Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Coming Up in 2012 #5: The Fury by Alexander Gordon Smith

I am a huge fan of Alexander Gordon Smith's Escape From Furnace series, although this won't be news to anyone who had been following this blog for a while. That series came to a dramatic and brilliant conclusion in 2011, but Smith is not one to rest on his laurels - he already has The Fury, the first book in a new two-part series scheduled for release in April. I can't tell you how excited I am about this - it is one of the books that I am most looking forward to reading in 2012. Now I hand you over to Alexander Gordon Smith to tell us more about it (and even though my wife is a PE teacher I have to sympathise with his memories - I too had a totally sadistic PE teacher and to this day I am still feeling the trauma created by some of his lessons):

The Fury is my most recent book, but I think the seed of the idea was planted in my head many years ago. Back at high school, when I was about twelve, we used to play a game in PE called Murderball. It was, just as it sounds, extremely unpleasant. I hated PE anyway (what overweight, geeky, asthmatic boy doesn't?), and what made it infinitely worse is that my PE teacher was a total sadist (what PE teacher isn't?). He obviously thought that making us run around on the field in the snow playing rugby for two hours wasn't quite punishing enough, so he devised a brand new version of the game.

Murderball, at its heart, had one rule. Try not to die. This wasn't as easy as it sounds. Basically, the PE teacher would select a victim, usually one of the fat kids (me), one of the nerdy kids (me), or one of the wheezy kids (me), hand him a rugby ball, and tell him to start running. He'd give the victim a five second head start, then he would send the rest of the group after him.

The objective for the chasers was to get the rugby ball back from the victim, but this is where Murderball really earned its name. The victim would usually abandon the ball after a few metres, but the rest of the group ignored it, and set upon the unfortunate child like a pack of dogs on a fox. It was absolutely terrifying. One minute you'd be running, the next you'd be on the floor, twenty other boys piling on top of you, plunged into darkness. Some would be jumping on your chest or elbow dropping you in the stomach, others bending back your fingers to breaking point; some would stuff grass and mud and snow in your mouth so you couldn't breathe, others took great delight in kicking you repeatedly in places you never want to be kicked. When you were the victim, drowning in flesh, you believed with absolute certainty that you were going to die.

Thankfully, nobody actually perished. But it always fascinated me how in the space of a few seconds your best friends (yes, all my friends at school were in the bottom set PE with me) could go from being lovely, gentle people who would never dream of hurting you, to a mob of savage, howling animals intent on tearing you to shreds. And the weird thing was that everybody in the group had a go at being the victim, at being at the bottom of the pile, and yet as soon as it was somebody else's turn they would become as wild and mindless as the kids who had been attacking them.

It was twenty years later that the story for The Fury came to me, but I think the idea was born when I was lying beneath a mound of people asking – with what I thought was my dying breath – why all of my friends were trying to slaughter me. This is exactly what happens to the heroes of the book (including one scene on a school playing field). For no reason whatsoever, the world turns against them – friends, family, teachers, strangers, everyone becomes a mindless, bloodthirsty savage hell-bent on killing them, and only them. And as soon as they have killed you, they go back to their lives as if nothing has happened. In the book, of course, the reason for the Fury is much more exciting than a sadistic PE teacher. But that sense of utter fear, of panic and confusion, of trying to survive while everyone you know attempts to murder you, is hopefully just as potent and as terrifying when you read the book as it was twenty years ago for me playing Murderball.


  1. The key to (the more gently named) "dodgeball" was always to pretend to get hit in the first volley and then sit out. My students are still waiting eagerly for the 28 February release of Fugitives, so they won't like waiting for this one!

  2. Awesome! You know that feeling you get when you read about a new book and get totally excited? That's me right now. I'll have to go and burden my credit card even more by preordering this.

  3. i read the furnace death sentence it was amazing