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Half Way Home

by Hugh Howey

genre: speculative fiction, sci-fi, young adult protagonists

What a fantastic opening…and then the promising balloon of story and intrigue deflated. This is why I gave it a 2 out of 5 stars!


(Taken from Goodreads)Half Way Home Book Cover

Less than sixty kids awaken on a distant planet. The colony ship they arrived on is aflame. The rest of their contingent is dead. They’ve only received half their training, and they are being asked to conquer an entire planet. Before they can, however, they must first survive each other. In this gritty tale of youths struggling to survive, Hugh Howey fuses the best of young adult fantasy with the piercing social commentary of speculative fiction. The result is a book that begs to be read in a single sitting. An adventurous romp that will leave readers exhausted and begging for more


I was looking for a new book, something different and a little darker. The book cover first drew me to the book (as is the job of a book cover :P). It looked grungy. The story itself is NOT grungy. I felt like the book cover didn’t reflect the “themes” or the story’s atmosphere.

When I read the first 20 or so pages, I found out that it was very sci-fi. This got me excited because while I’m not the biggest sci-fi fan, I know there are some great sci-fi movies, stories, and games. I’m always excited to try something new! The premise was tantalizing. A bunch of underdeveloped adults (teens) lost on a star billions of light years away from earth. Tension. Inner group conflict. And there was a strong push for “psychology” as our main character, Porter, was designed to take the role as a psychologist for the new colony.

Those first 20 pages were riveting. The first chapter was brilliantly written, weaving psychological themes that spoke to me (as a student of psychology). It was the reason why I paid the $1 to buy the book. But for some reason…something just happened a few chapters in. The writing style didn’t change all that much but the plot wasn’t going in the direction I wanted. I felt like the author tried to make sure it wasn’t too “adult” because these teenagers are only 15, but I felt like it turned the story a little unrealistic. The narration from Porter was more ‘adult’ than that of a 15 year old, and yet the story felt like a 12 year old adventure across a fantastical island. On top of it… sadly, the psychological punch (which I was so excited about!) became less and less of a focus as the story developed.

I wanted action, inner conflict, betrayal, blood, and death! Okay, so maybe I didn’t want all of that at the same time. And yes, I do love reading dark material. But why? Because it’s gritty and in the context of this story, it would’ve been real. I was waiting for a revamp, sci-fi version of The Lord of the Flies. 😦 No such luck!

I finished it because I was hoping it would get better but it didn’t. This doesn’t mean the story itself is bad. The writing is good. Technically, nothing was wrong but there was no spark of life (for me) as a reader. I felt like the atmosphere of the story changed from the first few chapters to the rest of the book. I think I had too many impressions from the book cover to the first few chapters that I wasn’t expecting the story I got. This let it down and it only made it to a ‘okay but borderline painful to read’ score, 2 out of 5.

One thing I wasn’t too happy about was his terminology of “abortion”. Without getting into a rant or two because I really don’t want to discuss politics, but I thought this was unnecessary. The attempted murder of these teenagers while they were still developing into their adult form, should not have been classified as abortion. This suggests that abortion is killing a life that already exists. Rather, abortion should refer to the termination of the of the cells that could potentially become life (zygote etc). And not referring to the murder of teenagers in spaceship vats.


I thought it was great that the protagonist was homosexual. We don’t read enough main characters that are. My confusion arose as to why he felt shame. This society is set far into the future. The spaceship has everyone’s life programmed from when they’re merely blastocyts (a hunk of cells). It suggests that you can genetically “manufacture” homosexual people and that this would somehow make him a better psychologist. His confusion about his sexuality is natural in a society like ours, in 2013. But not in theirs. Why would they program him to feel shame? Even if he cannot procreate for the colony, why should shame become part of the equation? This seemed strange to me and illogical.

I think I was just hoping for a different kind of book. It was good if you like adventure, and you don’t want to read a heavy or realistic survival book. It’s not quite YA but I wasn’t sure if it was adult either. Some minor plot points irritated me such as the abortion terminology and the homosexuality shame. Overall, it was a nice story and I did like that he approached the homosexuality theme though. Nothing was really WRONG with it. It just bored me after the first few chapters, which ironically had seduced me to start with. I have heard that Howey’s Wool omnibus is amazing though. So, maybe I’ll give another book of his a go?

Have you read any of Hugh Howey’s work? What did you think?

2 out of 5 stars

This book is for you if you:

  • Enjoy soft sci-fi with an emphasis on adventure and fantasy features
  • Don’t mind a slow read

This book is not for you if you:

  • Want a gritty survivor novel with sci-fi elements
  • Are uncomfortable with homosexuality

Ermisenda Alvarez

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