Noongar writer Claire Coleman's debut novel, Terra Nullius, envisions a continent disturbingly familiar and worryingly futuristic. Disturbing because it opens with a scenario of settler dispossession; worrying because Coleman's stories serve as a critique of recent history and prophesy a "second wave invasion and a post-colonial future".
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.
Coleman, a south coast Noongar woman from Western Australia, goes to the heart of Australia's challenge as a nation - how to universalise the experience of Indigenous people, so that it is something all Australians can understand. This is the essence of good fiction: it takes us away from our present reality and into another.
Terra Nullius takes reader expectations and confounds them, this is not the story you think it is... but at the same time it's all too familiar.
Coleman is unflinching.
Terra Nullius is witty, weird, moving and original.
A speculative sci-fi struggle meaningfully grounded in Coleman's own Indigenous culture, Term Nullius offers something new - a skilfully constructed pastiche of colonisation, resistance and apocalyptic chaos with parallels that sit unsettlingly close to home.
Coleman makes a significant contribution to the emerging body of Aboriginal writers such as Ellen van Neerven and Alexis Wright who write spectral and speculative fiction to critique the vicious fiction of the colonial archive.
Claire G. Coleman's timely debut is testimony to the power of an old story seen afresh through new eyes. Terra Nullius tells a very familiar tale - with a twist.
An incredible debut from striking new voice Claire G Coleman