I added this book, The Penal Colony, to my kindle a few weeks ago because it was free and I thought the description sounded interesting. It sat there for awhile because I had other obligations and couldn’t get to it. When I finally sat down and dove in to the text, I couldn’t put it down.
Most of you know I don’t make a habit of writing book reviews. It’s not my main platform, but when a book grabs my attention, gets me to come a little closer and has me crying by the end: that’s the time I will write a review.
Now this novel has been out for awhile – since 1987. Before self-publishing was so rampant and before kindles were even around. I don’t need to sell this book – it’s got great ratings online – but I want people to read it – and sometimes it takes more than good ratings on Amazon. And because I think people should read good writing.
Anthony Routledge is sent to Sert for a crime he didn’t commit, but he must fend for himself – fighting off savages to make his way back to the Village where order and civilization remain. The first part is a bit Blade Runner – it kept my interest and moved the story along quickly. (Spoiler Alert) When he does finally make it to the Village, all the defenses he has put in place can be slowly lowered – or can they? It’s a tense group. It reminded me of 12 Angry Men – forced to live together under stressful circumstances and to make decisions as a group. They have rules, jobs, duties… all very civilized, but they’re criminals of the worst kind, right? Sent to this island to live out their sad, God forsaken lives.
The reader keeps waiting… waiting for a turn of events, a big climactic moment… all these men can’t live together this cohesively. Can they?
Tension, unease and uncertainty permeate this book. I found myself going back to it again and again to finish the story, to find out what the characters had decided and to learn how it all would end. Each character is defined is such skillful ways – you get a feeling that you are living there right along side them, with their fears, uncertainties and hopes being your own. You long for them to escape, to make a fresh start and to come visit you to tell their stories.
In the end, I wanted it to continue (the sign of a good book!), but I had to let the characters go to fill out their days without me leering over their shoulders.
Check out this book for yourself and let me know your thoughts!