The Mental Anguish and Exaltation of Space Travel
‘They call it a “New Earth”,’ said the young astrobiologist with exaggerated air-quotes, ‘but our findings actually suggest that Terra-Two is many millions of years older than our own Earth; truly, we’re living on Terra-Two.’
Hardcover, 520 pages
Published March 7th 2019 by Simon & Schuster
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
Do you dream of Terra Two? by Temi Oh asks what would you give if someone asked you for everything? If they asked you for your sanity, your future, your love, or the control of your destiny. Would you be able to give everything for that one incredible thing your heart is set on? Not many people would. People say that they would give everything, but they don’t really mean EVERYTHING. What does everything look like? Temi Oh poses that question in Do You Dream Of Terra Two (DYDOTT).
The story is about six (sometimes seven) teenagers: Harry, Jesse, Juno, Astrid, Aria, Eliot, and Poppy. One is a boy king who has never failed at anything. Another is an engineering genius with a broken heart. Another is one who is beautiful on camera and full of life while another is driven if broken second-string team member.
Two are twin sisters who are alike as they are different. They enter a school called Dalton at the age of 13, leaping at the chance to be selected for this great adventure. Dalton is horrifically difficult. It asks everything and more of these kids. Much of the Do You Dream of Terra Two? is these kids dealing with the ramifications of psychological warfare that was Dalton. They go up to space, and now what.
“For marooned sailors, the ocean might never be the same after they’d watched it devour another crew. It could come to seem like death personified, death with a will, death with splendid, terrifying power. And so it was for Astrid that day … Here was death, again, calling their names, and she had touched it.”
Do You Dream of Terra Two?, Oh’s debut novel is sometimes frenetic and sometimes leisurely stroll through desire, power, and drive to succeed. Oh also takes on the subtler but no less powerful emotions of sadness, PTSD, and mortal despair.
It is a lot to take in. Six(sometimes seven) teenagers give up their childhoods, adulthoods, and everything else to fly to a distant planet to colonize and help save humanity. It sounds like a romantic and courageous thing: the best and the brightest sailing off for the unknown. But truth and life are so much messier than that. They believe that they are the best and brightest, by destiny and right – until they don’t. And, that is where the story gets interesting.
Do You Dream of Terra Two? is a difficult story to categorize. It is less about the journey of discovery and more about what it means to be human, what it means to be a teenager with this kind of pressure sitting on your shoulders. It is not a science fiction story, at least not in the typical sense. The characters exist in a universe where rocketry and fast-as-light-travel exist, but that is not important except as a vehicle to move the plot forward.
The six teenagers are not likable characters, but they have human, likable moments. Some are boring; some are whiny, some bitchy, and some moody, and occasionally, they can be kind, generous, and courageous. The critical point I think that Oh was trying to make was they are human and real.
She is good at writing these characters. But is Do You Dream of Terra Two? an enjoyable book? Not so much. This is a book where I can respect the craft of Oh’s writing skill. I can applaud the finesse she uses to demonstrate these character’s plights, and I can contemplate the dilemmas they face. But in terms of pure enjoyment and connection with the characters, it did not land well with me. Maybe that is the point of this, to be unsettled. Space is unsettling; you are thrust into a situation where death is at every turn. You give up everything, including your childhood, for the chance at something greater than yourself. That is unsettling.
If you want to read a character study, Do You Dream of Terra Two? is for you. Oh is a fantastic writer. I have no idea if you will enjoy it, as your mileage may vary, but you will be affected by it.
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About The Author
Temi Oh was born in 1993 in London, to Nigerian parents. She studied at Bishop Thomas Grant and then Emanuel School, Battersea. In 2015 she graduated from King’s College London with a BSci in Neuroscience. Her degree provided great opportunities to write and learn about topics ranging from ‘Philosophy of the Mind’ to ‘Space Physiology’.
After her final year she decided to pack up and pursue her dreams. She married her high-school boyfriend, and moved to Edinburgh to study for an MA in Creative Writing and finish her book.