Five Star Reviews — Project HALFSHEEP: Or How the Agency’s Alien Got High by Susan Hasler

Posted by Shannon Haddock on June 24, 2015 in Reviews |

This is a book I had to read as part of a review exchange.  It was on my “to read” list before that though because it sounded quirky and fun.  It was, but it was also a lot deeper than I’d expected.

This also is not the work I expected to be doing a post about today, but that one seems to have been taken down from everywhere, so it’s pointless to talk about.  That’s a shame because then I would’ve gotten to tell the story of having someone argue with me when I left a five star review because I said the story wasn’t perfect.

The description, via Goodreads:



The lords of a dying planet send Piyat, a terrified “volunteer,” on a voyage across the universe. The reluctant alien crashes in the fear-washed landscape of Cold War America near the site of the nation’s first nuclear test. Captured by the Army and stolen by the CIA, she falls into the hands of a guilt-ridden ex-operative, a psychiatrist with a lust for pharmacology, and an Agency golden boy gone wrong. They turn her into the centerpiece of Project HALFSHEEP, a Top Secret program to test mind control drugs. But Piyat is not so easy to control.

PROJECT HALFSHEEP is a darkly funny blend of science fiction and political satire informed by the real-life excesses of the CIA in its earliest years.

My review:



This was an excellent book with the only problem being that, towards the end, it got almost too depressing to keep reading at times.

The first thing I have to say about this book is to not let the blurb fool you. It is about everything said in the blurb, but it’s also about sexism, which is period appropriately portrayed without being exaggerated, and about the marks horrible events leave on your mind. These themes are brilliantly interwoven with the tale of the alien.

The characters were wonderfully and realistically portrayed, though it might’ve been nice to have found out a bit more about Boots to make sense out of why he was so very, very cruel.

Humor and pathos alternated throughout the tale, with the humor lessening some towards the end, as I mentioned above. In my opinion some of the best parts were the ones that blended the two, but I’ve been accused of having a very dark sense of humor before.

I had to look up several words which is something I quite like in books.

The descriptions of everything, especially the alien world and culture, were very well done. The book also had the best description of a migraine I’ve ever read.

I really loved the alien culture. It was relatable, but still, well, alien. I especially liked the differences — or were they? — between the high and low language, like a word meaning “adventurer” in one and “doomed” in the other, as well as little things like the alien finding 90 degree angles cramped.

And the poem the alien writes has to be read to be believed.

All-in-all, this was a very good book, and I look forward to reading more by the author.

Well, that review is thorough enough that I don’t know what else I can say, except that I’m much pickier about science fiction than about any other genre — I assume because I write it, I really don’t know why though — so for me to give a science fiction novel five stars is a very rare thing.

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