Hugh Howey is steadily becoming one of my favorite self-published authors. I try to keep an eye out for new stories from him I have not read yet, but sometimes they slip through the cracks and I don’t find out about them until a little bit after they hit the shelves. Half Way Home is one of those. I was browsing Amazon a couple of weeks ago when it popped up and I made sure to grab it.
Half Way Home is the tale of a group of teenage colonists stuck on a planet they don’t know if they can survive. They are part of a colonization project that uses an artificial intelligence to land a bunch of equipment on a potential colony world and then determine its viability. If the planet is viable the AI then grows 500 colonists over a compressed timeframe to serve as administration, security, and manual labor. In this case, the AI initially decided the planet was viable and started the growth and training process of the colonists, but then halfway through the process decided to abort and blow everything up, and then tries to abort the abort process, leaving roughly 100 colonists alive to make do with what they have.
The biggest problem with this scenario is that the colonists are supposed to be grown to an age of 30, but these ones only made it to about 15 or 16, leaving them without half of their training. They make do as best they can, but things get pretty rough really quickly.
Howey builds an interesting world for these teenage colonists to deal with. There are trees so enormous you can barely perceive the curvature of the trunks, a canopy so thick and dense it can support a group of colonists trekking across it without falling through, and some underground creatures that consume ore and leave behind piles of gold as waste. The creatures don’t show up very often, but when they do it sure makes for a dynamic display of chaos.
The colonists are tasked with constructing a rocket to send information back to Earth about their situation and the planet, but the amount of work proves to be too much for the limited number of hands they have. The colony begins to crack, stress eating away at several members until a sort of martial law is imposed and people start to die when security forces overreact to small offenses. Soon enough a small group strikes out from the camp on their own, believing their safety is compromised.
By the end of the book, the colonists learn a lot about themselves and discover some interesting things about the planet they’ve been put on. They begin to realize that in order to survive they need to take down the AI running the colony, not the other colonists themselves. It was an interesting twist that I really didn’t see coming.