Strange Horizons, March 20, 2017

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Strange Horizons, March 20, 2017

Terra Nullius” by Hanus Seiner

Reviewed by Christos Antonaros

As the title of the short story “Terra Nullius” by Hanus Seiner suggests, we are introduced to a new world, a nobody’s land, inside a destroyed futuristic Earth, scorched by the endless war between humans and alien conquerors. However, the invaders are fierce but not flawless. Due to their natural inability to retain their intelligence at the same levels as they age, they teach and train their next generations to simulate the ongoing war through the simulacra, massive whale-like creatures lying at the bottom of a river. Inside a simulacra’s deep hull, an illusion created by enzymes and chemical reactions forms an illusory parallel universe, narrated by two different protagonists. First, an explorer who dives into the river and tries to understand the nature of the massive creatures by exploring five of them and by using simple technology. Many years after, a military group also explores one of the creatures in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding by using the first diver’s observations.

An original idea, which dips the reader into the bottom of a river, and even deeper into the terrifying illusions created inside of the guts of five alien behemoths. The setting and structure of the story are attention-grabbing from the very first paragraphs. One interesting element is the characters’ point of view of the invasion, the invaders and their existence in the world. At some points, especially during sections of dialog, the plot becomes confusing, but the author then gives the reader a plottwisting conclusion that resolves any questions.