Book Review: Do You Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The prose is solid. The editing well done. Technically well-executed. A bit long in the middle. Lacks the action usually in SF. If it were not so well-crafted I might not have finished the book.

The novel focuses on the reactions of the teenage crew members to the stresses of prepping and enduring the flight. This is not a typical hard SF action story, and I give it a plus for that. Variety is good. The characters do what I would expect teenagers to do. They do spend a lot of time thinking about themselves and working out the neurotic twists that are mostly results of upbringing and environment. But their upbringing, their training, the spaceship’s claustrophobic conditions are all part of the science and technology that carries them along, yet these factors are not presented as influencing their behavior.

Adults play pivotal, but otherwise inconsequential roles. They are all good people, most of the time. I would re-classify it as a YA novel.

The concept of breeding/selecting a few for ‘command’ is very British. In crisis, they never consider voting on a course of action or even considering everyone’s opinion. Always, one person assumes command and makes the decision. American kids would likely rebel at that. I give the book good marks for showing a distinct culture at work.

The teenagers are tracked at age thirteen for specialized astronaut training(another reflection of the English education system?). This is justified as the only way to bridge the generations over the long span of the voyage, but I am not convinced. There is no mention of a build-up of multi-year voyages to the outer planets that shows that this is achievable. This voyage is a ‘giant leap’ for mankind, and no one acknowledges how risky it is. There is a discussion of risk and the fact that the crew is made up of expendable people, not geniuses, but this realization does not go anywhere.

American teenagers might rebel at the regimentation that is demanded. Or would they? The reward is to explore another planet. It is a seductive proposition and all but one signs up for the voyage. The girls are giving up ever being mothers but never discuss it, and have no family pulling them the other way. It makes me wonder what I would do? Or others would do? I give the book good marks for making me think, but low marks for not digging deep enough to reach some tentative conclusions.

The technology has weaknesses: 1. Packing about a dozen people into such a small space for 23 years is a non-starter for me. 2. Having such a small crew, they don’t have the breadth of technical expertise to handle all the possible accidents and equipment failures. 3. I highlighted several physics bloopers, but I don’t think a YA audience would catch them. 4. The gravity-generator is fantasy, and unnecessary. Just build the spaceship as a wheel and spin it to make artificial gravity.

I will keep an eye out for another story by Temi Oh, but I will wait for reviews to be sure it is not YA.

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Book Review: Semiosis by Sue Burke

Semiosis by Sue Burke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have been reading mostly award-winning SF novels recently, and also new novels, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, and Klara and the Sun by Kuzuo Ishiguro(It got my vote, edging out the competition). Semiosis’ intelligent plants hooked me. Sue Burke handles the discovery that the plant life is intelligent on this distant planet, very deftly. She even has character development of several plants! I was satisfied that the humans had reached an uneasy coexistence with the plants. It seemed like a good ending. However, the novel runs on for another 100 pages where it shifts into a generational political history of the humans coming to terms with the intelligent plants and carving out their niche on this odd planet. I think that is a different story that belonged in the next volume. Nevertheless, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the way the plants were presented in all their strengths and character flaws despite their limitations as plants.
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New story: “Seekers”

The story covers a turbulent period in the lives of a young couple, that results in their flight from their homeland, Ireland, in 1881.  Set primarily in Drogheda, Ireland, “Seekers” is fiction based on the lives of John A. Kelly and Margaret J. Marrey, my great-grandfather and great-grandmother.

Click on the link below to open the story in another window. You will need a PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat.

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Patrick Kelly

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