Halfway Home — Hugh Howey

51+TigdtjhL._BO2,204,203,200_PI35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_In the interest of full disclosure: I virtually know Hugh Howey; to be exact, I know Hugh Howey virtually.  That has nothing to do with my thoughts about this novel.

I am well behind the power curve with my reading friends because I have been delaying reading Half Way Home until such time that I could really enjoy it.  Having cleared my slate, and knowing I’d be able to read it through in one sitting (no, it’s not that short, it’s just that good) if necessary, I cracked it open, on my kindle on the way to work, yesterday.  I finished it on my way home tonight.

This is a brilliant story. All the things I look for in a tale are in there.  There’s hard science, star travel, pathos, conflict, death and loss, but most importantly the will and drive to overcome obstacles of nature and man, and to survive in a hostile environment.  There’s also an artificial intelligence, a madman at the helm, love and desire and the loneliness of leadership.

Colonists are thrown into space landing on some predetermined planet with the sole mission of enriching the company/country that sent them.  “All for the glory of the colony” has been imprinted on each colonist as they have been trained by the AI that guides their journey.  Except that something goes wrong.  Horribly wrong.  In the end, only a tenth of the colonists remain, and the AI (referred to as Colony) keeps secrets about what they are now expected to do.

There are even more secrets and it falls to the colony psychologist to work out what Colony intends. Porter must shoulder a burden of leadership he does not want and one which seems almost overwhelming, but a burden that can not truly fall to anyone else.  All around him he sees couples forming and finds he truly is alone among the 53 remaining colonists.

You really must read this novel if you consider yourself a science fiction aficionado.  This has elements of the space operas of the early sixties, and the subtle complexities of more recent efforts to define star travel in fiction.  With technology becoming ever more capable of sending humans to another sun and another planet, it is increasingly difficult to write scientifically plausible plots.  We already know what WON’T work, and defining what does work in fiction has many pitfalls.  This is true particularly in a genre that is read by a more technically minded audience.

Howey has avoided these by leaving the science to the AI, and leaving the dealing with technology to the humans. This leaves him free to work the natural surroundings of a planet that may or may not be hostile.  It also leaves him to work in detail with the intricate workings of man as an individual, as a member of a tribe and as cog in the larger wheel of a social construct.

His character development is in tune with his characters’ developing. This may sound tautological, but in fact, the characters have to discover themselves and what they are made of after the initial tragedy, and each internal journey is worked out even as the character works it out with others. It is subtle and complex, and Howey pulls it off to perfection.

The story line is well considered, and has the right amount of unexpected events that the reader isn’t waiting for what’s next, and can’t predict what’s coming.  This is listed as YA in some places, but I would argue that it’s an adult novel that young adults would find accessible.

If you’ve read this and you haven’t read Wool, go there. Do that.