Book Discussion: Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh with the Bookforager | Sci-Fi Month 2020

A team of six teenagers and four veteran astronauts embark on a 23 years journey to Terra-Two, an exoplanet possessing ideal conditions to host life.

What could go wrong?

Mayri from Bookforager and I buddy-read Do You Dream of Terra-Two? a few months back and, we thought that it would be great to post a discussion of this book during Sci-Fi Month! Inspired by Piotr and Ola’s format of discussion over at Re-Enchantment of the World, we decided to divide the discussion in two parts. This is the first part, but I highly recommend checking the second part on Mayri’s blog! 😀

Beware, this discussion contains spoilers!

What do we think about the ongoing discussion about creating a better world and being given a second chance?

Maryam: I think this point was made by Juno, she’s one of the only characters who actually thinks about how life should be in Terra Two and they have a responsibility to make things better there.

 Personally, I don’t wholeheartedly believe in creating a new world on another planet, I think humans would do a lot better trying to fix the current problem on our world before exporting our terrible decisions elsewhere. Especially in the case of Terra Two, sending a bunch of teenagers in space isn’t a good idea. I also questioned the fact that they were all British people. How can one create a new better world by creating another colony on another planet? At one point Harry mentions that the whole point is to create another United Kingdom in space by following British rules without taking in consideration the whole “space doesn’t belong to anyone” rule. If the program was really designed to create a better world, I would imagine that it would be organized by the United Nations or at least a union of several countries working together. In Terra Two, this program looked more like a big PR event showing the power of one country, something of the scope of the Olympics, but not actually about creating a better world or saving the current one.

Mayri: I absolutely agree! Framing this mission as a competition, not just between the students, but between countries, simply highlighted how unready humanity is to settle on a new world. A part of me shuddered in anticipated horror at the idea of this British space-colony mission, because the world has been there done that and we all know how it turned out. 

I was also very frustrated that all this money was being thrown at the possibility of making a new home on a new planet instead of into repairing the damage done to Earth. That whole attitude (‘this one’s broken, get a new one’) is repellant – even more so when you scale it up.

Maryam: Yes! Also it made me question the real motive of the program! Why is it so important for countries to do another space race? I wished Temi Oh gave us a bit more context. I might have missed it while reading but, this rush to be the first one on Terra-Two wasn’t really explained, the only motive was to create a better world but, as we have seen, the program wasn’t really thought-out for that… I would have loved to read from the perspective of someone who was part of the program’s organization. I think an epilogue narrated from the perspective of a UKSA official would have allowed the reader to understand the underlying motives a bit better. 

Mayri: I would have really appreciated an outside perspective to frame the Beta’s story, (Ooo, it could have been from Maggie’s POV, the original medical officer who got suspended – that might have been interesting …)

How do you feel about the Beta crew? How have your feelings changed over the course of the novel? What do you think about them being chosen for the mission?

Maryam: I feel very conflicted, to be perfectly honest, I had issues with all the characters and I kept on wondering why they were chosen because none of them looked fit for the mission. First of all, Harry was probably the worst possible choice for Commander in Training, he’s a bully, doesn’t care about the opinions of others and is completely aloof to the feelings of his future crew. Poppy has depression, has huge doubts about the mission from the beginning, her only motivation is to flee as far as possible from her mother. Astrid is very delusional about the mission, she has hallucinations, makes very rash decisions without consulting anyone and is extremely distraught by the loss of her best friend. The same goes for Eliot who is without a doubt a genius but has huge difficulties in social situations and suffers from PTSD after the loss of Ara. I could understand Juno a bit better because I believe we have similar personalities and she was trying to make the journey better for everyone but, she had a lot of communications issues especially with her sister and Poppy (I really didn’t like how she was depicting Poppy as lazy when Poppy was suffering from depression). Finally, Jesse was a polarizing character, my feelings towards him changed a lot, at first I really didn’t like him but he grew on me even if every time he talked about Ara’s death being an opportunity for him, it made me very angry.

But, at the same time, even if I was very frustrated with the entire crew, I couldn’t help but to understand that the real people at fault were the ones who chose them for the mission. Everything about the process was wrong, the intensive training, the age of the participant, how oblivious they were to the consequences of Ara’s suicide on the crew etc.

Mayri: I don’t think I’m putting it too strongly when I say that I hated Harry. You’re right, he’s the worst possible choice for the Commander-in-training and I don’t understand how it wasn’t seen by any of the adults overseeing the crew selection and training. I don’t understand how Sheppard didn’t see it either, if not whilst on the ground then at least later when they were all living in such close quarters in space; (aside: do you play video games at all Maryam? I had to chuckle every time I read “Commander Sheppard” because it made me think of the Mass Effect games!) 

Yep, I agree with your comments on Astrid, Eliot and Poppy also. Jesse was … problematic. As you’ve said his view of Ara’s death was enraging, and his obsession with beating Harry on the flight simulator game was both worrying and infuriating. I thought I’d grow to like him, but I never quite did.

Ha! I, too, think I am most like Juno! I’d be the one drawing up rotas and schedules and trying to work out a fair system of government. And yes! Her thinking of Poppy as lazy when she was clearly in a deep depression really made me angry. I think, like any group of people, the Beta are flawed, but what frustrated me more than that was that no thought had gone into choosing a group who would be able to work together. These young adults all appear to have been picked because they’re the ‘best’, not for any kind of harmony or ability to empathise with each other. Do you think competitiveness overrides empathy? (I do!)

All of this said, I take it as a sign of good, strong writing skills that I believed in these characters enough to get angry with them, shout at them (looking at you Harry, you psychopath), and empathise with them.

Maryam: (I don’t play any video games except the Sims so, I completely missed the Mass Effect reference haha)

I do also think that competitiveness overrides empathy, that’s why I couldn’t completely hate Jesse for his attitude towards Ara’s suicide. While it was revolting, he only saw her as an obstacle preventing him from attaining his goal, not as a human being with emotions, dreams and desire…

And I’m completely with you on this one, the whole program should be about assembling the perfect crew that could work with each other. Picking up the best individuals is not the same as picking up the best group and it definitely showed. The training time of the Beta as a group was ridiculously short compared to the length of their mission. Everything about the program made me think “WHERE THE HELL ARE THE ADULTS AND WHAT ARE THEY DOING??”

Mayri: Agreed! Where were they? The ship wasn’t big enough for them to be so unaware of their charges! Which makes me want to ask:

And what about your feelings for the adult crew members?

Mayri: Although the focus is on the Beta, the adult characters and their reasons for joining this mission troubled me just as much. Commander Sheppard (*chuckle*) has left his wife and young son on Earth, Doctor Golinsky is clearly upset by the last minute switch that sees her on the one-way trip to Terra-Two and later we discover she’s left her fiancé behind. Doctor Tsang remains something of an enigma, as does Igor Bovarin until we find out he is terminally ill. I guess it’s Sheppard and Golinsky that bother me the most because they have both left behind people they love and I. Just. Don’t. Get. It. Sure, they both mention the possibility of their significant others following them into space, but it doesn’t appear certain, and what kind of person makes that decision? 

Also, Sheppard, Bovarin and Tsang are space veterans and Golinsky is a doctor, and yet none of them seem concerned about the tensions and problems among the Beta. This bothered me most after the airlock incident between Harry and Jesse, and when we learn that Juno has been nursing an eating disorder. (I was worried, too, about how easy it seemed to be for all of the Beta to hide their various little secrets from the selection panels and psych evaluations that cleared them for the mission).  

Maryam: The adults infuriated me haha, they were all so passive and not one of them tried to be good mentors to the Beta crew. Sure, they were there to teach them technical stuff but they were completely useless with all the emotional stuff (which shouldn’t have been the case considering that most of them had previous experiences being in space). I couldn’t understand their motivation, I didn’t feel like I knew any of them. As much as the Beta characterization was on point, I almost thought the Alpha crew was not part of Oh’s original story plan. Maybe it’s because we never got to read from any of their POVs but I felt very detached from them.

Mayri: Now that you mention it, we didn’t really get to know them, did we? Because the Beta didn’t and we only saw events through their points of view. Huh. I don’t know why I didn’t notice that while I was reading. 

That’s it for the first part! If you want to know how we both felt about the ending, the program as whole and our final thoughts about the book, you can read the rest on Mayri’s blog here!

Artwork by Tithi Luadthong from 123RF.com

15 thoughts on “Book Discussion: Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh with the Bookforager | Sci-Fi Month 2020

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Maryam and Mayri! I enjoyed your discussion a lot – though after it I highly doubt I’ll read the book, the internal inconsistencies would drive me crazy! 😉 (the whole crew seems deeply troubled, why on Earth would anyone send them anywhere? Or is it just a simulation and in fact they’re all in a mental ward undergoing a new experimental therapy?)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s not a book for everyone, it’s about flawed characters locked inside a spaceship so, of course everything is going badly for everyone. And it’s true that the idea behind the mission is basically a huge mistake but, I really liked how Temi Oh played with this concept and discussed a lot of themes and ideas.
      And I like your last theory haha! :p

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It works pretty well, doesn’t it? 😄 And you can throw some curveballs in the mix, show some different points of view. The only downside is that it takes so long to finish such a post! It’s quite time-consuming 😅

        I’m very happy it worked so well for you both! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely a great book for a buddy-read or a book club because it has a lot of elements to discuss. 😀 But yeah, I can definitely see why it wouldn’t work for a lot of people because it’s not a happy story at all and idea of sending a bunch of traumatized teenagers in space is probably the worst idea ever… 😅

      Liked by 1 person

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