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Library Journal Review
DEBUT In this dystopic work, Earth has become terra nullius-a contested concept often used to validate the conquest of an area deemed "nobody's land"-by virtue of an alien people conquering and even enslaving the planet's inhabitants known as the -Natives. Coleman explores the consequences of this futuristic colonization through the lens of Australia's colonial past and multiple perspectives. There's Jacky, a young Aboriginal man who has escaped enslavement and joined a group led by Johnny Star. Johnny, a former Trooper, has renounced his former actions against Natives and begun fighting his own people, especially the Settlers, who have taken over many of the Native communities. Sister Bagra, perhaps the most reprehensible character, runs a children's camp closely resembling the worst of missions established in the United States to "reschool" Native American children. Though connections to Australia's history are apparent, so are compelling parallels to other colonial pasts. If there's one weakness, it's the deluge of characters to accommodate. Otherwise, this promising first novel, already acknowledged on major literary award lists, including Australia's Stella Prize, demonstrates Coleman's promise as a creative storyteller. VERDICT Highly recommended.-Faye Chadwell, -Oregon State Univ., Corvallis © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Coleman stuns with this imaginative, astounding debut about colonization. Coleman is a member of the Noongar people of Australia; when she writes of a dry land where settlers enslave the natives and carry out a ruthless extermination campaign against those they cannot pacify, readers will naturally assume that the story is set in Australia, though the setting remains nameless. The book begins as Jacky flees the homestead where he is kept in servitude and frequently beaten. He is headed home even though he no longer remembers where that is. Sergeant Rohan of the Colonial Troopers is tasked with capturing the young man, so he recruits some settler lads and pursues Jacky through the hot and forbidding terrain. Coleman broadens the narrative by including characters such as Esperance, a young leader in a camp of free natives, and Johnny Star, who roams with a band of native outlaws. Midway through, Coleman suddenly upends the narrative with the revelation that the settlers are not what they seem. With this twist, Coleman universalizes the experiences of invaded indigenous populations in a way that has seldom been achieved. Artfully combining elements of literary, historical, and speculative fiction, this allegorical novel is surprising and unforgettable. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
Australian natives living under the oppressive brutality of forced colonization struggle to survive, let alone fight back.It's little wonder that Australian Aboriginal writer Coleman has been praised and nominated for awards in her own country for her thoughtfully woke debut novel about an invasion of Australia by punishing settlers and the subsequent resistance by a native people. The title refers to an obscure legal principle used by Britain to justify the taking of Aboriginal territorythe term literally means "Nobody's Land." This harsh scene of brittle dtente in the Australian Outback, set during an ambiguous point in the country's troubled history, is viewed through the eyes of several characters, all struggling in their own ways. Jacky is an orphaned boy, now a slave on the run, trying to get home even as trooper Sgt. Rohan hunts him through the desert. Sister Bagra is a cruel headmistress at a mission for native children, abusing her livestock with malicious glee. Esperance is a kind young woman who tries to protect her flock of starving refugees. A government official charged with the protection of natives is so evil even his own wife calls him "Devil," like the natives do. By far the most interesting character is Johnny Star, a trooper who betrayed the colonizers and has accepted his fate as an outlaw traveling with a rough bunch of native comrades. It's a cruel scene indeed, made more so by Coleman's purposeful parallels to the evil treatment of native peoples during the British colonization of Australia in the 17th century. But Coleman has an astonishing trick up her sleeve in a twist so subtle and shocking that it may not hit readers all at once but is likely to have a powerful emotional effect when it lands. Coleman doesn't hurry in bringing these disparate characters together, but when it happens, a powerful myth comes to life before readers' eyes.A delightfully duplicitous noodle-bender that flips the script on the Indigenous Australian survival narrative. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.