I read this quite some time ago (I think around the '90s). I'm pretty sure the author is Orson Scott Card, but I looked through the bibliography and I couldn't find it.

The story is about a ship that arrives on a planet to colonize it, but the embryos it has transported are awakened for a reason that's revealed later (and has something to do with collecting resources on the planet).

This means that the colonizers are a bunch of teenagers instead of adults and they have to survive on the planet doing various things for the first time (including killing animals to survive, which leads to the main character having a moral dilemma).

UPDATE: The embryos were being kept alive by the AI of the ship. I seem to remember that the ship almost crash-landed on the planet and the usual procedure was to self-destroy in that case. But here the AI decided against it, because even if with a short life expectancy, the boys/girls could gather some unique resources and then die, leaving the path open for another colonization ship. They didn't find out about this until later in the story.

  • When I saw the title, I thought we'd seen this one before, albeit with a setup where they had to babysit the newly hatched embryos on the ship. Was it robots or people taking care of the embryos?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Oct 6, 2020 at 13:18
  • @FuzzyBoots It was definitely robots and/or an AI commanding the ship.
    – ChatterOne
    Oct 6, 2020 at 13:46
  • The idea of early wake from cryosleep is found in Card's Homecoming Saga, which is where you may have confused it from. Oct 6, 2020 at 22:25
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    If the embryos were awakened to early, wouldn't they be older than planned when arriving (i.e. not teenagers)? Oct 6, 2020 at 23:28
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    @PaŭloEbermann What happens in the story is that the idea was to land on the planet, finish growing the embryos if the planet is inhabitable and train them, then release them to colonize. The ship doesn't detect the planet as inhabitable and starts the self-destroy sequence but then decides to abort it and awakens the embryos, not fully grown.
    – ChatterOne
    Oct 7, 2020 at 6:39

2 Answers 2


I remembered wrong about the author and how old the story was. Sorry about that.

I found it and it's "Half Way Home" by Hugh Howey.

A summary here :

The expense of sending generations of humans on several-hundred-year journeys is too much, so they instead launch 500 human blastocysts and an automated collection of machines to raise them and prepare the landing site for them. [...] Our protagonists are awakened at age 15 with only a portion of their training complete. Their colony is on fire — a fire it purposefully started — but now it’s trying to save itself.


Not by Orson Scott Card, but the 1970s Exiles Trilogy by Ben Bova has some points that match.

You mentioned embryos on a colonization ship:

In the first book of the series Exiled from Earth "A powerful world government has scientists transported from an overpopulated earth to a satellite on the eve of their discovery of a method to modify the human embryo"

You also mentioned embryos being born mid-journey:

In the third book of the series End of Exile "Born and brought up on a space ship that is slowly deteriorating, Linc discovers its secrets and the way to get the remaining occupants to their ultimate destination."

I don't remember the scene about having to learn to kill animals. But it has been close to 40 years since I read the series so may have forgotten that detail. There is also definitely a moral dilemma issue in the factions which have arisen in the teenagers as to the colonization mission and how to proceed.

  • Uhm... it is close, but I don't think that's it. I'll try to add more details to the question.
    – ChatterOne
    Oct 6, 2020 at 13:45

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