Book review: Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh
Do You Dream of Terra-Two? - Temi Oh
When it comes to science-fiction books about long-distance space travel from Earth and colonisation of other planets the biggest challenge - apart from those technical limitations - would seem to be around the selection of the crew. Whether the trip involves generational renewal on-board or not, the likelihood is that it's a one-way trip for most candidates, so some writers imagine that it would likely be death-sentence or life-sentence prisoners who would volunteer, not least because - to put it bluntly - it would be less of a loss if things don't go to plan. Inevitably, putting a bunch of dangerous lifer prisoners into a small tin box and sending it out into space is just asking for trouble.
Temi Oh's Do You Dream of Terra-Two? considers the alternative of young people as candidates for the rigours of long-distance space travel, sent as the junior team to the nearest discovered planet with an Earth-like environment, Terra-Two. To be honest, it hardly seems likely that a group of six teenagers would have the physical or psychological strengths needed to survive the 23 year journey - even with an experienced senior team with them. The candidates selected for the Beta team on the Damocles however have been in training and assessed at the British Interplanetary Society's Dalton Academy since the age of 13, and with most now around 19 years old they are considered to be the best of the best.
Well we must assume that all the necessary tests have been applied, but just one day before the launch in 2012 that will put people on Terra-Two for the first time, cracks are beginning to show. A few last minute changes are required, but eventually the Damocles is on its way. Its mission however is surprisingly vague, not really extending beyond testing the new technology and just getting to Terra-Two, although there are hints about global warming, about Earth facing a crisis, about other rival nations seeking to exploit this new resource. What the crew of the Damocles do when they get there doesn't really seem to have been considered in any great depth either. Preparing the ground for future ships to follow, we are told, but there's no real plan, not even any thought for administration of settlement and colonisation and certainly no legal constitution other than one that one of the girls, Juno, hastily improvises while on board.
It's a little dissatisfying that there hasn't been any rigour applied to such basic matters in Temi Oh's account of this mission, but you think that perhaps there's a reason for that which will be revealed further down the line. And indeed there is, but until you get to the point where the warning sirens start blaring - literally as well as metaphorically - Do You Dream of Terra-Two? doesn't have a whole lot else to recommend. For the larger part of the book, it's tedious teen-drama stuff. The senior team are largely invisible and instead we get competitiveness, jealousy, insecurity and stirrings of romantic feelings between the members of the boys and girls of the junior team.
As far as that goes, Do You Dream of Terra-Two? develops personalities well, realistically considering the behaviour of young people in an enclosed environment having to establish new rules for living with one another in order to survive for 23 years in what will be a very isolated and hazardous environment. Lord of the Flies comes to mind evidently and William Golding's classic is indeed explicitly referenced at one point, but there's nothing as shocking or revelatory in this rather safe YA version of the tale that is based around the recognition and achievement of personal goals. There is a sting in the tail however and it's a well-considered one that goes some way to addressing some of the concerns about the trip, but I'm afraid that it doesn't compensate for the banality of the predominately teen drama that makes up the bulk of the novel.