Book Review: Half World by Scott O’Connor

18144133Title: Half World

Author: Scott O’Connor

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Thriller

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Published: February 18, 2014

Page Amount: 432 pages

Blurb From GoodreadsInspired by real CIA operations, the riveting novel of a fraying CIA analyst who conducts secret mind-control experiments and the young agent who, years later, uncovers the appalling legacy of the program and the people destroyed by it. In the 1950s, the CIA began a clandestine operation known as Project MKULTRA, in which unwitting American citizens were subjected to insidious drug and mind-control experiments. Twenty years later, as the country struggles under the weight of the Vietnam War, another troubled young agent will risk everything to find Henry, protect Hannah, and piece together the staggering aftermath of the crimes before it’s too late.

Why Read: Ask anyone and they will regal you with tales of how much I adore the Cold War. Whether it’s stories of espionage or wartime recollections, I am immediately caught without fail. Half World was no different. It was one of the books that has been on my TBR list for quite some time, and this winter holiday season felt like the perfect time to read it.

Review: When you start reading Half World, it begins with a bit of a confused vibe. Who is Henry, what is happening to him, and why does the American dream family of four seem to have so much wrong with them? You don’t know. What happened in Arlington, and why are they moving to California? Uncertainty reigns. Then slowly a picture begins to form. Something horrible is happening and Henry is a part of it… In fact, the part of the synopsis that covers a young agent working with Hannah to uncover the horrors of MKULTRA doesn’t actually begin until quite late in the book.

On one hand, I enjoyed that. The distinct amount of uncertainty whenever a new chapter began was exciting. Whether or not O’Connor meant it as such, the book radiated out the same confusion and lack of coherent strategy as MKULTRA drug effects – even matching the autism of Henry’s son. Beyond being confusing, the book was entrancing. One of my favourite moments that stuck with me was watching Henry attempting to create a separation between himself as an agent and himself as a person. If he let them come together, there would be a danger presented not only to his family,but also to his own sanity.

The pace of the book went quickly, although in the second half: there is much to be said for character development. The secondary agent who changes his mind about what he’s meant to be doing (whether through unwanted drug therapy or not) undergoes drastic changes that seem perplexing until you think about the dramatic impacts of psychological manipulation. In short, there’s a lot of good in this book, but if you want to read it- there’s a certain about of work you have to put in yourself. I could not speed-read this book to any great affect. Instead, it took significant effort to push myself and think “Okay, this character isn’t acting as I expect her to… which means there could be a MKULTRA reason or there could be a “life” reason, which is the one that I want to focus on.” Overall, an interesting read.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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