Half Way Home by Hugh Howey

In my mind I will always go back to Wool as being the book that brought me back to my science fiction roots. I had gotten away from science fiction and fantasy for a time as I pursued my career and basically got my act together… but everyone was talking about this book… taking place in an underground Silo. And I’ll never forget the atmosphere Howey was able to create in just a few pages. Running up and down those stairs from level to level. From that series of novellas I read a couple of his other works and when I saw Half Way Home on NetGalley, I immediately requested it. I learned later that it is a book he had already published. But that didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment.

Half Way Home is the story of a colony of fifteen-year-olds on a planet far away from earth. So far away that instead of sending human colonists on generations-long journeys across space, Earth now sends blastocysts, frozen cells that can be bought to life by an automated process. An advanced AI is sent along with the “colonists” to determine if the planet is viable or not. Earth scientists have gotten so good at predicting that it comes down to an almost 50/50 chance that the planet will have everything that is needed for habitation: soil to grow food, no dangerous predators or weather systems, and resources available to send back to the home planet. The AI has thirty years to determine whether the world passes muster before aborting the process and killing off the cells that have been growing in the vats…

The novel opens with a fire that wipes out roughly 80% of the colonists… they awaken only halfway through their development. They only have half the knowledge in their particular area of focus, be it farming, mechanics, or even psychology.  Now the ones that survive must figure out a leadership hierarchy and a way to survive. Questions abound: Why did the AI abort the process only to stop the termination at the last minute? What is it about this planet that makes it beneficial to Earth’s needs? And how will they survive with only 60 members of a 500 member force?

The action focuses on a band of friends within the colony… and most closely on Porter, who is the one psychologist among the crew. This is an important position as these young people are both experiencing life for the first time and thrown into a challenging situation to colonize this planet. He has an interesting persecutive as the psychological point man in the colony and finds himself quickly dealing with the mental aspects of survival, grief, unknown exploration, and most importantly, group dynamics. 

I liked the premise a lot. What a great jumping off point in scientific exploration. I’ve read many stories about the “colony” ship blasting through space for a hundred-year journey, but this twist is something that I have never thought about. Howey takes this and promptly adds the tension that elevates the danger.  I did at a couple points comment to myself: Whoa! That really escalated quickly!

This is a very fast read that takes a simple survival tale to a race against time to save the planet from rogue elements. Porter has to use all his training to help himself and his fellow colonists through the sabotage of the master plan. I won’t go into the plot too much because the basic premise goes off the rails about 20 pages in.

Read this for fun speculation on a seemingly safe planet.

4 out of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, John Joseph Adams, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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