Book Review: Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

Title: Do You Dream of Terra-Two?

Author: Temi Oh

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: March 7 2019
Hardcover: 520 pages

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet meets The 100 in this unforgettable debut by a brilliant new voice.

A century ago, scientists theorised that a habitable planet existed in a nearby solar system. Today, ten astronauts will leave a dying Earth to find it. Four are decorated veterans of the 20th century’s space-race. And six are teenagers, graduates of the exclusive Dalton Academy, who’ve been in training for this mission for most of their lives.

It will take the team 23 years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years spent in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong. And something always goes wrong. nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: bought

Format (e- or p-): audiobook

Review

Trigger warning: suicide.

In an
alternate world that is already fast dying, an alternate England and its
advanced space program is about to launch a small space ship into space. It leaves
Earth just before the 2012 Olympics games with its ten astronauts – four older veterans
and six highly trained young adults in their late teens – on a mission to Terra-Two,
a habitable planet discovered a century ago, aiming to start its colonisation.

The hopes
and dreams of the world – and of themselves – follow the six teens on their journey.
A journey that will take twenty-three years.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is the debut by Temi Oh, a science
fiction novel that straddles the line between Young Adult and Adult fiction
really well with great crossover appeal to both audiences. Described as The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
meets The 100 in its marketing copy,
I think neither fits Do You Dream of
Terra-Two?
that well, doing the book a disservice by creating certain expectations
in readers. It’s a long novel about complicated subjects: space exploration, colonisation
of a new planet, the hot topic of a dying Earth in the hands of climate change
yes, but also the examination of what it means to hold the dawn of a new civilisation
and the survival of the human race in one’s hand. Especially when you are as
young as nineteen, as most of the characters here are.

As much as one
is trained, and think oneself prepared for anything and everything, as much as one
dreams of Terra-Two, how would one fare when the time actually comes to leave everything
behind, knowing there is never coming back and worse, when things don’t go according
to plan and terrible tragedies both open (one of the designated astronauts dies
of suicide just before the mission takes off and is replaced by a character who
had been cut from the program) and close the novel.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? addresses these and more questions
throughout – it’s a slow-moving, melancholy character study from the viewpoint
of its six teens. I welcomed the diversity of the characters here fully
representing British people (although no one was queer that I could tell) as
well as its depiction of mental health (characters have depression, bulimia and
often feel anxiety over their future) and the ways the characters interacted,
solved problems and learned to be a family in space in spite of their huge
differences.

One of the
questions throughout though is why exactly these six? What made them especial
out of all of the students from the Dalton Academy? How did the people to vetted
these astronauts missed their problems? Missed that their commander in training
Harry is a little bit too unstable and possible sociopathic? How did they miss
Poppy’s depression? Until it hits: maybe this crew, this particular crew was
chosen exactly for being who they are – somewhat broken, lonely. In other words:
seen as expandable by those in charge. Until of course a time comes when the
prove to me more heroic, better prepared than anyone was expecting.

My biggest
problem with the novel is how it suddenly turns from a beautiful, melancholy, slow-moving
character study into a super high stakes space tragedy in its final chapters,
the tension mounting, things hitting the page at increasing speed (including a out-of-nowhere
love declaration between two characters). As exciting as they were, this discrepancy
was perhaps too jarring and the ending felt too rushed and some of the characters’
decisions in the end felt incongruent with what I had read until then.

Overall, I
enjoyed the novel with its quiet moments of humanity and hope.  

Rating: 6 – Good, recommended with reservations

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