Inspired 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.
From its official sanction in 1953 to its shutdown in 1973, the CIA clandestinely conducted methods of mind control on unwitting American and Canadian citizens. This covert and illegal operation, Project MKUltra, eventually made national headlines upon the declassification of thousands of documents in 2001.
Intrigued by the people empowered to enact such abuses and the legacy of such an operation, Scott O’Connor weaves the nuanced and compelling story of Henry March, a CIA agent forced to spearhead a series of insidious mind-control experiments in San Francisco. With each passing day, Henry’s existence becomes a nightmare, his identity withering as he works over the hapless men lured into his facility. Struggling between his duty to his country and his responsibility to his wife and children, Henry finally reaches a breaking point, leaving both his project and mind fractured. Amid the wreckage, he disappears, becoming the deepest ULTRA mystery.
Two decades later, Dickie Ashby, a young CIA agent, is sent to Los Angeles to infiltrate a group of bank-robbing radicals who claim to have been abused in a government brainwashing operation years earlier. The members of the group know they need to find Henry March and that the only bridge to Henry is his daughter, Hannah, who lives in the city. Dickie suddenly finds himself dragged into the stunning legacy of the experiments, torn between doing his job, helping the victims of Henry’s program, and protecting Hannah.
Called “one to watch” (Los Angeles Times) and hailed for his ability “to make something beautiful of unspeakable matters” (The New York Times), O’Connor will stir your emotions with Half World, a mesmerizing novel about reality and the basic incorruptible value of human relationships.
"Half World is all in. A taut and suspenseful narrative. Well-wrought flawed characters. Prose that is pitch perfect. The truth is, Scott O’Connor is a beautiful, sage-like, and terrifying writer."
"Astonishing... Introducing an amazing new talent to the world of fiction."
"O'Connor shows the beauty, the complex blend of dirty truth and high ideals that reveal the human in all of us with an intimacy, elegiac gravitas and deep respect. A strong voice."
"O'Connor's prose is as beautifully terse as his plot... squeezing the reader's emotions so that when the myth of the "perfect" family begins to dissolve... it feels like the inevitable waking from a halcyon dream."
"Once in a very long time, a book comes along that resonates and sings with heart. It's characters so real you want to touch them, hug them. . . .And when it is over you wish you could read it all for the first time, again. That is how good this book is."
"One of those books you can hardly stand to stuff the bookmark in at the end of the night. Terrific."
"Scott O'Connor's Half World is like being granted clearance to classified files about a bizarre and fascinating moment in our nation's history--this is literary suspense of the highest order, and with every page I was intrigued a bit more, horrified a bit more, until I felt I, too, had been brainwashed and found it impossible to stop reading this beautifully written and utterly compelling novel. Now I must read it again. Now I must..."
"The world of Scott O'Connor's debut novel is tough, worn, and thoroughly lived in, and is as vivid and painfully hone
Praise for Untouchable:
"Scott O'Connor speaks softly and somehow manages to make something beautiful of unspeakable matters... a voice so insistently stirring, you want to lean in close to catch every word."