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

Genre: YA, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: Simon & Schuster (2019)

Pages: 518

Back Cover Summary:

Have you ever hoped you could leave everything behind?
Have you ever dreamt of a better world?
Can a dream sustain a lifetime?

A century ago, an astronomer discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. She predicted that one day humans would travel there to build a utopia. Today, ten astronauts are leaving everything behind to do so. Four of these astronauts are veterans of the 20th century’s space-race.

And six are teenagers who’ve trained for this mission for most of their lives.

It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years locked in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something good wrong.

And something always goes wrong.

Cover of Do You Dream of Terra Two – Simon & Schuster (2019)

Temi Oh’s debut novel takes the genre of science-fiction and approaches it from a completely different angle, with the choice to focus on the psychological and physical impacts space travel has on the young protagonists making this a thought provoking and relatable read.  

I think that choosing to have each of the young astronauts as narrators was a very good choice on the part of the author. The six all have distinct narrative voices and choosing to start the novel on the day they were selected for the flight also allows readers to see their home lives and how it is shaping their personality and thoughts. So, for example, one of the astronauts feels like he must lead this mission to a success because he comes from a lineage of successful individuals, whilst another has a strong belief in fate after witnessing prophecy first-hand. The background of each of the young astronauts also reflects contemporary Britain in a way that isn’t seen enough in science-fiction books, which is good to see. Each of them brings a different insight for readers to relate to, and isolating and uncertain nature of space travel would probably affect everyone differently if readers were in their shoes.

This carries on into the second half of the book, where it looks in-depth at the psychological welfare of the six. A great portion of the length is dedicated to this section; especially when considering that the book is more than five hundred pages. Some readers may be turned off by the lack of action in this part; it did take me much longer to complete than the other sections. I found some characters a lot more interesting and engrossing to read their words than others and this affected the speed at which I completed their chapters. I think that, like their backgrounds, the mental obstacles the six face are unique to them and it is interesting to read about their struggles. Themes they face include death, physical injury, religion and spirituality, and finding their place in society. This book focuses on the journey to Terra-Two, which was stated to take twenty-three years, rather that the actual destination, so I think that the choice to focus on the astronauts and their psychological and physical transformation in space was ultimately a successful one.

I also really appreciated the level of detail the author put into every aspect of her writing – including the descriptions of the mechanical and physical side of space travel. There has been a trend in the past of writers only including descriptions of things that would add excitement to a story, so the flight deck and airlock for example, which takes it to a sci-fi realm that feels difficult to comprehend the mechanics. Having one of the young astronauts as the trainee pilot/commander, one as the trainee engineer and one as the trainee botanist allows Temi Oh to include as much information on these as possible, even if it doesn’t necessarily propel the narrative forward. I think that space travel feels tantalizingly close to the younger generations, something that may potentially happen as the twenty-first century progresses, so these sections really allow readers to get a complete image of the various areas that need to be present for the mission to succeed. I will say that these did occasionally slow down the pacing when something major or urgent was taking place, but it was a welcome change for someone who has read a fair bit of science-fiction.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? took me three weeks to complete, with some of the characters being less engrossing than others and the long descriptions occasionally feeling like too much. Ultimately though, I did enjoy this fresh take on the science-fiction genre and felt that the author did a great job in conveying the harsh world the astronauts found themselves in and did it in a way that readers, especially young people, will be able to identify with in the emotional aspects. I look forward to hopefully reading more of this talented author’s future works.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆

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