Terra Nullius (Claire G Coleman, Hachette)
Part science-fiction and part old Western, Terra Nullius is an ambitious debut by the winner of the 2016 black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship, Claire G Coleman. Jacky is a ‘Native’ who has broken free of his ‘Settler’ captors, running with no goal in mind other than to find the home he can barely remember. Weaving together seven different characters’ perspectives, the novel warns us about the future by reminding us of the past. It’s a familiar narrative, but with a twist. Set in an Australia that is simultaneously recognisable and bleakly foreign, Coleman’s work of speculative fiction tells a story of colonisation and displacement that is both devastating and all too familiar. In our politically tumultuous time, the novel’s themes of racism, inherent humanity and freedom are particularly poignant. The best science-fiction works by holding a foggy mirror up to society, and at times the novel’s message is delivered more sharply than needed. However, Terra Nullius has a firm grounding; as the tensions between ‘Settler’ and ‘Native’ mount, and the atrocities pile up, the truth that lies at the heart of this novel is impossible to ignore.
Elizabeth Flux is a freelance writer and the editor-in-chief of Writers Bloc