I cry easily … I’ll revise that. I have the urge to cry easily and often shed a tear or two. I’m not a sobber but I’m a very sensitive person. That said, I can’t remember the last time a book made me cry. It might have happened some time in my teenage years but I can’t think of an instance. For some reason, as much as I get into my reading, it doesn’t trigger the same response in me as a movie or hearing terrible things in the news.
Half Way Home by Hugh Howey made me cry. In a good way.
Porter is a boy who was conceived on earth and born hundreds of years later … on another planet … at the age of fifteen.
Earth Has sent out tens of thousands of colonial space ships consisting of an AI that runs things and five hundred carefully chosen human embryos. The ship arrives on a distant planet a few hundred years later and begins its work in determining whether the place is “viable” or not. If it is viable then the humans are grown but kept inside vats and taught their careers through a virtual reality world. In thirty years when their education is complete they are woken up in order to form a colony and work the planet’s mines, sending anything valuable back to Earth.
If the planet is not viable the AI can abort everything at any time by burning and then nuking itself (to make sure no patentable information can be stolen). On this planet the AI is in the middle of self destruct when it seemingly changes its mind and the result is about fifty naked fifteen year olds running from the burning vats and rushing around into the rain and mud of their new home.
One thing you’ll notice when you look at this book on Amazon is that there are no bad reviews and no ratings below four stars. Most of them are five star and the reviews are enthusiastic. I am just as enthusiastic about this book, not only the great writing and the engrossing story, which is more than enough, but for another reason. What it does for gays in literature.
I can’t find it now but I once read an article about what it means for a struggling minority when they appear in popular media in stories where they are not an example of their struggles or differences but merely a person in a good story who happens to be in that minority. An example used in the article was the children’s book The Snow Day. Published in 1963, it was one of the first books to feature a black person in this way. It was a big step but really a reflection of a change already happening in society.
When reading r/books or r/lgbt on reddit it’s not infrequent to find a post by someone looking for a book about a gay person that isn’t about romance and/or erotica or the terrible struggles the protagonist goes through because he/she is LGBT. These books exist but are rather hard to find or are by unskilled authors. In Half Way Home the protagonist goes through the realization and ultimate acceptance that he is gay but that storyline is second in importance.
At the end of the book Howey explains that as he wrote he thought of his gay uncle who was disowned by his father (Howey’s grandfather). Many people including myself have stories such as these and it’s straight people such as Howey who are stopping that from happening again and again in the future by not only speaking out for the minority but also putting himself in their shoes and weaving a story that allows others to do the same.