Half Way Home is only halfway there. Hugh Howey writes a strong and gripping first part that starts out as a raw social commentary that questions the motivations of humankind and touches on issues such as class, race, colonialism, sexuality, religion, politics, Artificial Intelligence, self-determination, pro-life vs. pro-choice, science, and ethics.
With an intense introduction and gripping early chapters, Howey builds an intriguing world where we are forced to consider the limitations of our own species and wonder what would happen if we encounter life elsewhere in the universe and what would happen if we have to survive on our own.
Half Way Home presents a future where corporations send blastocysts into space to colonize strange new worlds and collect alien DNA, all for profit. These blastocysts are nurtured by an Artificial Intelligence that calculates outcomes: head or tails, colony success or failure, viable and unviable, completion or abortion. This is the story of the survivors of the abortion process of a colony that was deemed unviable.
We are introduced to a diverse cast of characters that fills out a promising, yet lacking story. Porter, the main character, is initially complex and intriguing with an interesting internal monologue that is easily relatable, but becomes very bland as the surrounding cast develops. Porter being “different” is not a driving factor and the emotional payoff is rather rushed and soulless. The characters of Kelvin, Oliver, Tarsi, Steven, and Hickson drive the first parts of the story and Vincent and the rest of the characters prove interesting enough in the second and third part to want more character and world development from Howey. The lack of development and exploration is the major flaw as the characters explore an intriguing alien world and ultimately is what prevents Half Way Home from joining classics such as Lord of The Flies and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Part three of Half Way Home quickly wraps up the story and puts together a very weak and somewhat predictable ending that is not very strong or impactful.
There is no doubt that Howey, the bestselling author of novels Wool and Beacon 23, put a lot of careful thought into this book as many tropes were subverted and certain topics were handled with the utmost care. Ultimately, though, the major shortcoming of Half Way Home was, well, that is was too short, being just over 200 pages. Furthermore, this is a book that is hard to define. It is light speculative fiction with a modern cast of characters and technology with solid writing that is not totally YA but not quite adult territory, and also a coming of age story that doesn’t quite deliver. Half Way Home is easy to read and easy to digest, but will not satisfy those looking for something more from the many science fiction novels out there.
From the publisher:
From the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of Wool and the Molly Fyde saga comes a story of teenage colonists marooned on a distant planet
WE WOKE IN FIRE
Five hundred colonists have been sent across the stars to settle an alien planet. Vat-grown in a dream-like state, they are educated through simulations by an artificial intelligence and should awaken at thirty years old, fully-trained, and ready to tame the new world.
But fifteen years in, an explosion on their vessel kills most of the homesteaders and destroys the majority of their supplies. Worse yet, the sixty that awaken and escape the flames are only half-taught and possess the skills least useful for survival.
Naked and terrified, the teens stumble from their fiery baptism ill-prepared for the unfamiliar and harsh alien world around them. Though they attempt to work with the colony A.I. to build a home, tension and misery are rampant, escalating into battles for dominance.
Soon they find that their worst enemy isn’t the hostile environment, the A.I., or the blast that nearly killed them. Their greatest danger is each other.