Length: 376 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Glasgow, in the not-too distant future, is a divided city with one side living a normal life and the other crumbling under its own weight. But criminals are treated no different, wherever they may come from. Surgically mutilated and lobotomized, they are left without a lower jaw, feeding off IVs, and spending the days doing menial labor – a stark reminder for all to see that crime does not pay. Fulfilling a punishment some deem worse than death, the halfheads live the rest of their lives without reprieve and without any chance of being really human again.
Except for Dr. Fiona Westfield. One of the most terrifying serial killers to feed off the inhabitants of Glasgow, Dr. Westfield was apprehended by William Hunter and faced the same procedure as every other criminal. But now, she’s waking up. And she wants more than to be human again. She wants revenge.
Westfield’s arrest helped Hunter become Assistant Network Director, the youngest man to hold the post. But even his skills fall short when he begins to investigate a routine murder in Glasgow’s south side that lands him in the middle of a conspiracy. It has been eleven years since the VR riots that killed millions of people and left Hunter with nightmares that continue to this day. And now it seems like someone is trying to start the riots again. Caught between the terrifying memories of the past and the growing danger of the present, Hunter is slowly running out of time. And finally facing his past may be the only way for him to have a future.
Halfhead, simply put, is a gory, chilling, fast paced crime thriller. It’s set in a slightly futuristic time, but it isn’t really Sci-Fi and it surely isn’t for the faint of heart.
MacBride leaves no stone unturned in depicting the deepest of evil that there can be in human beings. He puts together a grotesque, vivid picture that can become too much to take for some. But, he also keeps the story moving relentlessly. It takes a few pages for the reader to really get a grasp of what’s happening because it starts right off, but then it keeps you hooked. The entire picture falls into place slowly, with each piece giving you a better understanding of the characters not by description, but by action. Old relationships become clear, new ones develop, and you begin to feel for the characters, one way or another. In spite of its gore, the book also has some light moments, brought forth by characters you really begin to like. Secondary characters play really important roles, even if they’re tiny ones, and they all add to the bigger picture.
The story itself is really interesting. It develops on diverse yet parallel lines that all come together slowly. And I found it to be quite reminiscent of Karl Urban’s film, Dredd. There are many things that are very similar to today’s time, leaving you with a sense of familiarity even though you’re reading about a time that’s in the future. And, although set in a futuristic time where weapons and medicine seem to be the most changed, the story sticks to the thriller genre, giving you enough reason to remain at the edge of your seat and even cringe in shock. The changes brought on by time just seem to be another part of the environment in which the book is set, and one which is very easy to accept as a given. And the end is something that will surely catch you by surprise.
Halfhead is a perfect read for people who love the older works of James Patterson such as Pop Goes the Weasel and who can tolerate gore that can get quite horrific (there are still certain images I’m trying to get out of my head with little success). If crime thriller is your genre, then this book is a must read. It is the first of MacBride’s attempts at a futuristic world setting and I’m hoping not the last. But, whether he’s written more or is writing more in this particular genre, I’m hooked onto his work already. I’ll surely be reading a lot more of Stuart MacBride’s work, futuristic and otherwise, and all the while hoping that he chooses to write a sequel for Halfhead. It is a stand alone read, but one that will leave you wanting to explore more of Glasgow of the future and the fight for peace in a world of chaos!