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Terra Nullius

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  998 ratings  ·  192 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…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)

Community Reviews

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3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  998 ratings  ·  192 reviews

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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
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
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
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 coloni
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
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.

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.
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
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.

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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
Oct 23, 2017 added it
Shelves: did-not-finish
DNF. Just wasn't for me. Interesting speculative fiction but wasnt grabbing me.
Emily Wrayburn
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aww-read, fiction
Review originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind October 26, 2018:

I have to start this review by saying if Terra Nullius gets recommended to you as a particular type of book, and you read the first few chapters and think “This is not what I was told it would be”, just keep going. About a third of the way through, there is a shift in the storytelling, and after that, everything changes, even though nothing has actually changed. If that makes sense.

It’s hard to say too much without giving
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.
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
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was such an interesting novel. While it presents a dystopian vision of a very different Australia, it also gives a compelling commentary on Australia's colonial history and the mistreatment of its Indigenous people. This is made more effective by the clever ambiguity in the first part of the book.

The story is told from the perspective of several characters with different views and motivations. I particularly liked the characters of Jacky and Esperance, and thought Johnny Starlight was a rea
Carol Ryles
This is the kind of Science Fiction novel that speaks volumes, defamiliarising truths about colonisation that are harsh and confronting without being divisive. A fabulous, moving debut novel from an indigenous Australian author whose perspectives create a compelling read I could not put down. I look forward to seeing more of her work.

I am a judge for the 2017 Aurealis Awards. This review is my personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinators, or th
Jessica Lourigan
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
A disappointing end to a story that I felt had a lot of potential. My initial opinion of the TWIST being genius sadly diminished. The storyline quickly unravelled and became repetitive with unbearable forced dialogue. Still a unique idea that perhaps was a little too ambitious for this writer.
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
So Natives continued to rebel, and continued to die. Natives continued to rebel and continued to be imprisoned, to be tortured, to be executed. Natives continued to rebel.

Terra nullius -- "empty land" -- was the doctrine with which white Europeans used as the basis for invading Australia. It was codified into Australian law until the 1990s, but the impact is still felt.

A society based on dominance, genocide, and colonization can only respond in certain kinds of ways.

Coleman's novel takes us to c
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A cracking yarn; in some ways this was an easy read, one I got through in a couple of sittings. The pace is excellent and although the cast is large, Coleman manages them well. In all the ways that matter, however, this is a challenging book that pushes back against colonialism, how we (specifically settler colonists and their descendants) view history, and our complacent ideas about ourselves.
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A powerful, accessible, surprising (there’s a twist!) and empathy-provoking speculative novel about ethics and morality, dispossession, and being refugees in one’s own country.
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
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