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Worth the Time Spent on It
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.