Maryam the Curious SFF Reader and I did a buddy-read of Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh earlier this year and had such a lot of fun! Maryam was the perfect person to read this book with.
The first half of our resulting conversation can be found over on Maryam’s site here, and that’s definitely where you need to start if you’ve come here first. If you’ve found your way here from there, then hi! and welcome.
So, to continue from where we left off, and with a warning that there are SPOILERS ahead …
How did you feel at the end … ?
Maryam: I don’t really know what I think about it actually haha, the situation was so bad toward the end that I was 99% sure they were all going to die and I really, really wasn’t expecting them to be saved by the Chinese ship. I also don’t know how to feel about the fact that Harry and Astrid both decided to go back on Earth. I understood Harry’s choice but not Astrid’s and I thought Poppy would want to go back on Earth. Or maybe I was expecting all of them to want to go back, I don’t know. I really don’t know how I would have reacted if I were in their place.
Mayri: About halfway through, I thought they would have to turn back at the end, although I didn’t call any of the disasters that befell them. By Part Three I also thought they were all going to die and didn’t see the Shēngmìng rescue coming at all. I found all of their decisions at the end incomprehensible, I think because I know (absolutely and without question) that I would never be in that situation and can’t imagine being in it. When Poppy said “there’s so much wrong with us” I kind of thought hurrah, they’ll all decide to go home now and when they didn’t I was just confused. In a more general sense, I felt no real hope for any of them, whether they chose to go home or continue on. I still feel very conflicted about the whole thing.
Do you think the Terra Two program was made to fail and that it was all a big PR move?
Mayri: Great question! Some of the first notes I made were about this massive machine that all these hopeful candidates were caught up in: the UK Space Agency and the Dalton Academy for Aerospace Science, all the sponsorship and the publicity requirements, the lottery for tickets to the launch and the Prime Minister’s being there, all these things hinted at a huge enterprise that was not about the six young people going up into space and never coming back. Yes, I think it was a huge PR move. I think it was about money and business and politics, and that whether the Beta succeeded or failed was never a consideration. At the end of my notes for Part One I wrote “this is a recipe for disaster” and I stand by that assessment, haha.
Maryam: Yep, definitely a recipe for disaster! I had the same thought early on, right when I finished Jesse’s first chapter, I discussed the premise of the book with one of my friends and that I had a feeling the entire thing would end badly and she was like “yep, definitely!”. However, at first I thought that while the whole program wasn’t thought-out well, the intentions behind it weren’t bad, but, after a while, I slowly realized that most people on Earth wouldn’t really care if anything happened in space. After all, the launch in itself was successful and, for most people, it was enough. Not anyone appeared to be concerned by the fact that the British government was sending a bunch of traumatized teens on a 20+ years trip in space.
Do you think the remaining crew managed to reach Terra Two? And if they did, do you think they managed to create a better world?
Mayri: I would love to believe they made it and that they took a stab at creating a better world. I think that, with Harry out of the picture, Juno, Poppy, Eliot and Jesse maybe stood a better chance of working together cooperatively and maturing together. I’d like that to be the case. But. But the probability of their successfully completing a twenty-three year trip into the unknown doesn’t seem high to me. It’s been a long time since I read a space book in which the complete hostility of that environment was made so clear, but this book just made me feel more and more pessimistic about their chances.
As for creating a better world, you’ve already said it perfectly Maryam, when you said above: “I think humans would do a lot better trying to fix the current problem on our world before exporting our terrible decisions elsewhere” – we can only ever build on what we know, and we don’t know much at all.
Maryam: I would also love for them to reach Terra Two but, at least after the disaster that was the first part of their journey, I can’t imagine the mission to be successful. And even if they reached the planet, I don’t see how they would create something better since the mission wasn’t created with a specific plan in mind. It seems that everyone on Earth was just thinking about the launch and not about the repercussion of inhabiting a new Earth. And while I think the remaining Beta crew has a lot of good intentions, I don’t think it’s enough to build a new and improved world.
How do you feel about the structure of the book? What were your expectations of the story before reading? Were they met?
Mayri: Haha – my expectations before reading were so, so wrong! I thought this would be all about the trip and I thought it would end with the arrival on Terra-Two. Even after I’d read the blurb I still thought this. So, no, my expectations were not met, but they were confounded in a good way. I like that this was about the psychology of these driven, above-average, not-at-all-stable young adults and a mission launched for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t expect to start with them at Dalton and to follow them through some of their schooling, but I found myself enjoying that once I’d readjusted my assumptions.
I found the multiple POVs convincing, even as I was frustrated by the characters. In fact, that’s a testament to their success. I’m glad, however, that there wasn’t too much from Harry’s POV because my dislike for him reached irrational levels pretty quickly.
Maryam: AH! You also thought they would reach Terra-Two at some point in the book! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one with expectations completely different from the actual story! 😀
I think the author’s decision to include a portion of their training at Dalton was very clever, it gave a lot of context to the story and the characters’ motivation. I realized pretty late (around the 60% mark) that the book wouldn’t be about Terra-Two but about the journey. To be honest, with such a title “Do you Dream of Terra-Two?”, I should have realized that it wouldn’t be about the planet but about the people.
Mayri: Oh my goodness, same! I was definitely in the last third of the book before I was like “OH! They’re not going to get to Terra-Two!”
Any final thought to sum up?
Mayri: This was a book that made me think a lot, about things I don’t often think about. I feel like that’s a win. I’m particularly glad to have read it as a buddy-read with you, Maryam, because it’s definitely a book to be discussed and I think I would have stewed over some of this if I hadn’t had someone to talk to about it – so, thank you for being my reading buddy!
Maryam: Thank you Mayri! I’m glad I was able to discuss it with you as well because I don’t know how I would have organized my thoughts and feelings on this book without you!
I think this book is brilliant but I can’t say it will become a favorite. It made me feel so sad, angry and hopeless by bringing up a lot of themes I was uncomfortable reading about. It actually reminded me a lot of Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson (I don’t know if you have read it?), an objectively very good book that filled me with a lot of dread. I think it’s because both works manage to show that space-travel is much more challenging than pop culture tries to make it seem and that we should focus all our energy (and money!) on our current problems. I think this opinion is difficult for me to hear, I grew up loving Star Wars and knowing that humans walked on the Moon. I wanted to be an astronaut (I’m glad I abandoned the idea quickly, but still). I always believed that humans would live on other planets. So, even if rationally, I know our main focus should be Earth, I can’t help but feel sad knowing humanity might be limited to it…
Mayri: I hear you! No, I haven’t yet read Aurora but it is on my tbr pile. I do like books that show just how difficult space-travel really is and would be, but I also share your feeling of disappointment that we may actually never make it very far from Earth. I think what appeals to me most about the idea of life in space and on other planets is the vision of a more cooperative humanity and the endless possibilities of life on new worlds. Knowing that, in reality, we have to work with what we have, and that we’ve already done so much damage, is a deeply frustrating thought.
So, obviously we had fun! Have you read Terra-Two? What did you think of it? Or, if you haven’t read it yet, have we tempted you to give it a try (SPOILERS notwithstanding)?