Sar’s only crime was being born inside a prison space station. His childhood was brutal, but he survived and as an adult he has accepted that he will live and die on the same station where he was born. He has perfected the art of practicality in the face of savagery and his sensible actions continue to keep him alive. Yet when he sees Jared, a newly arrived prisoner, Sar tosses aside his practical nature and claims the man as his own.
Jared Baum, once a prison guard, found himself sentenced to life on Penal Station 05 for a crime he didn’t commit. Though no slouch, he is ill prepared for the lawless chaos of life in this abandoned prison. There are no guards and no rules. He quickly realizes that not only can Sar protect him, but the man is a genuinely kind and decent soul. The two bond amongst the daily struggle to survive and Jared slowly adapts to his new normal. When the outside world threatens Jared, Sar, and the station, they must work together in order protect the love they share and their slim chance at freedom.
Imagine living in a perpetual Thunderdome, where instead of escaping after you’ve killed your opponent, you just step over him and wait for the next enemy to attack. That’s going to be pretty compelling reading and it’s what you get with Penal Station 05. Now I have to admit, I picked this book to review because the plot sounded absolutely bonkers, like something out of a bad porn movie. And bonkers it is, but the characters were so engaging that I was able to put aside most of the negative and enjoy the book quite a bit.
Sar has never lived outside of Penal Station 05 and, as a result, he is a bit sterile in his interactions and his emotions are somewhat stilted. But that works for this character and most of the time he comes off as absolutely believable. Jared is a bit weaker, but we kind of end up loving him because Sar does. Jared adapts far too readily to life under Sar’s thumb for plausibility, but because these two characters bring out the best in one another, you sort of just roll with it. Their relationship can be overly dramatic at times and they feel more relaxed and at ease with one another when they aren’t proclaiming their undying love. Yet they are an oddly balanced couple and you want them to succeed, which makes cheering for them easy.
The plot borders on ridiculous and tends to just veer off the tracks altogether towards the end of the book. There are some dangling story points and more than a couple pretty big holes in the author’s explanation as to why Jared has been incarcerated and with the book’s resolution. This does appear to be the first in the series so perhaps some of these issues will be resolved, but they were jarring enough to disrupt the rhythm of the book. And because the pacing and flow of the action were generally good, the storyline problems tended to be more noticeable.
Penal Station 05 was more than a little silly, but the characters are compelling, the action good, and the author has done a decent job of creating a genuine interest in their situation. There are plot problems and at times the sex scenes are just preposterous, but Penal Station 05 knows what it is and never pretends otherwise. There are references to non-con and sexual abuse of a minor and, while they take primarily place off page, if these are triggers for you, then you might want to give this one a pass. For everyone else, if you’re looking for an over-the-top story of prison love, you’ll want to give Penal Station 05 a try.