Monday, June 28, 2010
Half Way Home by Hugh Howey
Regular readers of the site will recognize Hugh Howey’s by-line. He is growing quite a fan base for his Bern Saga, which began with last year’s Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue, continues in Molly Fyde and the Land of Light, and reaches its penultimate chapter with this summer’s Molly Fyde and the Blood of Billions. Based on Hugh’s first two novels, I was very excited to check out his third, Half Way Home. This is his first non-Molly Fyde novel, and a bit of a departure for him, so I was intrigued.
In the future, countries send out ships full of unborn children to new planets. If the planet is deemed viable, the children are grown for a full thirty years, implanted with knowledge of their profession and their surroundings. If the planet is unviable, then the unborn are aborted. Yet, for one set of colonists, something else happens. Fifteen years into their growth, the abort sequence begins and then is terminated. Ninety percent of the colonists die in the ensuing debacle. Those who are left alive are trapped on their world, under their harsh AI task master, Colony. Yet, when Porter and a group of colonists set out to find freedom, a planet of striking danger and dark possibilities is discovered.
Initially, I was having problems with this novel. The first chapter, one of the longest in the book, breaks the tried-and-true “show, don’t tell” rule. Howey takes a very long time to tell us the background of his story, and it was like trying to run through mud. If he had worked these details into the story, letting them come up naturally, we could have gotten all of the information and none of the overbearing and slow introductory material. It was a very weak start that left me with doubts about the rest of the novel.
I also found myself frustrated with what I felt were a few logical lapses throughout the novel, most of them found in the very beginning. Frustratingly, one of them nullified the logic of the long and dry first chapter, thus making it necessary for story, but a breaking of story logic by its very need to exist. That likely makes no sense unless you have read the novel, but I don’t want to give details and spoil parts of the plot.
All of the above is a shame, because once Howey finally gets the story rolling, it becomes a very engaging novel. If you can get through the early chapters, past the background and the aborting of the mission chapters, then things finally begin to get good. Howey creates fun characters that readers will like to follow, and the relationships between characters are very engaging. The novel becomes the type of entertaining adventure that makes his other books so readable.
This one is certainly a bit of a change up for Howey, and it didn’t succeed on all levels. It is nice to see him expanding his scope, something necessary to long term success as an author, but I hope the next time he does so the results are a bit more like I had hoped for.
I ran into trouble on who to suggest this one for. I wouldn’t want new fans to begin this one, get mired in the lows, enjoy the highs, but not want to try more from a capable author. However, fans of Howey’s previous work will find this one a bit of a letdown. Thus, to any who choose to venture here, take the bad with a grain of salt: it’s not a typical turnout, and there is plenty of good to be found here. Relish the characters and the adventure in the later sections, because they are quite good. Skim through the beginning and the not-so-good parts, which can be derailing. If you are new to Howey, maybe try another of his books.