When an interstellar conflict arrives at Earth’s door, humanity is drafted into the junior ranks of the magnanimous-sounding Federation. For protagonists Shane and Romeo, their First Nations heritage provides an added dimension to their enlistment and subsequent years on the bloody offworld frontline: they refuse to allow their country and families to be invaded and stolen a second time.
In Claire G. Coleman’s follow up to the widely celebrated Terra Nullius, a series of seemingly unconnected characters – the two soldiers, a fugitive hiding among masses of extra-terrestrial refugees, a hostage, a dying man – bring the grit and squalor of endless hallways, hospitals, space station food courts and battlefields to life, evoking the visceral war poetry of Wilfred Owen, the rich world-building of Ursula K. Le Guin and a dark, inventive wit that is all Coleman’s.
Set against the backdrop of the stars, Coleman interrogates our own recent past and present from stolen generations and Maralinga weapons testing to the age-old capacity for cold, bureaucratic inhumanity exhibited by aliens and humans alike. And, as Coleman’s characters navigate twists and upheavals that feel both shocking and inevitable, The Old Lie speaks to some all-too-timely truths.
Walter is a writer, editor and broadcaster living on Kaurna Country. His work has appeared in Rip It Up, The Saturday Paper, Smith Journal, Royal Auto, Swampland Magazine, Broadsheet and The Thousands.