Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman
Jacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future.
The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to have a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, reeducation is enforced. This rich land will provide for all.
This is not Australia as we know it. This is not the Australia of our history. This TERRA NULLIUS is something new, but all too familiar.
I really enjoyed this novel. I read most of it in one sitting and was excited to blog about my impressions afterwards (a mark of a good book!).
As much as I enjoyed it, there were some things on my mind as I was reading it:
- I would have preferred a more authentic historical voice from both the author and each of the characters to feel fully immersed in the colonial setting. However, as I sort of knew the twist that was coming (despite avoiding spoilers*) it didn’t bother me as much as it may have done otherwise.
- It would have also been nice if the epigraphs at the start of each chapter were in distinct voices. However, after reading at the end that the author based these epigraphs on historical writings about her people, I mellowed in this stance!
- I’m not a huge SF or spec lit reader but did think this element could have been more innovative.
(*Reviews of this novel are perfect examples of how other bloggers are sensitive about spoilers but newspapers and other media outlets seem to jump and take great joy at revealing the twist).
My response to some comments I’ve seen made by other reviewers
- It was a little repetitive and verbose as others have said. The detail included about the colonisation of natives and subjugation comes under this umbrella. However, I took an overall impression away from the book rather than mulling over each point.
- The characters were lacking in depth but this didn’t bother me in the context of the story.
So, it is clear that lots of things didn’t bother me and I just enjoyed the story!
After I finished reading this book, I knew I enjoyed it but didn’t know exactly how I felt about it. I went back to read reviews on some trusted blogs I follow and the main thing I took away is that it is commercial speculative fiction which is different to the fiction I usually read. In my mind, this genre makes it a curveball to reach a shortlist. Yet with this this genre in mind, I can easily overlook all the little niggles I mention above and take away that it was an enjoyable read.
Could it win the Stella? Yes, if the prize is as genuinely inclusive of all genres as it claims.