What is up my book nerds! Okay, something bizarre has happened; I’ve read an adult book! No, not that kind of adult book (although one of my friends reads a lot of them and damn maybe I should try some) but an actual, aimed at grown ups book. I know, it’s shocking isn’t it.
I hadn’t heard much about Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh when it was first published back in March. All I knew was that it was a cool sci-fi story and it was meant to be really good. Other than that, I hate to say that I kind of ignored it.
Cue lock down, and me needing things to read (I say as I shove the piles of unread books under a blanket and pretend they aren’t there), so I got myself a copy, and I am SO glad I did.
Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is the story of six English teenagers who have been training for years to become part of the crew to go and colonise a new, Earth-like planet. Why are they teenagers? Well, that’s because the journey to this new Earth, Terra-Two, is going to take 23 YEARS! Thats right, 23 years. Two and a bit decades. Longer than my friend Martha has been alive. Almost as long as we’ve been waiting for the final Game of Thrones book.
I’m just going to say here, I absolutely LOVED that this was set in the UK, and in the recent past (2012 to be exact) albeit with a much more advanced state of technology and space explorations – in it there are people living on Mars, an inhabited space station orbiting Europa, and an engine design capable of interstellar travel. Y’know, just a bit more advanced… So often, books about space travel are either entirely in space or are set in the US (I guess given the role that NASA has played as the poster boy for Space), so having so many familiar elements, like landmarks of London, or descriptions of small, terraced streets in Liverpool, made it even better for me. Plus, I could relate to each other characters just that bit more, because I’d either been in their shoes (although I’m not a child prodigy) or I’d been around people like them.
The story bounces between the perspectives of the six teenage astronauts, the Beta and crew of The Damocles, with each bringing their own distinct personality to the tale. We have Harry, the trainee pilot, a handsome, rich, posh boy who succeeds at everything first try and thinks daddy’s money makes him better than everyone else; Poppy, the linguist from the poorer areas of Liverpool, who was chosen as the communications officer because of her looks and worries that was all; Juno and Astrid, twins who both have their own reasons for wanting to go to Terra-Two, including some strangely prophetic dreams; Eliot, the prodigy of mechanics and robotics, hand picked for the program when he was 11; Ara, care free and fun loving, and not the person you’d think of as being the best fit for a long term mission, cooped up inside a space craft. We’re also introduced to Jesse, a loner from the Astronaut school (is that the right term? It feels too casual when it’s literally a school training preteens to abandon their families and planet to go to another solar system…) who’s the first alternate member of the Beta if anything happens to a member of the crew (SPOILER: something happens to a member of the crew), and who has a strange belief that he’s going to leave Earth by the time he’s 20.
Although there is a brilliant story, with some genuinely shocking moments from the very start, there are so many important points in this book; If you knew you were leaving to be the first colonist of a new planet, would you want to replicate our current world or try and make it better? Can you ever truly be part of a group that was formed without you? It also made me consider whether or not I could be one of the Beta. Not from an aptitude standpoint, I know I am no where near good enough to be an astronaut, but from a “Leave everyone and everything you’ve ever known and go to an enclosed space surrounded by a void of black for the next quarter century” view. I don’t think I could. The Damocles isn’t like a ship from Star Trek (Voyager is the best ship, don’t come for me) where it can just stop somewhere for everyone to pop out for a walk in the air, once you’re on it, you’re on it until the end, and I know I’d get cabin fever within a few days.
It also raises some moral questions, especially with the ethics of picking children to commit to a mission very early. I don’t know about you, but at 11, I was a mess. If you’d asked me if I wanted to be an astronaut, I would’ve said “Yeah sure!” and then changed my mind a week later. I would’ve been happy to have some independence from my parents, but then hated that I wasn’t able to see them when I wanted. I wouldn’t have understood the concept that, if I were successful, I’d be getting on a ship and leaving my entire world (literally) behind and I’d never see or speak to anyone I knew ever again. So how can it be justified that this is exactly what is done?
I didn’t think I was going to love Do You Dream of Terra-Two? as much as I did, but it is genuinely one of my favourite books this year. The concept, the characters, the story, the epic space exploration, all of it combines in the incredible, unique book. If you’re a fan of realistic sci-fi, Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is one you cannot miss!
Have you read Do You Dream of Terra-Two? What did you think? Let me know in the comments or on twitter if you enjoyed it, or if there’s anything else you think I should read.