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Terra Nullius

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,854 ratings  ·  330 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 3.79  · 
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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
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
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
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
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?

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
Alice Lippart
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
Loved the themes in this, a very interesting read.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.

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
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
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This. Book. One of the best things I’ve read all year.
Robert Sheard
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suppose the blurb on the cover should have been a clue for me, but I didn't really pay attention to it before I started reading. This story will sound familiar, how the Settlers invaded and all but wiped out the Natives. And then halfway through the novel, there's quite a twist. I'm not sure the sci-fi element was necessary to what already felt like a very powerful narrative before that element appeared, but it was certainly intriguing and made for a larger context.
Sachi Argabright
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
TERRA NULLIUS explores Australia in a way that’s fresh but familiar. “Terra” meaning land and “Nullius” meaning nothing/belonging to no one, leads to the term of “no man’s land.” This story follows a cast of characters from two different groups, the Settlers and the Natives, through the deserts of Australia. The story focuses on themes of colonization, race, culture, and acceptance in this inventive debut.

When I first started this book, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into: it was a s
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actual rating: 3,5*

“What souls they have, we will save. Whatever it is they use for brains we will educate it -' she smiled the self-satisfied smile the other sisters most likely hated though they should be scared to say it, '- whether they like it or not.”

Let’s start off by saying that I was surprised. Knowing little to nothing about Terra Nullius before going in, I quickly made my mind about the kind of story I was reading, only to have that rug pulled from under my feet half way into the
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Terra Nullius was a recent breath of fresh air for me from debut author Claire G. Coleman. Jacky was running, running away from the Settlers, hoping to return home to his family if he could find where home is. This daring escape causes a sense of unrest within the Natives and the Settlers are eager to establish peace as soon as possible. Starting off just how you imagine colonisation was all those years ago when the British first invaded Australia but as the plot progresses the reader discovers ...more
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: auslit
Wowza! Just finished this absolutely fantastic Stella Prize nominee. This was like a collision of an alternate Australian history with a Handmaid's Tale type-world. Absolutely brilliant, albeit a troubling read.
Oct 23, 2017 added it
DNF. Just wasn't for me. Interesting speculative fiction but wasnt grabbing me.
Amanda Baldwin
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dystopia, spec-fic
Incredible Australian speculative fiction. Gripping, uncomfortable and written with words that flow straight from the page into your heart. I’ll be thinking about this one for years to come.
Kiran Bhat
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A valiant attempt to rewrite the colonial wrongs of Australia through science fiction.

A book that is both re-imagination of the new world order under postcolonial Aboriginal eyes, and a treatise on all that went wrong, and what could have been better. Extremely insightful. A great book for those who love Octavia Butler or Ursula Le Guin. As much about our lives as it is about those in Coleman’s parallel worlds.
To the Australian indigenous people, the arrival of the white man must have been a real dystopian event. With their technology, diseases, greed and self-righteousness the country and its inhabitants were conquered.
"Terra Nullius" is a cunning dystopian tale of the invasion of Australia - this time by aliens. The parallel between the dystopian tale and the reality of the white man's arrival is a very clever strategy. It works well. It has great impact. It is powerful in its message.
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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.”
“What souls they have, we will save. Whatever it is they use for brains we will educate it -' she smiled the self-satisfied smile the other sisters most likely hated though they should be scared to say it, '- whether they like it or not.” 0 likes
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