Customer Reviews: The Penal Colony
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on May 24, 2011
Intelligently written, with believable characters and dialogue. A decent, mild-mannered man who has taken the modern, civilized man's life of relative ease and convenience for granted is thrust into a world of depravity and violence, and must learn how to survive. And he learns much more besides. It was good enough that I will seek out more work by this author. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book, especially for the current $3 price.
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on July 5, 2011
The first time I read The Penal Colony was 1998 or so; I spotted a well-used paperback copy in a pile of abandoned belongings at a college dormitory. I took it, began to read, and was instantly absorbed. I was blown away by the story, the characters, and through it all the language: sometimes sharp and precise, other times poetic, always compelling and memorable. I consider myself a fairly well-read person, in terms of classic literature as well as modern best-sellers, and without hesitation, I put The Penal Colony on my "Desert Island List" of ten books that I would take with me to my own exile on Sert.

Up until a few years ago, this book was hard to find: out of print (at least in the USA), and precious little information available on the internet. Now it's available as an e-book here on Amazon, and it's an absolute gem of a book. The ideas, situations and characters will stay with you for life.
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on May 24, 2011
The title suggested more of fiction tilted toward a mans type of novel, but I found myself caught up in this engaging novel and could not put it down. A couple of times the story was a little technical so I just skipped it, but that might be what really seals the deal for you if you are into boat building details. I did really enjoy the way the story was well thought out and the characters were real to me.. a great original story.
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on September 19, 2011
I don't usually write reviews, but I really want to get the word out about this book. I was so very surprised with what I read. This is some beautiful writing and a wonderfully choreographed plot. I was expecting thriller fluff and was pleasantly gifted with an excellent novel.
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I've had this on my Kindle for almost two years now and just got around to reading it: I wish I had picked this up sooner as it was really good!

The author does a great job of quickly getting you into the head and situations of the main character and I could literally envision the scenery and characters as if I was right there, and with the various scenes throughout I felt as if I was an actual participant. While describing a penal colony situation that is not known in the present time, the author paints the story and situation as if it were real - you feel the sadness, anger, joys, and other emotions of the characters as they do their best to survive in a bad situation.

The ending did come a little abrupt, and there is a possibility with the ending of a sequel. I hope so, as I had a difficult time putting this one down and stayed up really late one night to finish it.

I originally picked this up for free during a Kindle promotion and, as I type this review, I see the book is still free vs. its normal price of $3.99. Even if it reverts back to full price, I believe you will receive a heck of a lot more entertainment value than $3.99 from this one.
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on September 16, 2011
Just finished this book last night and I loved it. It was extremely readable with engaging characters you can really become involved with. Has elements of society building AKA "Lord of the Flies", combined with great action throughout. There are a couple of areas that are left a little hazy especially when reading about pre-Sert relationships among a couple of the primary characters.

The writing was descriptive without being overkill, and the story really is compelling. I found myself ignoring or setting aside other activities as I wanted to find out what was going to happen next. I highly recommend this book, I give it 4.5 stars.
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on August 10, 2012
This was an odd read, and I'm not sure if I mean this as a compliment or not. I own the movie that resulted from Penal Colony, called No Escape, so I figured that I had a handle on the premise (contrary to most reviewers here, I like No Escape).....but quickly found out that the other than the island itself and some generic names, the two have little in common. It's not as totally seperate as Wag the Dog and American Hero were, but pretty close.

The protagonist of the story is Routledge, an English surveyor sentenced to life in prison for a murder that he claims he didn't commit (I won't spoil whether he did it or not), and soonthereafter finds himself on Sert, a prison island off the coast of Cornwall. Sert is divided between the Insiders, who live in a village and retain some semblance of society, with rigid rules and a hierarchy.....and the Outsiders, who aren't united, and rape and kill each other with regular frequency. The Insiders make up for their lack of numbers with their organization, and Routledge, after escaping a band of Outsiders who capture him, slowly assimilates himself into the Insiders and finds himself.

And that's the point of the story, Routledge figuring out what he's capable of and who he is. The other characters are nothing more than foils for him, and the most potentially interesting of the bunch, Martinson (the putative antagonist), is given short shrift, appearing almost haphazardly here and there.

The strange part of the novel is that so much takes place off page.......including almost all of the action. Rape is mentioned, but never shown, battles are fought, but never seen on page. Other than a bit of language, the book almost qualifies for a PG rating, if books had such ratings. It was a bit frustrating too, as the battles/fights were built up by Herley, only to find him skipping the payoffs (I'm not disappointed to be denied the rape details). That probably knocks it down a star and a half for me. Routledge was a decent main character, he wasn't a too good to be true guy, nor did he adapt immeidately to island life. He was just capable enough at first to get by, with his real talents earning him a place as it went on.

This seems like a positive review for two star review, and I suppose it is. I would like to see a "full" version of this book, action and all, which I'm sure would get four stars from me.

Two stars.
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on October 21, 2012
studiodude wrote the best review of this book imo. check it out when you can.

i am glad to have downloaded this book for free. i spent the better part of reading skimming because the passages were more than a bit bogged down with descriptive text. i liked the protagonist but did not buy how he ended up where he did. the sinn fein references throw in toward the end? um, ok...O_o perhaps if i watch the movie version and then re-read the book i will develop a different/better position on what i read.
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on March 24, 2013
This book had promise, but it was written in a very cold, proper manner. I found it very very hard to like the hero. But I plodded along through pages and pages of technical information, hand made tools and methods of building things, descriptions of house constrction and boat construction, what they grew for crops and herds of animals, how they dressed and made clothes, page after page of how big the island was and what the vegetation was, how the village was organized, how they addressed each other as Mr. This and Mr. That. Killers, rapists, terrorists having tea and knitting and calling each other Mister. They were stuck on this penal island for the rest of their lives but homosexual behavior was taboo. One group of men who considered themselves more elite kept everything, all the goods dropped by the supply helicopter, and made the rest of the island live in misery. Why? Live apart but don't expect the men you're treating like animals to not act like animals. I was kind of rooting for the bad guys at one point. Now mind you these guys live sparse and don't get much in the way of supplies. They get candles and use the oil of fish and birds to burn oil lamps. They scavage the beach for bottles and plastic. BUT...when the big attack came from the miserable souls on the other side, the elite guys had made flame throwers. Flame throwers! But I kept on reading....waiting...waiting for the big escape. When it finally happened, the best part, it was over quick and the book ended. One minute they're in the boat, getting near to their goal...then I turn the page and it's weeks later. Just a couple of quick flashes of his remembering and's over. How could this author spend so so much time on the technical aspects of island living and rush the ending? There are so many questions left unanswered and there were so many details overdone. phooey.
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on November 22, 2011
This was a relatively good read for what it cost. The author's style was a little foreign for me, being that I'm American and the book is set in the UK, but I enjoyed it mostly. My problem was that the story didn't really go anywhere.

Dude goes to the penal colony. Dude quickly gets indoctrinated into the culture of the colony. Dude gets sent out to test his resolve. Dude kills some guys. Dude finds another colony. They suck. Dude goes to the original. Bad stuff happens to the other people. The original colonies makes big plans that all come to fruition with no issues. The other people make big plans that fail miserably. Our dude lives happily ever after.

The conflict in this book just seemed too nebulous and lacked clear movement as the climax drew near. Things are not suppose to be so easy for people as they were for our protagonist and his new family in the Penal Colony.
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