cover image Half Way Home

Half Way Home

Hugh Howey. HMH/Adams, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-0-358-21324-6

In this half-baked futuristic thriller, a few dozen teen colonists—vat-grown and totally unready for their current predicament—struggle to succeed on an alien planet after the AI controlling their development destroys most of their comrades and supplies in an aborted self-destruction attempt. As chronicled by Porter, who was designed to be the colony psychologist, the survivors soon fall into internal strife and power struggles, with one faction quickly establishing dominance to enforce the AI’s demanding timetable for the completion of a mysterious project. When Porter and a handful of others flee to the untamed wilds of their extraterrestrial home, they discover the planet’s true secrets. Having learned why they were saved from destruction, Porter and his comrades must stop the AI’s project at all costs. In this cross between William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Robert A. Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky, Howey (Machine Learning) creates a strange setting that’s atmospheric and alien. However, his characters never fully come to life; they rarely talk or act like teenagers, and Porter’s narrative voice is particularly unconvincing. Like the colony, this tale feels incomplete. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency. (Oct.)