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Halfhead Paperback – 3 Sep 2009

152 customer reviews

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Take a peek at the first chapter of Halfhead.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (3 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007298706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007298709
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.7 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 547,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stuart MacBride was born in Dumbarton near Glasgow but grew up in Aberdeen. He is the number one bestelling author of several novels featuring DS Logan McRae. He has been shortlisted for the Theakstons's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award twice. Stuart won the 2007 CWA Dagger in the Library, awarded for a body of work, and was named Best Breakthrough Author at the 2008 ITV Crime Thriller Awards.

Product Description


‘Slick, gruesome and brutally intelligent, this is bare knuckles
thriller-writing.’ Michael Marshall

‘Compelling’ SFX

‘Fast-paced … ends with a dramatic twist’ Aberdeen Press & Journal

Praise for Stuart MacBride:

‘Riveting and gruesome’ Telegraph

‘Grim, gritty and great fun’ Daily Sport

‘Stuart MacBride goes straight for the jugular with a tight, thrilling novel’ Glasgow Herald

‘The action is fercious and the pace unrelenting’ Northern Echo

From the Author

1. This is your first novel not to be set in the present - what inspired you to move to the future?

It’s actually the other way around: I wrote Halfhead long before I’d even thought of doing crime novels set in the here and now. So in a lot of ways, it’s the Logan books that are the big departure from what I was doing. Which meant I had to go back and give Halfhead a thorough going over with wire brush and Detol this year to make sure it was up to scratch. One of the great things about writing a thriller set in the near future is that you get to take current themes and trends, twist them through ninety degrees, then force them to their logical (or illogical) conclusion. You can have gunships, and onomatopoeic weapons, and huge explosions, and the kind of government conspiracies you just can’t do in the here and now. It’s a vast playground for the overactive imagination, which is why I loved it.

2. Why did you choose to set halfhead in Glasgow as opposed to the setting of many of your previous novels, Aberdeen?

Sometime a story just seems to fit a location, and Glasgow was the perfect place to create this big semi-dystopian world where Scotland is a world power, and a lot of the UK has disappeared beneath the rising sea levels. Plus it’s nice to have a bit of fun in a different city for a change.

3. Where did the idea of ‘halfheading’ people as a solution to crime come from?

I’d been watching a documentary on the American penal system, focussing on the impact the death penalty had on violent crime. Which appears to be absolutely none. It also went into the amount of fan mail and love letters prisoners receive on death row – seemingly normal people writing these gushing letters to convicted murders, rapists, and serial killers. That just seems utterly bizarre to me. So I thought: well, capital punishment clearly doesn’t work, and corporal doesn’t seem to either … what could a justice system do to make sure people who commit violent crime can never be seen as martyrs or sex objects. Clearly you’d need them to be instantly identifiable as criminals, something that no one is ever going to aspire to, and you’d want them to fulfil a useful, but thoroughly unglamorous role in society. And that’s where the idea of halfheads came from.

4. The book is full of some truly loathsome villains - are you ever inspired by real life criminals?

I did a whole heap of research into serial killers for Halfhead, and spent a lot of time going through several of the FBI’s training manuals. They contain some truly horrific case studies, not just serial offenders, but also the kind of casual violence people are prepared to commit in order to get what they want. It was an unpleasant reminder that there’s very little we can do in fiction that hasn’t already been done in real life. And probably a lot worse. The really worrying stuff came from a book I found on ‘death row’ in my local library: 50p or it was going to be pulped. It was about the medical experiments and weapons research the Japanese military carried out during the Second World War on their own citizens. It was all the more horrific because it was state sanctioned and sponsored. Appalling brutality carried out as scientific experiments. But everything in the book is completely fictional, as far as I know…

5. The book is shot through with lots of interesting ideas - VR sets, halfheading, Social Engineers - can you imagine any of these ever coming to pass?

Dear God, I hope not… Mind you, we’re not far off full immersion VR at the moment. The military is doing a lot of research that’s going to have huge implications for the public when they’re finally released, especially with advances in quantum computing to power it all. About the only thing we know about the future is that we’ll probably still be waiting for our rocket cars, butler robots, and personal jetpacks in a hundred years time. Tomorrow’s World has a lot to answer for.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Catlover on 14 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
Like his fellow Scot, Iain Banks, Stuart MacBride has ventured into science fiction and added a middle initial to distinguish it from his "other stuff". Stuart's a nice guy and I enjoyed his first three Logan McRae novels, but did not like the fourth and fifth (`Flesh House' and `Blind Eye') which provided no progression and to me were convoluted almost beyond repair.

He does slightly better here with this crime thriller set in a near future Glasgow (the author leaves it up to the reader to decide exactly WHEN it's set), but doesn't succeed in presenting a fully realised future vision.

Let me dispense with a plot summary for this work - you can read that above, and I've nothing further to add. However, I would like to comment that this work has an interesting premise, and some good ideas, but as a massive fan of Philip K. Dick I think these would have been better developed in his hands.

Unfortunately Stuart employs the same writing voice he uses for his contemporary crime thrillers - and, in my opinion, it's a wholly inappropriate style for this type of work. The prose needs a much harder edge to fully exploit and present his ideas. The novel is therefore unconvincing; his characters spout exactly the same style of chronically unfunny lines as in his other work, using a similar type of contemporary (i.e. early 21st century) slang.

Other reviewers have talked about the `grittiness' of `Halfhead', but to me that's a very inaccurate description; this book isn't gritty in any way, shape or form. His villains are merely cartoon characters and the book quickly settles into a predictable gore-fest.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By groundbound on 29 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Glasgow in the future, searing heat and monsoons, scrubbers in the sky, skyscraper living units that have become slums, and a police force that needs Thrummers, Whompers and Zappers to go about their business. The halfheads are convicted criminals who have been facially disfigured, lobotomized and set to menial duties. However, one isn't quite like the others and wants revenge. Macbride's black humour and Glasgow repartee are still present, as are the gruesome details of brutal murders, disfigurement and gory firefights. Towards the end, it feels like participating in a computer game of Quake or Duke Nukem.

Not his best work, though if you like the blood and guts aspect of Macbride this will suit you, the more delicate natured will probably find it disagreeable.
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By Pallus TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
VERY nearly 5 stars; 4.95 stars prudently rounded-down to 4.

I thoroughly enjoyed this sci-fi action thriller.
But then I'm probably easily pleased by this type of thing.

Personal background history is reserved for the main characters, never distracting us far from the present, where the action is.
So although this may lack depth for some, I like easy reading and was drawn-along by this book with no effort on my part whatsoever.

I found the style of writing refreshingly straightforward. No flowery similies here -just choice, sharp ones -jab jab! No time wasted.
Written with an explicit and get-on-with-it method. That is not to say that scenes were not properly set; I was wholly immersed in the mood of each location.

There is some potential romantic interest which I would have liked to be treated slightly differently. That's just my own weakness though, I suppose.

Strongly recommended for likeminded readers who want to get gripped (and shaken about a little).

[My Ref: Halfhead #2 6th Sept 09]
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Format: Paperback
I was put off reading this book by the blurb (cover writers take note). It really did not sound entertaining. However I am glad I did give it a go because this story did keep me interested. One of the most surprising outcomes was a desire for the main Hannibal Lecter like villain to get away, despite the fact they were possibly the nastiest piece of work ever. There was a little bit of suspension of belief in the medical advances that allowed quite serious operations to be carried out with a short or non-existent recovery time. But that was the setting and the reader has to accept it. The protagonists were likeable and the action felt credible if not entirely realistic. The last due to the advanced personal weaponry of the era. My only criticism, and it is not a big one, is that in an overpopulated Glasgow there did not seem to be many bystanders. The action happened in isolation. but that is minor. The book was an enjoyable read.
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I'm not the world's greatest Sci-fi fan but decided to read this because I enjoy MacBride's writing style. I was not disappointed. The story is very plot-driven but the principal characters are engaging and I found myself caring about Will, Emily, Jo and Brian. I rather enjoyed a vision of the future where people have sockets in their skulls to plug into Virtual Reality but landline phones are still in use; where clothes get laundered in a "cleanbox" but the post-work booze-up is still the norm.

There IS violence, yes, but I can't agree with the reviewer who described it as depraved; there's nothing like so much gore and graphic description as in, say, a Shaun Hutson novel or even some of MacBride's other work. All in all, it's a good read that pulls you along and the characters are probably strong enough to stand another outing should the author wish to grant them one.
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