Project HALFSHEEP: Or How the CIA’s Alien Got High by Susan Hasler (2015) 399 pages
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In 1953, the fledgling CIA under Director Allen Dulles launched a mind-control program called MKUltra. The project was an experiment on human subjects with drugs that included LSD years before Timothy Leary turned on and dropped out. Caught up in the anti-Communist hysteria of the time, the CIA was searching for new ways to interrogate and ultimately control prisoners, just as they imagined “the Communists” were already doing. These illegal experiments resulted in several deaths, most famously that of a US Army biological weapons researcher named Frank Olsen. Only two decades later did word of MKUltra, the CIA and LSD reach the public through an expose in the New York Times and subsequent Congressional investigations.
In Project HALFSHEEP, 21-year CIA veteran Susan Hasler satirizes MKUltra in a fanciful science fiction novel about an alien captured by the Agency and subjected to years of experiments with mind-altering drugs. Like her earlier novel, Intelligence, Project HALFSHEEP refers to the CIA as “the Mines” and peoples the Agency with a misbegotten collection of rich, entitled misfits, undercover officers suffering from PTSD, and long-suffering bureaucrats.
The central character in the novel is a three-foot-tall creature from the planet Utorb who has been sent unwillingly on a mission to scout out Earth as a possible new home for her dying race. The alien has enormous eyes, webbed fingers, ears in her palms, wool on her butt, and a nine-inch nose that causes her to be known by many of her captors as Dick-Face. She quacks like a duck. Her name is unclear. When “volunteered” for the mission to Earth, “they took my humble name away and called me ‘Piyat,’ which in the high language means ‘brave one,’ and in the common tongue, ‘idiot.'” She prefers to be called Alice Webster, after what become her two favorite books, Alice in Wonderland and Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. Oh, and she’s a great chess player.
Project HALFSHEEP also tackles the perennial conspiracy theory about an alien landing at Roswell, New Mexico. Piyat crash-lands in New Mexico in 1947 far from Roswell. To prevent discovery of the real crash site, the CIA sets up a fake site near the town.
As an analyst at the CIA, Susan Hasler was involved in tracking down Osama bin Laden. She held other positions at the Agency, among them serving as a Russian linguist and speechwriter for three CIA Directors. Project HALFSHEEP was the second of her three novels.