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H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath (H.A.L.F. #1) Discussion Questions:
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – H.A.L.F. The Deep Beneath by Natalie Wright
1. The novel opens with a quote from Jeff Wells: “[H]istory is not driven by most of us… As a rule, majorities are ruled. It’s the fanatic few, at whom we may laugh one day and cower before the next, who are history’s engine. It’s a minority of the single-minded maniacs who can take a holy place and make an unholy mess.” After reading H.A.L.F., do you think there is “a minority of single-minded maniacs” in this novel? Why or why not? Cite examples from the text.
2. Continuing with Wells’ quote, in our modern world can you think of any examples of “the fanatic few, at whom we may laugh one day and cower before the next, who are history’s engine”? Who are they and how do they affect history? Explain.
3. The prologue chronicles Lucia’s journey from being homeless and childless to being kept and pregnant. She is promised $250,000+ and a lifetime pension if she delivers a live birth. Dr. Randall assures her, “It’s a chance for a better life. What do you have to lose?” If you were in Lucia’s situation would you take the deal? Why or why not? Explain your reasoning.
4. Lucia references “mother’s intuition” for the feelings she has that “the being inside of her wasn’t human. Or at least not entirely human.” Do you believe in intuition? Why or why not? If so, share an example of a time when you’ve experienced intuition.
5. Chapter one opens with Erika riding helmetless on a motorcycle. This immediately says something about her character. What other first impressions do you have about Erika’s character? Give examples. Do your first impressions continue to ring true as the novel goes on? Why or why not? Give examples from the text.
6. Ian is the star quarterback on the football team. He is also Erika’s best friend. Though Ian and Erika have an unlikely friendship, they seem to balance each other and bring out the best in each other. But over the course of the novel their friendship morphs and changes, becoming more and more contentious. Do you have a friend who brings out the best in you? Explain how. What do you bring to your friendship(s)? Have you had a friendship that morphed and changed? Did the friendship survive? Explain.
7. The relationship between Jack and Erika is emotionally charged on many levels. Despite the declaration that they are “just friends” Erika’s actions seem to be giving mixed signals. Do you feel Erika is being fair to Jack? Why or why not? If you could give Erika romantic advice about Jack, what would it be?
8. H.A.L.F. stands for Human Alien Life Form made from the combination of human and alien DNA. The character Jack has “an open mind” regarding alien life. What are your personal beliefs about aliens, government conspiracies, and the possibility of the existence of H.A.L.F.? Explain. Have your attitudes changed since reading this book? Why or why not? If so, how?
9. The desert setting plays a major role in the first half of this novel. Do you think the setting of a novel can be likened to a character? Why or why not? Can you give an example from other novels where the setting is a character?
10. Sedona, specifically Bell Rock, also has a big part in the novel as it is the place Tex was to meet his cousins, “the greys”. Sedona is known for energy vortexes. Research energy vortexes and find where else they are common. Formulate an opinion on energy vortexes and alien life based on your research.
11. Being set in southern Arizona, the politics of the U.S./Mexican border have a very real effect on people’s lives in the region. H.A.L.F. touches on immigration with the inclusion of the characters, Joe and Nacho. Does their declaration that “border patrol looks the other way seenin’ as how we help ‘em keep the desert clean of illegals” ring true to you? Has your life or someone you know been touched by immigration (not necessarily at the US/Mexican border)? Explain how?
12. We are introduced to H.A.L.F. 9 as he emerges from the underground lab AHDNA. Again, the desert setting plays a part in the story as we see his awakening in the arid desert air after being dulled by the humid conditions of the lab. He refers to an ‘incident’ in childhood that subsequently resulted in the use of humidity to control him. “Humidity. A natural sedative for a H.A.L.F.” Do you feel differently in different climates? How? What climate do you prefer? Why?
13. Commander Sturgis goes on to use water as a means for torturing Tex: the dousing at Bell Rock and submerging him in a pool within AHDNA. Tex is able to recover from each incident, but is weaker from it. Are Stugis’ means justified since Tex is actually “government property”? Why or why not? Explain your opinion thoroughly.
14. The instinctive physiological response to a threatening situation is fight or flight. In the threatening situation with Joe and Nacho, Erika opts to fight despite fact that the men are armed with guns. After Joe sexually assaults her with a kiss, Erika knees him “in his tenders” then kicks the gun out of his hand. In the midst of the mayhem she actually searches the ground for the gun. How would you react if you were in Erika’s situation? Would you fight, risking death, or would you flee? Eventually Erika offers to stay with Joe and Nacho if they let Ian and Jack leave. Would you do that? Explain your thinking.
15. H.A.L.F. 9 has very complicated relationships with those around him. With Dr. Randall his relationship is nurturing and full of compassion and guidance. H.A.L.F. 9 is led to believe that Dr. Randall is dead, but then finds him alive living in Aphthartos at the end of the novel. Who, from your life or the world of entertainment, would you want to find out was alive when you thought they were dead? Why?
16. H.A.L.F. 9 and Commander Sturgis’ relationship is complicated as well. Their relationship involves a constant power struggle and/or coming of age conflict that includes a need for approval, punishment, fear, defiance, and nurturing. She even refers to him as “One of my children.” Do you have a complicated relationship with a parent or other adult? How do you deal with your conflicted feelings? Explain.
17. H.A.L.F. 9 and his ‘sister’ Alecto also have a complex relationship. She has no idea of his existence until she is sent to retrieve him from the desert. When she learns of his existence she feels hope because she “is not alone”. Do you have a sibling? If so, how would you feel if you had to capture your sibling against their will? Do feel like the bond between siblings should come before any orders from an authority figure? Why or why not? Tex and Alecto can communicate telepathically. Have you ever had a bond with your sibling(s) whereby you could ‘read each other’s minds” on a level? Give an example.
18. H.A.L.F. 9 has an almost immediate connection to Erika and she to him. She names him Tex and fights to keep him from returning to Sturgis. This complicates things with Ian and Jack for different reasons. Discuss how the relationship with Erika causes Tex to act in ways he wasn’t trained to act. Cite examples from the text. How does her need to save Tex affect her relationship with Ian? With Jack?
19. H.A.L.F. 9 also has a relationship with Dr. Dolan. Initially Dr. Dolan gives 9 Dr. Randall’s instructions for his escape, but he is also responsible for much of the H.A.L.F. experimentation. Later in the novel he plays a major role in helping Erika, Jack, and Ian rescue Tex. Dr. Dolan ultimately loses his life to enable their escape. Are these the actions of a man whom when referring to himself said, “My soul, I fear, is already given to the devil.”? Do you believe people can morally change? Cite an example from your life or another novel when that has been true.
20. Erika is emphatic about the value of life…all life. The first time they meet Tex he is telepathically strangling the desert intruder, Joe. Erika declares, “No one deserves to die!” - even the man who just assaulted her and had plans to kidnap her. Her constant defense of life gets her in conflict with Ian, Jack, and especially Commander Sturgis. So much so that she almost loses her own life multiple times. Have you ever felt so passionate about a subject or situation that you’ve been in conflict with others because of it? Why does it have so much meaning to you? Explain your answers thoroughly.
21. Tex repeatedly describes himself as “a weapon” though several times in the novel he displays (and is surprised by) his human emotions: guilt when killing a snake, happiness when he emerged from AHDNA, attraction to Erika, curiosity about Alecto, jealousy of Jack, etc. In fact it was noted that Dr. Randall and Commander Sturgis “created 9 to be a killing machine, unfettered by human frailties of the mind such as guilt and mercy.” Do you think Tex was a ‘failed’ experiment because his humanity interfered with his killing machine instincts? Why or why not?
22. In contrast, Alecto felt comfort when concentrating on Commander Sturgis’ orders and didn’t let the fact that Tex was her ‘brother’ interfere with her mission. Is Alecto a more successful hybrid? Which H.A.L.F. character do you relate to more, Tex or Alecto? Cite examples from the novel to support your answer.
23. Physically Tex knows he is different. He is described as having “overly large, black eyes, tiny facial features and strangely colored greyish skin [that] would make him stand apart”. This assessment is confirmed when he enters the diner and the woman screams and drops the coffee. How would you react if you came in contact with a being with Tex’s physical description? Erika’s explanation of “Spender’s Disease” allows them to escape the situation. Do you think people with disfiguring/physically different conditions get treated poorly in real life? What positive things can you do the next time you see someone with a disability? Make a plan.
24. Tex uses his ability of ‘temporal translocation’ to switch places between the government Hummer and Jack’s Jetta. Tex not only teleports himself, he also teleports every person involved: Erika, Jack, Ian, Sergeant Lopez, and Alecto. The physical sensation of the act does not sound pleasant nor without risk. This is a technology that has been depicted in movies and television for years. Do you think it will be possible in your lifetime? Why or why not? Would you be willing to try this? Why or why not? Explain your reasoning.
25. The novel refers to the crash of ’47 in Roswell, New Mexico as the source for the DNA for the hybrid project and the revelation of the coming alien war. Conduct research on this supposed event and draw your own conclusions as to whether the science presented in this novel is possible. Use information from your research to substantiate your opinion.
26. Part II of the novel begins with a quote from Jeremy Bentham: “The question is not ‘Can they reason?’ nor ‘Can they talk?’ but ‘Can they suffer?’” After reading the novel, whom do you think is the ‘they’ that this quote is referring? Why? Explain your answer with examples from the novel.
27. General Bardsley tells Commander Sturgis that it has been decided that the H.A.L.F. project would be shut down with the explanation that “the cost too high, the benefit too low”. What were the costs of this project? Think not just in terms of money, but in terms of humanity. What were the benefits of this project? Sturgis mentions “broadening research on genetics”. Are there any other benefits? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Cite examples from the novel.
28. Aphthartos is described as “a small 1950’s town” in the center of the AHDNA complex. A brass plaque adorned with a symbol (depicted on the cover) is present with the word, ‘Makers’. Why do you think the government built such a town? What do you think the pros and the cons would be to living in a ‘city’ built several miles underground?
29. Tex refers to his alien cousins as “the greys”. They communicate with him telepathically giving him messages about his rescue. When it becomes apparent that Erika, Jack, and Ian cannot escape AHDNA and Commander Stugis without ‘the greys’ help, they have to accept this fate. Given the choice between “possible death and certain death” would you leave with the aliens? Based on the ‘the greys’ armed conflict with the soldiers do you think ‘the greys’ will harm Tex’s human friends? Why or why not?
30. Tex’s alien cousins ultimately come for him by infiltrating AHDNA. Do you think there is technology in our modern world that would allow an escape like the one described in this novel? If not, do you think humans have the capability to develop it without extraterrestrial assistance? Why or why not? Cite examples from NASA and other scientific sources.
31. In the final showdown between Tex and Alecto, Tex is able to hold Alecto pinned to the ground until his powers are interrupted by the alien ship door’s closing. This ultimate show of strength proved that Tex, version 9 of the H.A.L.F. species was stronger that version 10, Alecto. Do you believe this to be true? Do you think Tex’s human emotions helped his overall strength? How? Cite examples from the novel to support your position.
32. By the end of the novel, after everything they have gone through, Erika decides she loves Jack after all only to be separated from him. What do you predict will come of their relationship? Give examples from the novel to support your position.
33. Commander Sturigis’ final words in the novel are: “We finish what we started. We prepare for war.” What do you think this will look like? Sturgis does not have the support of the Makers or General Bardsley. Do you think she will get Tex back? How?
Emily's House Discussion Questions:
Emily’s House by Natalie Wright
Educational Materials Written and Developed by Bridget Magee, M.A.
**Click this LINK to go view and print the pages from Google Docs.
1. The novel opens with a quote from Einstein: “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whosoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.” What sort of mysteries do you think Einstein is referring to? What mysteries are explored in the novel? What mysteries do you see in our modern world?
2. Some readers may identify Emily as a reluctant hero. Do you agree with this assessment? Compare Emily at the beginning of the novel to the Emily at the end. Did her character experience growth and change? Using specific examples from the novel support your answer of why or why not.
3. The author uses specific monikers for certain characters: Muriel the Mean, Zombie Man, and Super-size. Do the names fit what you know of these characters? What events led them to earn these nicknames? Do these characters grow and change to the point that these nicknames no longer fit? How? Be specific with each character.
4. As Hindergog shares the history of the Order of Brighid and Emily’s role in it, he recounts how the High Priestess Saorla did the unthinkable, took her own life, in order to protect the Sacred Grove. What kind of impact does Saorla’s heroic act have on Emily’s journey?
5. Emily watched her mother die and then re-experienced the horror repeatedly in her dreams. How did this life changing event affect Emily? How did the death of her mother affect her father, Liam? Have you shared a traumatic experience with another person where each of you reacted differently? How?
6. Emily’s relationship with Madame Wong is both nurturing and adversarial. Madame Wong takes the concept of “tough love” to the extreme to teach Emily all she needs to know for her journey. But Madame Wong speaks in third person and in riddles which makes the lessons even harder for Emily to learn. Have you been in a learning situation where you’ve had to decipher the lessons being taught because of language difficulties and/or incongruent messages? How did you deal with it? What emotions did you feel?
7. Emily learned some amazing lessons under Madame Wong’s tutelage: seeing with her whole self, “choosing where want to be and be there now”, ” joy in doing”, focus, etc. She also learned of her amazing strength and ability to jump/fly and have second sight. How did these lessons serve Emily in her journey to defeat Dughall? What extraordinary powers would you like to possess? What would you do with them? Why?
8. Dughall’s early life was that of hardship and suffering yet he had hope and decency until his mother was beaten and she begged him to end her suffering. Do you think one event in a person’s life can fundamentally change them from good to evil? Why or why not? Do you think revenge can undo a horrific life event? What purpose does revenge serve?
9. Both Emily and Dughall believe that they can reunite with their “dearest ones” (their mothers) in the Netherworld. Emily quickly finds out that that is not the case. But she does “put her boat in the stream” of time travel to kill the perpetrator who beat Dughall’s mother, before Dughall can. By undoing Dughall’s mother’s beating and early death, is she changing the course Dughall’s life in the future? Could it set him on a course other than a quest for revenge and power? Why or why not?
10. Throughout the novel there are references to “tingly feelings” or “chills” or “butterflies” or “goose bumps” when Emily realizes a truth. Some call this intuition or a “sixth sense”. Do you believe in this internal knowing? Why or why not? Have you experienced intuition? Explain.
11. Throughout the novel Emily experiences her house as many different things: a place where her mother is in the kitchen cooking chocolate chip pancakes, a place where she is battered by an abusive aunt, a place where her father is there, but not there. What is the true meaning of Emily’s House? What is Emily longing for there? Does she receive it? What does your house mean to you?
12. Dughall teams up with a unlikely partner, a pixie named Macha. They have a dysfunctional relationship whereby she does his bidding with unwavering loyalty and he manipulates her through threats of physical violence. Why do you think she stays with him? What benefit does this relationship have for Macha? Can you think of similar relationships in other books or media forms (television or movies) or in real life? Give your insight. Explain.
13. Macha’s relationship with Dughall does have an effect on him at times. What emotions does she evoke in him that takes him by surprise? Explain.
14. Dughall is ultimately successful in his attempt to enter the Netherworld. What do you think happened to Macha when Dughall crossed over to the Netherworld realm? Why didn’t he bring her?
15. The Goddess Brighid explains the Netherworld as a parallel world, existing in the same space. In your view, do parallel worlds exists? Why or why not?
16. The novel describes Akasha as being “one with the Web of All Things”. In the end, Emily discovers that her mother has been in the Web of All Things the whole time and that she will be connected to her always and forever. Do you believe there is a Web of All Things and that those who’ve died are still connected to us? Why or why not?
17. As the old wizard Cian prepared Dughall for his deathbed and transition to Umbra Nihili
he used burnt herbs as incense, recited incantations, and used medicated linens to wrap the body. Most cultures have rituals surrounding death and burials. Describe five rituals and the cultures that use them.
18. On page 209 the author describes the items that were buried with Dughall and Macha during their time in Umbra Nihili. What other items would you have included? In your opinion were there items they needed that they didn’t have? What and why?
19. The concept of time and time travel is explored throughout the novel. If you had been in the Netherworld with no clocks, rising sun, setting moon – no markers of time, how would you react? Would it free your thinking or paralyze you? Why? Do you believe time travel is possible? If you had the opportunity to time travel, what time period would you go to and why? Give specific details.
20. If you could change one thing about Emily’s journey what would it be? Why?
Activities Across the Curriculum
Emily's House by Natalie Wright
Materials Written and Developed by Bridget Magee, M.A.
**Click this LINK to view and print this resource from Google Docs.
· Dialogue – The dialogue between characters sets the tone for the time period of the novel, the relationship between the characters speaking, and the personality of each character. For example, the dialogue between Fanny and Jake is usually a casual banter peppered with slang and put downs. The dialogue used by Madame Wong is very different. Madame Wong speaks in 3rd person with her message clipped and cryptic at times. Students will pick three different scenes from the novel that include dialogue between two characters. From the dialogue they will infer a sense of time and setting, the relationship between the characters, and personality traits of each character themselves. Students will write up their findings and share with the class.
· Extending Dialogue – Students working in pairs, will give a dramatic reading of a scene between two characters first as it is written, and then with their interpretation of how it would continue when the students provide further conflict for the characters.
· Point of View – On page 133 we get Emily’s POV on what it felt like to walk through the portal to the Netherworld, but what about her friends who witnessed it? Students will rewrite the scene from both Fanny and Jakes POV, using a “voice” similar to each character’s voice. They will reveal both what they saw, but also what they thought and how they felt as they watched Emily disappear into “a large hole in the ground”. Students will share their scenes with the class.
· History – When Hindergog relays the history of Brighid to prepare Emily for her journey, he tells of the Celtic history of the Druids. Students will research ancient Celtic Druidism and compare and contrast it with Christianity.
· Rituals - The novel equates Samhein to All Hallow’s Eve, Alban Althuan to Christmas, and Imolc to Easter. Students will compare and contrast these rituals.
· Modern Day Connection – Today, in modern day Ireland St. Brigid’s Cathedral exists in County Kildare. In Kildare the Sisters of the Brididine Order is a Catholic Order of spiritual women who have devoted their lives to Brighid. Students will research this Order paying close attention to how they embrace the Goddess aspect of Brighid with the Catholic tradition then write an essay to summarize their findings.
· LHC – On pages 232-233 Liam, Emily’s dad explains the science behind the Large Hadron Collider or LHC. Students will research the development of this invention and the breakthrough and benefits that scientists have discovered using it, then write a paragraph to summarize what they found out.
· Black Hole – In the novel, Dughall uses the LHC to enter a portal to the Netherworld and in the process he opens up a Black Hole. Also in the novel, an engineer at CERN, Ted Schaeffer, offers the theory of “antimatter” in a Penning trap as a way for Emily to stop the Black Hole. Students will research Black Holes, the concept of antimatter, and Penning traps and report their findings in a PowerPoint presentation.
· Time - The concept of time the Netherworld is both eternal and immediate. Using the clues from the novel, calculate how long Emily spent in the Netherworld and how long Jake and Fanny spent away from home.
· Monasterboice - Using a map and the internet students will locate Monasterboice in Ireland and learn about its history, especially in relation to the ancient crosses.
· Visual Art – Students will create a Celtic cross through the mediums of pencil and paper, painting, or collage.
· Sculpture – Using twisted wire students will create their own torc to be worn on their upper arm like Emily. Each end will be capped with a “finial” made from ceramic. Student’s finial can be of a hawk and a woman like Emily’s torc or other figures. Students must explain their choice of finials.
· Computer Design– Using computer technology students will create a “portrait” of Brighid with her morphing faces but consistent long, red flowing hair using computer animation software if available.
WRITING PROMPTS - Emily’s House by Natalie Wright
Poetic Portrait – Students will choose a character from the novel and using poetic devices such as simile, comparisons, and concrete descriptive language, they will create a poetic portrait of the character. Their poems might describe what the character looks like, the character’s strengths and attributes, and the role the character plays in the story.
Composing a Letter – Students will compose two letters from Emily to her mother, Bridget. One letter will be from the Emily at the beginning of the novel and one will be from the Emily at the end of the novel. Each will give insight to Emily’s feelings about her mother’s death and where she is at in processing it based on the knowledge she has at that time.
Newspaper Article – Students will write a newspaper article about the security breach at CERN and the resulting abuse of the LHC and subsequent Black Hole and antimatter solution. In true journalistic form student’s articles will have just the facts, be concise, and answer the questions: who, what, where, when, why and how.