Henry March, the lead character in Scott O’Connor’s novel, Half World, is living a dual life. His position as a CIA analyst is in sharp contrast with his role as devoted family man. When his professional life falls apart in D.C., he does not know what will become of him or his family. Given the opportunity to lead a new project, and realizing that in his line of work saying “no” really isn’t an option, Henry is compelled to lead his family on a cross country move, leaving behind a tense work environment to start fresh in San Francisco. However, it doesn’t take long for Henry to realize he is in way over his head with his new assignment.
Based on real-life, top secret government mind control projects that began in the 1950s, Half World is a voyeuristic, though fictionalized, view from the side of the supposed perpetrators, the agents themselves. Though not a subject of investigation, Henry March is a different kind of victim, taking part in cruel experiments that make it impossible to reconcile himself to his family at the end of the day. Above all else, he knows that he must protect his wife and two children, that they must never know the truth. When Henry ultimately disappears, they know nothing, and he wouldn’t have it any other way, no matter the consequences.
Twenty years pass, and the CIA is once again on Henry’s trail. They will do anything to ensure the truth never reaches the light of day. But what does this mean for Henry’s family?
Half World is a gripping, suspenseful novel, disturbing in its basis in true events. The American government’s involvement in such an evil scheme is truly a shameful chapter of U.S. history. O’Connor does a brilliant job imagining the effects that one’s involvement, as a key figure in a professional capacity, in executing these experiments would have on the agents. He illustrates the astounding level of dedication required, and the lifelong toll that is part of the package. While the ending of Half World is a bit vague and doesn’t quite deliver, the story in its entirety is outstanding; believable, yet unbelievable.
Alysia lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and four children. She writes about family life, parenting issues, and other things of interest to her on her blog, Michigal.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.