Half Way Home by Hugh Howey
Published by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 1, 2019 (originally 2010)
my rating: ★★★
Goodreads avg: 3.72 (as of 2019-11-05)
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.
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.
Half Way Home was originally published in 2010 but was recently re-released. I’ve consistently enjoyed a lot of Hugh Howie’s books so I was excited to pick up this one, which was no exception. Quite an original concept, Half Way Home explores the potential future of space colonization. Colonists are sent to planets and raised sleeping in vats as an AI sets up the start of the colony. After 30 years, the colonists awaken fully-grown, trained, and ready to take over. In Half Way Home something has gone wrong, and the colonists are awakened early. They must figure out how to make it without their full training program and without all of the resources they were supposed to have.
While it had a lot of potential, this really just missed the mark for me. There were a lot of interesting bits — in particular, the flora and fauna unique to this new planet — but there wasn’t enough to impress me. It felt like there was just something… missing, and I felt a bit let down by the ending. Part of this can probably be chalked up to a lack of proper world-building. Howey definitely has skill when it comes to building a sci-fi world (Wool speaks to that), but there was a lot here that felt like it should have been expanded upon. I just never felt fully convinced by the environment he had created here. It felt so limited; we’re only really introduced to a couple of new species with the implication being that they are the only ones.
Besides that, I felt really uncomfortable about the characterization of the main character. He’s gay, and the “hints” towards it are quite heavy-handed. He’s also often likened to a woman and is made fun of by the other characters for being a “sissy.” This isn’t at all challenged or addressed, and doesn’t do much except play into existing stereotypes. There’s also a love triangle that doesn’t really get resolved; the drama with it feels forced and even the main character admits that it’s ridiculous to think so much about dating when lives are on the line.
For all my criticisms, this is a pretty enjoyable read. I ended up getting sucked in whenever I’d pick it up, and had no problem jumping back into the story. The pacing is good and I was always intrigued to see what would happen next — even if it didn’t seem like much would. Overall, this is a decent sci-fi novel, but nothing I’ll be scrambling to recommend.