“Half Way Home” by Hugh Howey is a dystopian science fiction thriller published in 2014 and is similar to many of his other works where a group of people struggle to survive, not only against the environment but one another. The audio version is narrated by Max Miller. This book was published about two years after the author’s very successful Wool series. This story however takes place on a distant planet not on Earth. As others have stated in their reviews, this book is not as strong, compelling, or deep as Wool; which set a high standard for future books. If you have not read the Wool series yet, I highly recommend you do. This book on the other hand, I recommend you pass it over as there are many other books in the genre, or written by Howey, that are much better. This is not saying the book was not interesting or unique. It had points of action and thrills making it interesting. But it lacked in so many core areas compared to the author’s other works.
The story and primes is rather thought-provoking by taking the standard earthly dystopian situation and instead putting the characters on an unknown distant world. It reminded me of the TV series “The 100” in many ways with young adults needing to grow up fast in order to survive. I liked the concept of the colony ship and the way the children would learn during their journey. It was similar to what is found in the Matrix movie where individuals are plugged into the computer’s AI and trained while in stasis. Something goes horribly wrong half way into their journey and now they are faced with having to bury hundreds of dead crew members and build a new society from the remaining sixty who survive.
There are points of high and suspenseful action, especially during the opening chapters of the book. We see the many struggles the survivors face when having to decide on who will lead the group, who will enforce the new laws, and who will be permitted to communicate with the computer AI. Friendships grow naturally, enemies are made, and the clan quickly devolves into a dystopian dictatorship of forced labor and meeting the AI’s requirements. The group struggles with their two initial directives involving basic human needs and the ability to attempt to communicate with the outside world by making and launching a rocket. Tension mounts, enemies solidify, and for some, escape is all they can think of for continued survival.
The book’s world was rather unique and made me think of Pandora from the movie Avatar. There were interesting creatures, fauna, and foods. The description of the planet seemed colorful and lively, but it always had undertone of a dark and dreary place. It had me thinking as the characters explored, just how big and different a world they landed on was.
Let me say that for younger readers contemplating this book, there is some strong language used and also a few periods of strong graphic violence. There is also some subject matter and sexual topics that may not be appropriate for all younger readers. Also of note, one of the main characters is a homosexual and this is carried throughout the book. At times, the characters sexual preference is implied while at other points in the book it is not. Just be aware that if any of the above offends you, you may want to pick up a different book.
Sam miller was the narrator for this book, and for someone having a rather small number of narrated books under his belt (at the time of this review), I thought he did a good job. I did not notice any major audio issues such as swallows, edits, etc. The volume seemed to remain consistent. The narrator was even able to voice the many difference characters well. This is the first book I have listened to by this author, so I will need to hear a few more to make a determination on his overall narration capabilities.
In summary, I felt the book had some very strong parts and a solid premise. However, I had much higher expectations based on previous Howey books I have read and it did not live up to them. The story seemed rushed when so much more could have been told about this new and exciting world. It seemed to lack depth, direction, and drive in many areas. This is one of the first Howey books that I would call under-average or average at best. His Wool series is the one that set the high marks for future books, and Half Way Home seemed half way done.