Book: The Penal Colony by Richard Herley

pc.jpgI just finished reading The Penal Colony this morning. I started reading it Wednesday and had a difficult time putting it down. It’s a fast read and a great story. I’ve been simultaneously reading another book, but this one clearly held my attention. The great thing about this book is that the author, Richard Herley only asks you to pay him if you enjoy the book. I sent him my payment a few minutes ago. It came out to about $2 U.S.

Here is the book synopsis from his website:

It is 1997. The British government now runs island prison colonies to take dangerous offenders from its overcrowded mainland jails.

Among all these colonies, Sert, 25 miles off the north Cornish coast, has the worst reputation. There are no warders. Satellite technology is used to keep the convicts under watch. New arrivals are dumped by helicopter and must learn to survive as best they can.

To Sert, one afternoon in July, is brought Anthony John Routledge, sentenced for a sex-murder he did not commit.

Routledge knows he is here for ever. And he knows he must quickly forget the rules of civilized life.

But not all the islanders are savages. Under the charismatic leadership of one man a community has evolved. A community with harsh and unyielding rules, peopled by resourceful men for whom the hopeless dream of escape may not be so hopeless after all …

The story is one that fascinated me from the start. With the state of the prison system in the U.S., I have naturally wondered what would happen if convicts were placed on an island to work things out for themselves. This is a fascinating study into human nature and the nature of civilization in a vacuum. It also makes one grateful for many significant and insignificant luxuries we live with each day.

As for the writing and the story, you can’t ask for more. Mr. Herley is a writer in charge of his craft. The plot progresses steadily and the characters are developed carefully and expertly. I like a story that has deep and meaningful characters.

Again from the website, a note about age appropriateness:

The Penal Colony is exceedingly violent, although the worst is not so much described as alluded to. It also deals with homosexual rape and other matters which are best left to an adult sensibility: the book is not suitable for children.

This statement makes it sound worse than it is. Truly, this is not a kids book, but Mr. Herley handles the situation in the book with careful sensibility. Nothing is said for the shock factor as much as to paint a clear picture of what would probably be.

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