I truly do not understand why prison escape fiction is so rare. While if you don’t have an outside point of view you may have a small claustrophobic setting, escaping from jail and running from the cops is a suspenseful, odds-against-you storyline that’s so inviting for the roller coaster ride it’s no wonder the public generally secretly cheers on those who manage to get over the walls. It’s been too long since I got to read a nice prison break, and while Sanctuary was a little different than what I expected, I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy. It’s been a long time since I’ve become so invested in a new YA series.
A prison set in outer space, Sanctuary is a little harder than the average incarceration facility to break out of. And our hero is not one of the prisoners but one of the guards (a teenager of course.) Kenzie Cord, daughter of Angela Cord, the relentless prison warden. Their prison is also the property of Omnistellar Corps, and as in the title, it’s a corporation, and it’s what rules the world. Whatever alternate reality this is, it’s been able to leave Kenzie to believe there is not a single place that works with government and corporations ruling is how it’s done. She also firmly believes in the penal system, knowing the many teenagers and preteens there have strange abilities, and they’ve done horrid acts that require them to be watched and require them to be watched under security and technology that stops their powers.
Well, one day, the prisoners manage to fool everyone and gain access to the prison’s main control. Think reinforcements are arriving? Not with Kenzie as bait and not with comms cut off between the rest of Omnistellar. One of the first processes the prisoners do is cut out the chips implanted in their bones that stop their powers, and it’s such a painful process, a knife right through your arm, that some squirm and dare hit people pretty hard. Kenzie decides to step in and help and hold an arm down, and though she’s not immediately now on the side of her captors, considering they aren’t hurting her and giving her a lot of leeway, maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to escape. The thing is, how do you escape when there aren’t any ships in the port…and something seems to be stalking them? Something inhuman that’s found its way into the facility?
In this day and age, it’s sadly not quite as fashionable calling yourself a rebel. We have the anti-vaxxers to thank for that. I recognize my role in society as getting vaccinated and trusting the scientists to keep my friends and neighbours safe, and when I think about children who grow up starving, bombed and/or homeless, then see people rioting against the jab (that doesn’t actually really hurt, this coming from the biggest needlephobe in the world) and masks that have kept me and others safe the last two years, it makes me sick how they are so entitled they think a vaccine mandate to keep us all healthy is comparable to the Holocaust. True rebellions are when there’s actual oppression, from desecrating people’s lands to covering up corrupt cops to restricting the right to vote to stealing money from the poor. Hopefully in a few years the thought won’t be an analogy to privilege anymore. Sanctuary thankfully is a reminder of the power of these true rebellions, and a great reminder of why I love to write in this genre. It is a delicious thrill ride of fighting for freedom stolen away from you, and even if it eventually partially loses that feeling of escaping those trained to keep the prisoners confined, it still welcomes you in for its roller coaster ride and never completely loses it.
My favourite parts of this book by far are when her mother/the commander and the prisoners are in negotiation through comms. It’s in my blood to find it entertaining when the underdogs get some ground up that those in generally more power can’t figure out. And because the riot starts in the book very quickly, the tension is always there even if everyone is taking a snack break. The creatures slithering around in this prison are, well, let’s just say reminiscent of some of those in The Maze Runner, and there has got to eventually be someone who comes in for a weekly supply delivery on Sanctuary for it to keep going, right? What then? The point is these people can’t just put a barrier up and declare the prison their new workable home. Something’s gotta happen now that will take them out to the vacuum of space and every page suggests it could happen in the next one.
A flaw that shows up near the end is some of the smaller kids in this prison (around the preteen age) are not as quiet as they are told by the heroes, misbehaving a tiny bit. But the horrors of their lives and the atmosphere of the prison and how most of them have lived there for years with the threat of staying there their whole life make me not believe any of them would dare not take this seriously. And sometimes it’s less of an escape story and more a Resident Evil survival. But there’s a lot more in this world that remains to be explored, and I already own the next two books. The fast but steady pace suggest a trilogy is the appropriate amount of time to tell this runner story, and I can’t wait to be with these characters now as true fugitives from the law.