The Relevancy of Temi Oh’s Do You Dream of Terra Two?

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I am very, very mad that I have not heard of this book. Do You Dream of Terra-Two? was utterly gripping, the voices captivating and reaching the end left a hollow ache in my chest. The book follows six teenagers and four senior astronauts on their journey to a new planet known as Terra-Two or Earth Two.

I picked up this book on a whim as part of the Buzzword Reading Challenge hosted by Kayla from Books and Lala. The prompt for January was “Dream” but I didn’t have any books in physical library relating to that word and since I wanted to make use of Scribd, I choose this book.

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Now, I am only just dipping my toes into the science fiction genre and if you are too, Do You Dream of Terra-Two? would be a perfect pick. Despite the un-relatable circumstances the characters were in, their emotions and thoughts resonated loudly. I know what it’s like to work hard for a dream: go to bed at midnight and wake up at 4 AM, days spent studying out in the freezing cold just so I wouldn’t fall asleep, foregoing meals and social activities for one more paragraph, one more essay to finish. It was too late when I realized that what I wanted to achieve was not what I wanted.

In the book, the characters have to leave their home and loved ones to travel to an allegedly habitable planet and colonize it. The catch is that their space travel will take 23 years which means that the teenagers would be in their forties and the senior astronauts might not even see the planet. Taking on this travel means they would have no chance of going back to Earth or seeing their loved ones ever again. Their sacrifice would be in the hopers for a brighter future.

Yet this books asks, how long can you hold on to faith when you don’t have tangible evidence of what you’re pursuing?

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?

Cover designed by Matthew Johnson

published March 2019

When an Earth-like planet is discovered, a team of six teens, along with three veteran astronauts, embark on a twenty-year trip to set up a planet for human colonization—but find that space is more deadly than they ever could have imagined.

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 find it. Four are veterans of the twentieth century’s space-race.

And six are teenagers who’ve trained for this mission 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 go wrong.

And something always goes wrong.

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Themes of homesickness, depression and emotional growth

What struck out to me is the pacing of the book. It is not a fast-paced, adventurous story. Rather the author takes their time exploring the motivations and backstory of the characters. The six Betas had been training at Dalton Academy for Aerospace Science since their pre-teen years for this mission. The tension only gets higher as they watch their classmates from the academy be sent home and for some of them, going home is not an option. So when the lucky students were chosen, there is exuberant joy. For what could be better than to be part of a leading mission? They had no other dreams but for the stars.

Before takeoff, one of the members jumps in to Thames river and drowns. No one knows why she did it because Ara had always been so full of life and always ready for an adventure. The Academy does not settle on Ara’s death or postpones the trip. Instead they choose a replacement, Jesse, who is immediately resented by the rest because his presence reminds them of Ara’s absence. And so, the other five Betas: Astrid, Juno, Poppy, Harry, and Eliot and Jesse never given the chance to grieve their friend.

They begin to wonder why they were chosen for the mission? They begin to doubt their abilities. They might be surrounded by nine other people but none of the characters feel at home. These are people who are colleagues, not family, no matter how hard they try to push it. Each character’s thoughts are so well written that you can’t help feeling their own dread.

Some of them even begin to waver wondering if the dream is worth. Once they see the vastness of space and the darkness of the travel ahead, they wonder if giving the comfort of homecooked meals, of hugs and the sky is worth being a part of history. They tackle this differently: Astrid begins to cling to the teaching of a religion called New Creationism, Juno works to establish routine and Harry throws himself into practicing simulations.

One of the characters, Poppy falls into a deep depression. She barely gets out of bed or does her chores anymore. I appreciated the way Oh described this and giving us glimpses of Poppy’s past. As I read it, I did struggle with the way it was handled even though I do understand why it had to be done that way. It is difficult with everyone dealing with their own personal issues and I think, the way Juno reacted was a reflection of her own. What she did wasn’t right – throwing a bucket off icy water over Poppy to get her out of bed – but I understand she did because of her own fear and attempt to grapple at control. We eventually find out that Juno has an eating disorder. Eliot begins to see Ara floating outside in space. The author consistently touched on this throughout the book.

What I didn’t like was that there was a lack of influence or interference from the senior astronauts. I don’t understand how the space agency could have sent people on a 23 years space travel without considering the need for a proper psychologist on board. I suppose this shows how unprepared the mission might have been.

A messy found family trope

Once the rush of the launch and the excitement wears off, doubts and loneliness begins to settle in. These people might have spent years together but they are not really friends. Their personalities clash and it is made worse by the homesickness they fall into. Poppy falls into depression, Astrid is consumed by dreams of Terra-Two, Eliot is haunted by Ara and Jesse struggles to be a part of the team. They know that they will be spending 23 years cooped up together in space and yet, some of them just don’t want to get along. Looking at you, Harry.

I call this a messy found family trope because they didn’t exactly have a choice of who they were to be in space with. It’s difficult to say that just because they are going to spend two decades together they are going to be a family. They really aren’t. To me, that part of the story was very interesting. How do you fight loneliness among people you aren’t close to or want to be close to? How do you work as one with people you barely know? How do speak of your fears to people you’ve spent years competing with, and are still competing with? That sub-plot held my attention and was the most engaging for me.

A thoughtful reflection on life and relationships

The personal thoughts and emotions really shine through in this book. Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is relation to Astrid’s question. Astrid finds out about a woman who dreamed of Terra-Two. Tessa Dalton was considered a prophet and Astrid connected to this woman on such an emotional level that she, too, began to dream of Terra-Two. I loved the touch of magic that the author added to the book. This was never really answered and I liked the mysticism that surrounded it.

The book is a bittersweet read about the connections we make and how we find meaning in our lives. A contemplative read that makes your heart stumble and long for companionship. The night I finished reading this book, I turned to my husband and wondered: could I give up this life for the possibility of giving thousands, including my hypothetical children, a new start? Would I be brave for it or selfish? Could memories sustain my journey, and faith prolong my hope?

🌸 Would you join a space expedition to discover a new habitable planet?

🌸 If you could choose one person to go with you, who would you choose?

🌸 Do you enjoy reading science fiction? What book would you recommend I try next?

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