Once a planet is determined to be favorable for colonization by an Earth spaceship, the ships’ compartment of human embryos begins a 30 year gestation cycle, eventually depositing 500 grown and occupationally trained adult colonists into a settlement. But when one ships’ computer aborts the mission halfway through, then aborts the abortion, 50 naked teenagers climb out of their vats, out of ship on fire, onto a half-constructed landing site on an unknown planet.

In this pseudo-dystopian Lord of the Flies, Porter, trained as a psychologist through the 20th century before his gestation is cut short, watches as his fellow colonists struggle to adapt to their new life as the ship’s computer orders them to build a rocket to send back information to Earth, putting their needs of food and shelter by the wayside.

In Half Way Home, Hugh Howey shows that his ability to unfold an original dystopia has been with him since before Wool. I love the slow expansion of the setting and the planet, the eventual controversy and questioning of leadership, the aliens and the mystery, and the interesting character relationships of children who act like adults (a la Ender’s Game). In addition, the protagonist is a homosexual male, and his difference from the other colonists provides a strong personification of lone leadership which he never reveals.

Unfortunately, many of the characters are more archetypes than flesh, including the AI and the fear-mongering muscle. Assigning each kid a different profession is used almost as a narrative shortcut in explaining their thought processes and motivations.

Leave behind the vampires, werewolves, and witches, this well-crafted YA story makes its point without the drivel. Recommended as a short, fast-paced young adult novel full of identity confusion and standing up to authority with some classical elements of scifi.

“I was a blastocyst, once. A mere jumble of cells clinging to one another. A fertilized egg. Of course, we were all in just such a state at some point in our lives, but I excelled at it in a way you didn’t. I spent more time in that condition than I have as a person. Hundreds of years more, in fact.”