I read this book in anticipation of a trip to Australia, and indeed it was an excellent backdrop to travel there. But it proved to be much more: a deep insight into the genesis and nature of institutional evil, with its low-key, meticulous depiction of the brutality and sadism visited upon Australia's transportee convicts. Anyone who contemplates the Holocaust or any other of humankind's planned atrocities must wonder at the essential question of how bascially sane people end up doing such horrendous things, with state sanction. Hughes' book illustrates how overly rigid, rationalistic bureaucracies, implementing theoretical constructs about human behavior without having to face the immediate consequences, tend toward sadism and self-justifying cruelties. His book is of great value not only to students of Australia, or of history, but to anyone in the criminal justice field, law enforcement, or penology.
Oh, and the book also is extremely sound, well researched and documented, and well written. This is not a quick read, but it is a rewarding one.