What happens at the Outback Bordello…will probably scar you for life.
Review of EFC Book 15: Outback Bordello
Review by Tom Pahlow
If you’ve ever watched the brothel episode of the TV show Firefly, you might have some idea of the kind of setting in Book 15 of Earths Final Chapter, Outback Bordello. What you won’t have, is any idea of the brutal and gripping story that GD Penman is about to put you through.
On the surface it’s a story of a brothel, or Bordello, in the outback that comes under attack while two members of the Smilers Gang are wintering there. Underneath that broad description is a story full of twists and surprises that kept me guessing throughout.
Penman puts us right in there with real characters. The way they are described, their backstories and their interactions are all so well done that you start to fall in love with the staff and guests of the Outback Bordello. Love that Penman ruthlessly uses in the brutal second half of the story. (Seriously, be prepared…I was not prepared)
Writing is all about allowing the readers to follow along with the lives of your characters. The common struggle with writing is how to put you in the shoes of those living the story. Penman does this amazingly, all the while giving the reader lots of action to keep up with.
As the Bordello is attacked by a mysterious figure/creature, the characters go through many theories about what it is and why it was attacking them. At first, I must admit that I read it thinking to myself that I knew exactly where the story was headed. Even after I had to re-evaluate, I once again thought that I had a sense of where the story was headed.
I was wrong.
Which leads me to the part that has stuck with me since I finished reading Outback Bordello.
If you do not want the ending spoiled for you, stop reading my review and start reading the book!
The thought that has stayed with me since I finished reading the book is that I can’t decide whether I love or hate the ending, the reason for the attack. The whole massacre, the brutal murder of over half the people in the bordello was all because of an almost sitcom like miscommunication. No one needed to die, or be scarred for life, or be decapitated, or disintegrated (jeez there was a lot of carnage in this one). If only someone spoke Spanish, or the robots had sent English speaking Five instead of Spanish speaking Super Murderbot 7000.
It made all the violence feel hollow, four people were ruthlessly murdered for nothing. I almost felt like I could hear the laugh track playing at the end. The more I thought about it though, the more I liked it. I will always believe that, by and large, violence is ultimately a pointless thing. A pointless thing caused by fear, miscommunication and people choosing to strike first and talk later.
In that way, whether Penman meant to or not, Outback Bordello felt like an allegory of war.
Almost laughable in the end if not for the carnage and pain it causes.