The Old Lie by Claire G. Coleman

1. First lines. 2. Published 2019 Hachette 3. Galaxy Blazes With New Stars Born From Close Encounter Image credit: NASA, ESA; acknowledgment: T. Roberts (Durham University, UK), D. Calzetti (University of Massachusetts) and the LEGUS Team, R. Tully (University of Hawaii) and R. Chandar (University of Toledo) [CC-BY-2.0] via flickr 4. Hands of Chrystalee By Moyan Brenn [CC BY 2.0] via flickr
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori (“it is sweet and proper to die for one’s country”) – From the poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen in which he writes of the futility of war, life in the trenches and the cost of patriotism.

Main characters Shane Daniels and Romany Zetz are Indigenous Australians who have enlisted to fight in an intergalactic war a long way from home. Earth joins up with the Federation Forces from other planets when it is invaded by Conglomerate Forces. After fierce and violent fighting, in space stations across the galaxy, refugees wait for visas to help them find a safe place. The Federation is controlling all movement, and will not allow Shane, Romany and other Indigenous Australians to return home.

“Corporal Shane Daniels was lost, the grey uniformity of the sky and dirt, the rain, the muck, had rendered the flat, bomb-wracked plain featureless.”

“Family, Country, culture, she had been told again and again by her Elders that they were the most important thing. She thought she was fighting for them, thought she was doing the right thing. This was no longer quite so certain.”

“There the rock, the old grandfather tree, the other rock with ancient remnants of etching on it. A dip in the track, then the scrub got a tiny bit thicker. He stopped, listened, sniffed, searched his memory and his soul, somewhere near here was the waterhole he sought, where his great grandfather was born.”

~Quotes from “The Old Lie” by Claire G. Coleman
  • Sydney Morning Herald: “The human characters all endure injustice and suffering based on historical events including the Stolen Generation, the denial of land, rights and recognition to Aboriginal war veterans, and the British nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga.” “There is no shortage of distressing detail and Coleman wondered at times if she had gone too far in her depictions of violence and suffering. A reader told her it was a hard novel to read; it was harder for her to write. But Indigenous Australians, Coleman says, have lived in a dystopia since colonisation. She writes to hold a mirror up to Australia and that requires her to be unflinchingly honest in depicting the violence experienced by Aboriginal people and the realities of war. … The sense of history stuck in a loop – repeating the injustices of the past in perpetuity – makes for thoughtful, but perhaps not overly optimistic reading in The Old Lie.”
  • Readings: “It is a book without many surprises, but it uses the form of science fiction to masterfully explore its themes.”
  • Locus Magazine:The Old Lie is an infuriating novel to read. It’s a book that features a rich, diverse cast, giving voice to the marginalised (in this case, indigenous Australians), but, paradoxically, has a derivative military Science Fiction plot. … the battle scenes have a cut-and-paste feel, where a battalion of troopers, outmatched and outgunned, somehow survive long enough for the cavalry to arrive or miraculously win the day. And yet, running alongside this is a compelling story about the injustices faced by indigenous Australians since Lt .James Cook’s arrival in 1770 and the subse­quent invasion of the continent in 1788. … Here Cole­man’s anger at how her Country has been mis­treated over the last two centuries is white-hot, particularly the references to Maralinga (a remote area of South Australia used by the British in the 1960s to test nuclear weapons, even though the Maralinga Tjaruta people still occupied the land). … The number of threads left hanging at the end of The Old Lie suggest there will be a sequel. If so, it’s a novel I have no reservations in picking up because, for all the issues I’ve raised in this review, what ultimately shines through is Cole­man’s passion, her fury and, most importantly, her keen sense of justice.”

Author website: Claire G. Coleman

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