Sunday, December 6, 2009

Review: HALFHEAD - Stuart MacBride

They're called Halfheads. They are the convicted violent criminals of society: the murderers and rapists. They are lobotomised and surgically mutilated ("halfheaded") and sent to do society's most menial tasks. If you're convicted and sentenced to halfheading there's no way back for you. No one notices halfheads. The are little more than sexless zombies, incapable of independent thought.

Will Hunter is a high ranking officer with the tech-crimes and police actions unit. Part of their job is investigating murders. Will and his team are called out to a particularly grisly murder scene in one of Gaslgow's vast connurb blocks. When more than a quarter of a million people are crammed into a vast high rise complex in one of the most deprived areas of the city, is it any wonder things can and do explode?

However, there's more to this murder than meets the eye and Will's determination to find out what is really going on despite orders to the contrary lead him to a very dark conspiracy.

MacBride's vision of the future is a dystopian nightmare. It seems to be a combination the worst of Soviet Union dysfunction and a high technology, uncaring big-brother state. And it is a totally compelling one.

Make no mistake, HALFHEAD is very violent and bloody, but MacBride's ability to create characters with both humanity and humour transcend the bleakness of the violence.

If the book has a flaw it is that in the latter stages, Will and his team seem to get bogged down in hunting for a killer who is right under their noses all the time.

Despite that I found HALFHEAD very difficult to put down. The imagery of the halfheads will haunt me for quite some time I imagine.


Margot Kinberg said...

Sunnie - Thanks for your review of Halfhead. Normally, I would say that dystopian futuristic thrillers aren't the type I would choose. But this one sounds as though there are some really compelling aspects to it. I always find characterization especially important in a novel, and this one sounds as though the characters are quite well-done. Perhaps I should expand my horizons...

Sunnie Gill said...

It's not something I usually read either, but I've enjoyed a couple of his previous books.

He's a very funny man and his blog is well worth following. If you get the chance to hear him speak you'll be entertained as well.