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The Old Lie by Claire G. Coleman

I have mixed feelings about The Old Lie by Australian author Claire G Coleman. The story is an allegory which informs readers about the worst components of Australian history using what I found to be an unsettling scenario.

The cons:

I probably wouldn’t have read this story if there had been an indication on the cover or in the blurb that the story was science fiction as I’m not a big fan of this genre.

The writing itself was not as good as it could have been. I thought the dialogue was particularly clunky.

The many plot lines were initially confusing although they all tied together at the end of the story.

The pros:

Despite my dislike of the genre, the creative plot was well suited to being told as science fiction.

There are good and bad lessons to be learned in the story with sexism and homophobia appearing to have been eradicated while racism continued to exist on a larger scale than ever before – at an inter-galactic level.

The Old Lie follows various indigenous Australian characters after Earth became embroiled in an inter-galactic war. The story began with one character fighting a war in barbed wire and mud, as people residing in outback Australia were becoming ill for no apparent reason while others were refugees on space stations at the other end of the universe, trying to find their way back to Earth by whatever means they could. One character was a prisoner being experimented on by scientists while others had left their homes and families to fight with the Federation after the Conglomeration tried to take over the Earth.

Disturbingly, the Federation valued humans as fighters with a higher aptitude for violence than other species in the entire universe.

I suffered through the first half of this book without taking much interest in the many descriptions of space ship battles or in the human character’s encounters with alien species but the story came together in the last third of the book to deliver a message about how indigenous Australians have been treated since the time of the First Fleet of British ships landing at Botany Bay which I thought was worth reading. The parallels with the nuclear bombs set off at Maralinga were frightening and the idea that all humans could be treated by other species the way other humans have treated and continue to treat indigenous populations was distressing. I think a reading group would find themselves with plenty to discuss after selecting this book as my review has only skimmed over the issues the story raised.

My purchase of The Old Lie by Claire G. Coleman goes towards fulfilling my New Year’s resolution to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of 2020 (November).

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