In the Penal Colony incorporates a vast array of religious, artistic, and philosophical elements. It describes the last use of an elaborate torture and execution device that carves the sentence of the condemned prisoner on his skin before letting him die, all in the course of twelve hours. These 12 books, as a set retell the core of the novella using the form of the book alone. Each book represents an hour of the machines work, showing the progression of the piercing from barely to fully pierced. In the last book, 12:00, the piercings reach the very last page with great force recreating the last and fatal hour of the machine.