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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

Half Way Home - Hugh Howey Well, I adored Hugh Howey's Wool series and The Plagiarist short story, but this one missed the mark quite a bit. Which is too bad, since Howey can do much better than that.It's a sci-fi story, which I generally adore. A shipload of zygotes lands on a distant planet destined to become a home for a colony of settlers who would be released from their pods in 30 years as fully grown human beings taught to do certain jobs and taught to think in a certain way. Normally if a planet is determined to be 'unsuitable' by the ship's AI, the colony gets destroyed (or rather, 'aborted'. My gripes on that to come later. I'm an OBGYN, what did you expect?). However, this particular colony gets woken up halfway through the maturation process, after an 'aborted' attempt at 'abortion'. And now we have a bunch of fifteen-year-olds who are expected to survive in a hostile world while (a) figuring out what exactly happened here and (b) following the seemingly irrational commands of ship's AI while (c) simultaneously carrying out what seems like a version of the infamous prison experiment, with some of them very eagerly jumping to the role of people who have guns and are not afraid to use them for the sake of power.I can buy this premise. A bunch of kids stuck dealing with a situation that is way above their heads. It can be spectacular and gut-wrenching, like that picture that was chosen for the book's cover. But it was not. So where does Howey go wrong? Well, here is a handy list of my gripes, thanks for asking:1. The narrative voice. Not for a single moment did I believe that this story was narrated by a 15-year-old about 15-year-olds. Now, I do understand that children raised by AI may not exactly behave and sound like your normal garden variety teenagers, but the disconnect was still too much to allow me to immerse myself into this story. It was just too dry and overly mature, like it was narrated by a 30-year-old, which, by the way, would have been completely believable if it were so. --And, while I'm at it, I perfectly well understand that the colonists have been trained to think and act according to their predetermined future profession, but those 15-year-olds constantly deferring to each other based on what profession they were half-trained to do with the assumption that the half-finished training would fully determine their personalities... Sorry, but having met real teenagers in my life (and having been one, duh!), I just do not buy it.-- And, while I'm at it - why exactly did the colony AI appear to teach these teenagers the exact prejudices and attitudes that plaque our present times? Yes, I read the part where our protagonist was supposed to be isolated because of his sexual orientation based on the master plan by the Colony AI, but would ingraining the clearly terrible prejudices into the new settlement on another planet would have really been considered the best way to go by anyone? Sorry, can't buy that.-- The only time I believed that these were teenagers was the ending. It was just 'in your face' silly enough to make me believe that it was conceived by teens who have no clear idea of the consequence of their actions and are longing for some drama.2. The abortion theme. I'm going on a rant here, so be prepared. I understand the meanings of the word 'abort'. I understand that it is perfectly valid to call the abortion of the mission just that. But by underscoring exactly how abominable such action is when clearly sentient human beings are concerned (they are fifteen years old, after all), while consistently using the word 'abortion' which seems to have a very clear meaning in the politically charged climate of the present-day United States Hugh Howey, intentionally or not, ends up equating the 'abortion' and 'murder of sentient human beings'. Now, I don't think that it's the message he is trying to get through based on my reading of this story, but I can't help but see these connections being made. And I'm not happy about it, as abortion already faces the huge stigma in the US and the right to it keeps being challenged. So that's my gripe.3. The gay protagonist - yay?I applaud Hugh Howey for making a gay kid the book's protagonist. It's not too common in literature. I just wish that he took a different approach than creating what basically was just a stereotypically very 'feminine' man. But hey, maybe it's just my flawed perception. But something in the way he chose to characterize his protagonist kept seeming a bit off to me, a bit too stereotypical to ring true.-- On this note, however, I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of a gay gene. Is it all really so simple that we can just genetically engineer a gay vs. straight person? I tend to disagree, but again, I do not claim to be an expert here; it just felt a bit too simplistic for me.All these gripes aside, the story itself was not too bad. It flowed quite well, like all Howey's works that I've read so far do. It never lagged or lost its footing. But it just was not in the league with his other works, and therefore, no matter how much it pains me, I cannot give it more than 2 stars. If you have not read Hugh Howey's books yet, do not start with this as your first one, go for the Wool series instead. As I've said above, Hugh Howie can write much better than this. As for me, I will check out I, Zombie in the hopes of a better read.