Saturday, July 28, 2018

"The Furnace"

Prentis Rollins has over twenty-five years of experience working as a writer and artist in the comics industry.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut full-length graphic novel, The Furnace, and reported the following:
There are three narratives unfolding simultaneously in The Furnace; page 69 [inset below left; click to enlarge] cuts to the heart of one of them. In that narrative, told in flashback, we learn the history of the US ‘Gard Program’—a scheme, launched in 2027, to release dangerous prisoners back into society, the catch being that each would be followed by a floating drone that renders the convict invisible, inaudible, and totally unable to interact with other people. Page 69 shows us the shutting down of several ‘supermax’ prisons and the relocating of the prisoners they housed to GARD facilities.

The second narrative, also told in flashback, is the story of young physics grad student Walton Honderich, the growth of his relationship with the brilliant but unstable physicist Marc Lepore, and how the two of them were jointly implicated in the development of the GARD Program in 2023. Lepore, an alcoholic and repressed homosexual, recruits Honderich to assist him in developing GARD software; when Honderich refuses Lepore’s advances their relationship sours, but it’s too late—Honderich has provided the crucial help that will enable the GARD program to commence.

The third narrative is the crucial present of the story. It’s 2052: Honderich is a middle-aged, alcoholic physics professor living in London with his wife and six year-old daughter. Having returned to the US for a conference, Honderich is forced to finally confront the enormity of the human tragedy the GARD Program entailed—the nearly wholesale die-off of the prisoners subjected to this untested form of psychological isolation. Struggling through his guilt and feelings of thwarted ambition, he explains to his daughter (in a sanitized form) what the GARD Program was and how he was involved in it. And in the end, his daughter inadvertently reveals to him the one remaining route along which he can rise above and be the man he’d once felt so sure he’d be.

The Furnace is a science fiction story about the hideous uses to which technology can be put—page 69 captures that well. But more importantly, it’s about guilt, acceptance, letting go, and the many forms human greatness can assume—that’s what I mainly hope its readers will remember.
Visit Prentis Rollins's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Furnace.

--Marshal Zeringue