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Terra Nullius

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,913 ratings  ·  516 reviews
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. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.

The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to have a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line.
Paperback, 294 pages
Published August 29th 2017 by Hachette Australia
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Claire G. It's on Kobo, Kindle, iBooks and Google Books, that's just what I can think of. Has been available as an eBook since release of the Australian print e…moreIt's on Kobo, Kindle, iBooks and Google Books, that's just what I can think of. Has been available as an eBook since release of the Australian print edition.

It's also available as an audiobook on pretty much all audiobook delivery services.(less)
Claire G. Yes. I am sure quite a few people have by now.

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Average rating 3.78  · 
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This deceptively simple novel offers a powerful and damning examination of Australia's colonial history and the price paid by the continent's diverse first peoples. It is also impossible to discuss or review this book without destroying the source of its impact, so I will offer a very short, non-spoiler review followed by a proper one that you should absolutely not read if you intend to read this book. Let's not make the same mistake they made with Never Let Me Go, people!

The title Terra Nullius
3.5★ (rounded up for a promising debut novel)

“The Settlers would be afraid of the bush, of the deep woodland, so different from their Home. That would be the safest place for him in whatever tangled, green and brown, scratchy and dirty, trackless and untidy scrub he could find.”

That’s Jacky, absconded and on the run.

“A sun like that, heat like that – it bleached the entire sky yellowwhite, nothing like the blue sky one was used to from Home. It was that sky that was a warning, the yellow light a
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Terra Nullius, Coleman's (an indigenous Australian Noongar writer) debut novel, is impossible to rate, but I'm going with 5/5 because I think this work should become required high school reading, at least in places like Europe, or the US, or Australia (places with a legacy of colonization and extermination/genocide of local cultures and peoples).

At first I picked up this book because it was billed as sci-fi, a tale of the colonization of the Earth by an alien race. Instead, I found myself immer
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I had been looking forward to this book since it won the black&write! Fellowship last year, as it sounded like an absolute game changer. Even knowing the twist/spoiler that was coming halfway through, I was really keen to read it.

Unfortunately it just didn't hold up for me. I didn't love the style, didn't connect with any of the characters, and I felt the messaging was much too overt - the book could have been done much more subtly without the chapter-starters explicitly comparing the colonisati
Britta Böhler
Nope. Even the best twist is just a quirk if there is not enough story coming with it.
And Hachette: how about employing editors who actually, you know, edit?

Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read
A searing story of colonisation informed by Australia's own colonial past and the subjugation of Aboriginal peoples by European settlers.

The story begins with what modern eyes recognize as the true horror experienced by colonised people who were oppressed and barely acknowledged as people by their colonisers, let alone as having a culture with a long and rich history. However, as the book synopsis indicates, this recognition of history is not the story of Australia's past. It is, instead, the st
Jacky was terrified but determined not to be caught again. The Settlers were brutal with anyone caught running away – they were brutal anyway. At best, he’d be thrown in jail, and worst, a bullet in the back. But he was so hungry; he could find water, brackish though it might be – but finding food without a weapon was nigh on impossible. Stealing was his only option, but with stealing came immense danger.

Sister Bagra, Mother Superior of the mission, was charged with educating the Native childre
K.J. Charles
Apr 19, 2022 added it
Shelves: sf, australian
Striking SF fable set in Australia. We read about the grotesque cruelties inflicted on the indigenous population by colonisers who don't even see them as people, and it takes several chapters for it to emerge that (view spoiler) ...more
Dec 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Addressing a blind spot in my Australian author diet which till now consisted of Jane Harper and Liane Moriarty (huge fan of both btw) Claire G. Coleman is a Noongar Aboriginal, a people who have traditionally occupied the south-west corner of Western Australia long before history started being recorded there.

Terra Nullius is the story of Settler arrogance and their disdain for the Natives. Bending them to their language, their rules, their religion only to offer them a life of enslavement. Jac
✨    jami   ✨
The next war will be about resilience and survival, culture and art. When that war begins you will discover you are not well-armed. You have no art, your stories have no power.”

This just didn't work for me. I feel like the entire first half hinges on surprising you with a plot twist which wasn't surprising to me because I realised what was going on early, and it just didn't have a writing style that drew me into the story. That said, I did like the parallels Coleman drew between her story an
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was torn between 4 and 5 stars, because it is written in a rather plain prose. But on the other hand the prose suits the topic.

I went for 5 stars in the end:

- for a newcomer this is a very strong one
- the setup idea of the novel totally convinced me
- I just love the spirit of the Noongar in the narration
- through the palpable description the desert land of the Australian outback felt like a character on its own

The problem with this story is that one cannot say much about it, without ruining
Alice Lippart
Loved the themes in this, a very interesting read.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Quick review:

Relentlessly mediocre, mendaciously obfuscatory, totally overrated.

Slightly longer:

No plot, no story. The first half of the book is forced, is made, to hide the sophomoric twist to the point of being unable to describe, to paint, about 80% of the setting, the world. The characters, the individuals, are basic, with no complex motivations, no desires. Key elements, key parts, are hand-waved. The voice, the style, is gratingly repetitive.

The core ‘twist’ that everyone on this site is g
Sheree | Keeping Up With The Penguins
An under-realised haunting aspect of Terra Nullius is the fact that no one is coming to save us. In that respect, it’s not only a metaphor for invasion – it’s climate change, it’s capitalism, it’s even a global pandemic. I think it might have worked better had the metaphor been explicit from the beginning, but I still respect its haunting premise.

My full review of Terra Nullius can be found on Keeping Up With The Penguins.
Zitong Ren
“ ‘Stealing something to eat, that is a crime that would get me flung into jail. Stealing everything, that is just good government.’ ”

Ooh ok, I will say that the concepts that were explored here and the connection with colonialism, especially of the Aboriginal Australians by the British were superb, but I wanted the characters to have popped off the page more. So, Terra Nullius is a novel about weird space aliens coming to Earth and conquering and from what I can deduce, it takes place a few de
Trigger warnings: death, violence, colonisation, genocide, child abuse.

I strongly suggest that you go into this book knowing literally nothing but the title and the fact that it's EXCELLENT. Coleman's writing is spectacular and it's an incredible story from start to finish. It's a tense and atmospheric story and I strongly recommend that every Australian read it.

(view spoiler)
A unsettling tale of an invasion and colonization of Australia by Settlers. Natives are imprisoned, reeducated, abused and killed. The narrative could take place in any part of the world where an indigenous population was targeted and gradually eradicated, and if that was all it was, this would still be a difficult narrative to read. Claire Coleman takes the story further, giving it an interesting twist, informing her protagonists' experiences and sentiments with those of her own ancestors, whil ...more




Physicist Stephen Hawking was always cautioning us about contact with extraterrestrial aliens, as far back as the 80s and 90s, but his opinion really exploded into general awareness about a decade ago when he said on one of his TV series, “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America… which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.” Because it dramatic
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am rather numb now.
A speculative colonisation story that is more than the reader initially imagines.
Set in the near future and we see another wave of colonisation.
I cannot say anything else without spoilers.

The writing was so taut. So compelling.
I was torn between devouring the book in two sittings and being terrified of where the story was heading.

I will definitely pick up anything else Ms Coleman writes.

May 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was not what I was expecting at all. While the idea was interesting and message important, the transition in the story was executed poorly - it felt very forced. I also thought there was a lot of ‘telling’ of the characters’ thoughts and feelings rather than ‘showing’ and that is not an engaging writing style for me.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 26, 2021 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sword-and-laser
Picked this up for the September Sword and Laser but (view spoiler)

A book that has a message but one that might get lost to many people. It's a SF book for sure, but it takes a lot of time getting there. I could see a lot of readers giving up before they get to the interesting twist in the story and the actual science fiction part.

Depending on what part of the world you live in the historical background may be unfamiliar but everyone should be able to relate to the message here. It's a great story, but unfortunately, for me, the author did not do a very good j
Tamsien West (Babbling Books)
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australia
A visceral speculative take of the invasion and colonization of Australia. Deeply rooted in historical realities, Coleman's debut is a powerful and vital book. ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This. Book. One of the best things I’ve read all year.
Rebecca Bowyer
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Research has shown that reading novels improves empathy. Terra Nullius certainly does just that. If you want to understand – on an emotional level – the history and current plight of modern-day Australian aboriginals, this is a good place to start.

The first half of Claire G Coleman’s award-winning debut novel is written in such a way that you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a story of the 1788 British invasion of Australia.

Except it’s not the past. And the British are not the invaders.

Emma Gerts
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
The only thing that stopped this book from being 5 stars was just a little bit of inexperience in the writing. I could tell this was a debut novel. The flow and pace of the dialogue was sometimes just a little bit off, and some of the descriptions were a little repetitive and not necessarily as evocative as they could have been. I think Coleman will definitely benefit from a bit more experience and I expect future novels from her to overcome these small gripes.

Otherwise, this book was brilliant
Kali Napier
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aww2018
Very difficult to review this book without spoilers, but I think most people will pick it up knowing that Terra Nullius is cross-genre; at first, reading like historical fiction as we follow the stories of a cast of characters: Jacky on the run from the household where he works as a slave/servant; Johnny Star, a trooper sickened by the massacres of the Natives; Sister Bagra, the Mother Superior of a mission where Native children are re-educated, punished, and starved; Devil (AO Neville), the Chi ...more
Mike Cullen
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2018
I truly wanted to love this book, but it just didn't hold my attention. To be completely transparent I just couldn't find the energy to bother finishing it so keep that in mind when reading the review.

For me, the prose itself was like slogging through mud. I felt, even from the very beginning, I was being beaten over the head with a great big stick. Good characters, totally good. Bad characters, totally bad. I don't know if it improved, but I couldn't hold my attention when reading it.

Also, I ha
Woah! This is such a powerful book.
I'd seen comments about it being a great science fiction novel, but as I was reading it, it seemed like historical fiction - it was so clearly based on white Australians' mistreatment of Aboriginal Australians in the early 20th century.

The change of perspective turns Terra Nullius from a harrowing historical novel into a powerful speculative fiction novel. When I reached the point where it became clear who the Settlers and Natives were I went back and re-read
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book took me a while to get into, but once I did I was glad I persevered. For the first half of the book, I thought I knew exactly the story I was reading, then bam, one sentence changed that completely. I understand why most reviews don't like to give too much away. Definitely a story that makes you think about the past and the future, very well done on the authors part for telling the story she has ...more
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“You think you are smarter than us, you think your brains are bigger, you think we can't learn. We know more than you, we have stories and songs, we have art and culture. What do you have? You have guns and fury and hate. The war has so far been about guns and death. When you think we are defeated, the war will change.

The next war will be about resilience and survival, culture and art. When that war begins you will discover you are not well armed. You have no art, your stories have no power.”
“We have always been here
We are still here
We are not going anywhere”
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