This Australian writer's first effort had to do with murder in a devil worship cult (The Place at Whitton, 1965), and this novel about a savage eighteenth century British penal colony exhibits the same bemused fingering of inhuman obsessions. Corporal Halloran of the British Army, impressed into service after a raid on an assembly in his Irish village, manages to clear breathing room for his humanity and integrity within the lacerating barriers of a prison colony in the South Pacific. Oppressed by dissolute, sadistic and callous officers and administrators, the ""felons,"" many unjustly imprisoned in the first place, are flogged, tortured, hanged capriciously, righteously. Briefly happy in the love of Ann, his ""secret bride,"" servant of the venomous Commissary's wife, Halloran honors his soldier's oath, then he is drawn by cameraderie and tales of world-wide revolution to aid an escape. Both Halloran and Ann are hanged, and in his last conscious moment, the Corporal wonders if he is, indeed, God. An overlavish hand with accumulated brutalities and oblique dialogue which, though it sings, does not always clarify--weakening its indictment of inhumanity. A thorny declaration which occasionally draws blood.