Released: March 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Science Fiction
We were taught that, for a while, the universe existed and not one person knew. Stars exploded, nebulae collapsed, atoms crashed together and formed planets, then quiet oceans where single-celled organisms swallowed light and learned to flourish, then more complex life, plants, then creatures dragged their heavy bodies from primordial seas, shook off fins, feathers, opened eyes, but not one of them was capable of awe. Not one of them wondered at the lines on their palm and asked ‘How?’, or shouted at the stars as we did – for a time – searching for fellow travellers.
We know now that consciousness is rare. It’s wretched and magnificent and lonely. It allowed humans to conquer the empty moon, the mountains of Mars, then Europa, Callisto and the rings of Saturn.
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? is a hard book to classify. It’s a space journey, to be sure, but unlike so many space journeys, this focuses more on the changes a person might go through when they know they’re leaving Earth for good.
Astrid was empty inside and she was running out of time. On the spaceship, their meals would be bowls of macronutrient broth, cereals and rehydrated meats, or vitamin-fortified spag bol, until the hydroponic greenhouse began producing crops. Astrid had seen a spreadsheet of everything she would eat for the next twenty-three years and it turned her stomach.
‘The mission is my child,’ she said. And then, her head full of how heroic that sounded, she said a little louder, ‘Terra-two is my only child.’
Which wasn’t entirely a lie. Going to space saved her from every other fate. From marriage and having to sleep with Noah, from the disappointment of motherhood, from a lustreless life. She was going to make a different world, a better world, on Terra-two.
And the further thoughts and changes once Earth is gone from view and they no longer have a chance to change their mind.
She had not been ready for the darkness of space. Other astronauts had warned her that it came as a real shock, the complete unilluminated blackness. But, at the time, Poppy had been looking backwards and not ahead. She had been looking back down at Earth at everything she was glad to leave behind, not ahead into the vacuum.
When faced with the next 23 years spent in the inky blackness of space, days filled with repetitive tasks and some semblance of hope that the journey goes off without a hitch and the planet they’re aiming for is as hospitable as they have come to believe.
Twenty-three years in this tin box the size of a townhouse. Back on Earth, twenty-three years had merely been a bridge to cross to get to Terra-Two, foreshortened by her own anticipation. In twenty-three years she would be forty-one – as old as her parents were now – and she would have lived in the darkness for more years than she had lived under a sky.”
It’s a lot of pressure to put on a person, especially on a bunch of teenagers who may not have realised the extent of their potential on Earth before they were sent off into space.
Given that this is not so much an event driven story (events do happen, but you would be mistaken if you classified this as an action novel), it can be quite slow-moving at times, with almost a quarter of the story taking place on earth, pre-launch.
Around the middle there is a certain amount of lag time, with the reader potentially feeling that things are taking too long to happen. But on the other side of that feeling is the thought that this is what the characters are going through as they leave Earth behind, so perhaps we are subliminally feeling what they’re feeling, and as such, Temi Oh has made this a more tangible experience for the readers left back on Earth who look up at the stars and wonder.
All in all, this was a little slow moving at times but I am glad to have read it and glad it exists in the world. I will definitely be looking out for more work by Temi Oh.
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