Incinerator Edit

Inside of the incinerator, the three boys start their ascent without any of their climbing equipment. After making it up 15 meters or so, Alex can see the daylight of the world above, but doesn't notice in time the smoke and heat in the air. The incinerator was lit. Alex, Zee, and Simon all fall down the incinerator and into the flames and cadavers, only to be pulled out near death and at the Warden's feet once more.

Characters Edit

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