Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Halfheads - Stuart MacBride

Stuart MacBride is the author of the Logan McRae series of Scottish thrillers, but he has added an initial to his name (a la Iain Banks) and struck out in a new direction with the tense and visceral Halfhead.

Halfhead is set in the near future in a world which has started to break down. The poorer elements of society are confined to massive communal blocks and many of them spend their time plugged into Virtual Reality. In order to deter crime, people convicted of serious crimes are forcibly lobotomised by the state, along with the removal of their lower jawbone, sexual organs and other identifying features. These zombie-like halfheads are then set to work in municipal buildings, where they can be seen by all.

One such halfhead is Dr. Fiona Westfield. A prolific serial killer, she was lobotomised, but 6 years later, she regains her mind and starts to kill again, but this time in the guise of an anonymous halfhead. She is seeking vengeance from Will Hunter, the Network operative who captured her but Hunter, still haunted by Westfield and his part in the VR wars, is on the trail of another series of apparently unrelated killings. However, the terrible web that Westfield wove in her earlier life soon ensnares them all.

MacBride has created a horribly wonderful vision of Glasgow in the future. High tech machines and weaponry litter the pages, yet the real focus is on the people. He has managed to marry the serial killer genre and futuristic sci-fi with aplomb. My only gripe would be with the fundamental concept and reasons for creating the halfheads - I can't believe that any society would do such a thing. But putting that aside, I was truly trapped by this gritty, gory story. Word of warning, it's not for the faint of heart.

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