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The Penal Colony
Richard Herley
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The Penal Colony

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  3,120 ratings  ·  224 reviews
The British government now runs island prisons for the worst offenders from its mainland jails. 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 he is here for ever. And he knows he must quickly forget the r ...more
Hardcover, 311 pages
Published February 28th 1988 by William Morrow & Company (first published October 15th 1987)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,120 ratings  ·  224 reviews

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Benjamin Duffy
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 ...more
Nov 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, fiction
I picked this up as a freebie kindle book and was not expecting it to be as good as it actually was. This book presents a dystopian view of life in Britain at some point that would now be the past from the point of view of when this book was written. In fact if the author hadn't mentioned a date of one of Acts central to this book it would easily be timeless. Having said that, this book is pertinent for the type of world and society we could easily become.

I quite quickly grew to have an affinity
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh. My. God. This book was incredible. I just finished it a few minutes ago. It's part-Island of Doctor Moreau, part-Great Escape. Superbly written, the detail and thought put into it, the characters, the plot -- the fucking plot, my god -- the writing was so good, I started feeling scared and nervous as I read. I felt relief when the main character got out of a hairy situation. Dare I use the phrase emotionally turbulent? I couldn't stop thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it.

I knew
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've just finished reading one of the myriad of free offerings for Kindle that Amazon provides. That in itself would usually be an achievement, that I had managed to get all the way through a free eBook without giving up on it, they generally aren't renowned for their quality. However what I have just read is nothing short of a masterpiece, this book reminded me why I loved trawling through the library and scurrying home laden down with books as a kid. It reminded me of my endless capacity to co ...more
I Read
Nov 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
I came across this looking for a book on the historical penal colonies of Australia, but found the concept described in the blurb of a modern day equivalent, set on an island off the Cornish coast and controlled by satellites and every security device afforded by the technological advances of our age too intriguing not to read and I’m so glad I did!

I thought the author did a brilliant job of presenting it in a believable light, having considered all aspects and come up with a unique model; it c
Tom Gold
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Anthony Routledge, a former surveyor wrongly accused of murder and condemned to spend the rest of his days on the on the bleak island of Serte, where Britain’s worst convicted criminals have been abandoned to fend for themselves.

Following his initiation he is accepted into ‘The Village’, a semi fortified peninsula within the boundries of which a group of prisoners have formed a society based on rigid protocol and hierarchy. Beyond its boundries the ‘Outsiders’ exist in a sta
Joe Stamber
Dec 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
Richard Herley's "The Penal Colony" is a sort of Papillon off the coast of Cornwall with a bit of Scum thrown in. Another reviewer mentioned Lord of the Flies and I can see why. However, despite these references, The Penal Colony is its own story, not an imitation of another. Herley has taken a plausible scenario and developed it thoughtfully enough to draw the reader in and convince him that this could be happening.

Routledge is a wrongly convicted "Category Z" prisoner who is dumped on the isl
Mark Chisnell
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I noticed flying high in the Kindle store and with almost 400 reviews averaging close to 5 stars, I thought it was worth a closer look – I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a great read, the tale of an innocent man dispatched to a brutal jail for the rest of his life – Shawshank Redemption territory.

In my view, it’s a match for that movie. It has all the action required of the genre, but pushes home a few hard points about leadership, the nature of punishment, violence and man’s essentia
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read-2019
The concept was intriguing and should have made for a thrilling read, but I couldn't really get into the book, didn't care for its protagonist, and the blatant homophobia running through the whole thing just pissed me off.
Michael Workman
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Penal Colony

Fantastic read. Be prepared for a long night, once you start it, you will not be able to put it down
Richard Rider
Sep 24, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I got to 60% and sort of skim-read the rest. Annoying because it got less offensive from there and started to focus more on moving the story along, but I lost the will to give it any more attention.

I mentioned this in a comment-thread on one of my status updates: I usually have a lot of patience with problematic elements of books that were written a few decades (or centuries) ago. You can't really ignore social context with things like that - if we refused to read books that were a bit racist or
Leah Polcar
I was so disappointed by this book. The premise is so intriguing -- send away the most dangerous criminals to small islands and let them fend for themselves. However, I found that overall, while worth a read, this book was only mediocre. I have two main reasons for thinking this. The first is that Herley does not fully develop the story about how such penal colonies came to be. He makes frequent mention of how this is exactly what one could expect from Great Britain and that Great Britain is hor ...more
Gary Gauthier
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very satisfying read. The book is well written with an excellent balance of description and action. It is a tale of survival that reveals the best and the worst of human nature. It is also a psychological novel of personal transformation. The protagonist begins in a place of both physical and emotional isolation and ends up belonging.

There was hardly a dull moment as the story unfolded. The action is nicely paced and dramatic tension is maintained throughout the book. There is no use
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one took me by surprise, I have to admit the only reason I had in on my Nook is because it was available as a freebie and it had some good reviews. The subject matter isn't something that would normally interest me but I took a chance and I'm glad I did. A great action/redemption story that I think would appeal to a lot of people. By the final few chapters it definitely entered "just one more page" territory and I ended up sitting up in bed until I finished it. Looking forward to reading mo ...more
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written piece of dystopian fiction. Some of the story gets bogged down in places with technical details that I found unnecessary, but on the whole it's an interesting story that conveys the sense of isolation and the lengths convicted criminals go to to survive when they are exiled to live on an island.
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book because the whole idea of having a prison apart from society was intriguing and I liked reading about the dynamics of the island groups and how they made things work and lived on that island.
Brian Gore
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Lord of the Flies meets Lost.
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the greatest adventure books I've read in a long time. Though gruesome, it has a very delicate plot that is easily understood and sympathized with.
Oct 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first ever Kindle download and I loved it . Gripping and thought provoking from the outset
Loved it and recommend it highly
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 autho
Elli (Kindig Blog)
It's nice to grab such a great book on the Kindle free list.

Penal Colony is an engaging read and one that questions our ideas of a civilized society. It's so easy to find yourself routing for 'The Village' characters before remembering that they are on Sert for a reason - they are all murderers, rapists and terrorists! The idea is original and the plot has lots of nice paths and twists, as well as shifting character perspective to keep it interesting and mounting the tension.

Although you don't k
Ronda Coleman
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: surprised-me
I picked this up at a thrift store and was not expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised. This was a fun and quick read. I enjoyed all the characters and the society they formed. I found it entertaining and definitely a page-turner. The survival aspect of this book was exciting and dramatic. Suspenseful. Somehow I imagine this idea, of dumping prisoners on an isolated island, not so hard to believe. Read it.
James W. Tucker
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I cannot stop thinking about this story. In ways, this is much like The Lord of the Flies asking us to see ourselves facing survival as our single goal, but it also forces us to understand that without relationships life is truly without meaning. Very well written. My sincere admiration for the author's skill.
Jason Marchant
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Better than the movie

Really enjoyed this book. I read it wanting to see the difference between this and the film No Escape which I also enjoyed. It was a quick and easy read and I liked the main character better in this. It gave much more backstory and detail. The struggle was greater too,and the ending was just as good even though it was better.
A surprisingly good little read.

Good characters based in an alternative historical future, with plenty of development and sympathy/empathy on offer for a wide cross-section of readers.

The ending was either predictable or surprising... (you'll know when you read it). I would have preferred something slightly different. However, i fear it was sadly missing a follow-up book or an epilogue.
Tony Parsons
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anthony “Tony” John Routledge (37, former resident quantity surveyor) was sentenced for a sex-murder of Jacqueline Lister.
The problem was he did not commit heinous crime.
He was transferred from Exter prison to Sert (Atlantic Ocean, north Cornish coast).
Probably 1 of the worst prison around.
Mr. Stamper (20, guard) showed him to the panel.

It was composed of: Mr. Brian King, Mr. Appleton, Mr. Mitchell.
Anthony is classified in the Category Z.
Winston (black prisoner) & Gazzer (White prisoner) were
Andrew Harvey
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good hard to put down book, great story exciting and interesting, shows how to survive in those conditions if you had to.
Deleen Wilkinson
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read

To be honest, it took me a while to get into the book but once I did I really enjoyed it.
Would definitely recommend this book.
kathryn i apland
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Very weak ending, wanted more details. Author was very wordy elsewhere in the book. Guess he wanted us to use our imaginations. This would make a good movie.
Rolf Forrester
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Worth reading

Very interesting story. Well presented and written. The author captures the emotions and thoughts and motives of the people brilliantly.
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I was born in England in 1950 and educated at Watford Boys’ Grammar School and Sussex University, where my interest in natural history led me to read biology; but from my earliest years English had been my “best” subject, and shortly before my final exams I decided to try to become a professional writer. The job of the artist – in whichever medium he or she works – is an important one, since, cons ...more

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