HAL is the nickname given to the alien life force in the book which enters Theresa Sullivan (and previously a Red Fox) when she is only ten-years old. After this, his presence within her gives her the ability to perform many super powers, including strength, accurate shots, and other abilities.
Later in the story, it is the name given to all the aliens similar to the original HAL.
HAL is named after HAL 9000, the semi-sentient computer in Arthur C. Clarke's sci-fi novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, later made famous in Stanley Kubrick's film by the same name.
Why Theresa chooses to name the alien inside her after HAL 9000 is not entirely clear. The alien's connection to a computer is also unclear. Take, for example, this confusing bit of dialogue from the book between Theresa and Jan Struthers:
- "All right."[SIC] She dropped that line immediately! "You rented 2001: A Space Odyssey. What did it show you?"
- "It showed me not to talk to this thing. It's like talking to the devil."
- "Do you have a name for it?"
- "Like the computer. The monolith was the alien, not the computer."
- "The monolith didn't talk."
- "Does HAL talk?"
In a brief exchange, Theresa admits two things: HAL 9000 wasn't an alien, and HAL 9000 talks. Both of these put him at odd with the alien, which is (obviously) an alien, as well as something which doesn't speak. It is also never explained why Theresa believes that she shouldn't talk to the alien since "it's like talking to the devil," given she watched a movie with a villain that was neither an alien nor mute.
Role in the Story Edit
HAL has no real role in the story, other than being a simple plot device. The being can even be seen as a stand-in for the "Holy Spirit" if the authors religious proclivities are taken into consideration. It chooses Theresa before her birth and even preserves her body after death.
Is HAL an alien? Edit
One of the most peculiar debates Norman had with critics on Amazon was over whether or not HAL really was an alien. This stemmed from a larger argument, where Norman was denying that his book wasn't science fiction on account that it had no aliens in it - as expected, HAL was brought up by critics as a contention to that. According to Norman, HAL is not an alien, and for several reasons:
- HAL is not alive, not conscious, not intelligent, has no specific design, has no definite size, is not made of matter or energy, is never destroyed, and did not originate on another world.
Where these standards come from for what constitutes an "alien," Norman never explains - most likely they came from his own mind. For example, that an alien must be "intelligent" is not always the case; Michael Crichton's book The Andromeda Strain, for example, is about a microorganism which comes from outer space. This doesn't even touch on the fact that characters regularly refer to HAL as if he does have some form of intelligence (for example, HAL is said to be "interested" in Theresa even while she was in her mother's womb).
Furthermore, HAL comes from outer space, therefore he must originate from somewhere. The term "extraterrestrial," often used in reference to aliens, comes from a conjugation of words literally translating to "outside of earth," and refers to any form of life outside of the planet earth, regardless of source.
Evidence that HAL is an alien Edit
The following are examples of characters assuming or implying that HAL is an alien.
Chapter 2 Edit
- It could be anything. Jan was reminded of those lines in the movie Contact. A female astronomer is about to go on a trip to meet an alien race. Technicians give her a cyanide pill saying they could think of a thousand things that could go wrong, but what worried them the most was what they couldn’t think of. “It’s the same here. There’s no guessing why HAL is here.”
- Jan told me I must get as broad an education as possible to be ready to deal with any unimaginable challenge HAL gave me. It was possible I would have to be the ambassador between the world and the aliens. The odds were they’d be benevolent, but if not, I had to be prepared to deal with great difficulties. What these might be was completely unpredictable. I had to be ready for anything. Other people thought about their home, their neighborhood, their town. I had to think globally.
- “Nothing might happen for forty years. Don’t worry about it now.” “If I have that much time I’ll major in alien relations.”
- He meant the effect I had on people who were aware that I [Theresa] was the world’s telephone connection to the aliens.
Chapter 5 Edit
- “Fifteen years ago an alien entity [HAL] entered Earth. It disappeared and could not be found for seven years. Eight years ago it associated itself with an American named Theresa Sullivan.
- “We observed her [Theresa]. The alien [HAL] interacted with her influencing her physical activity. She could not or would not explain what the alien was. We were patient, but this situation could not be tolerated indefinitely. We could not wait while this alien was as likely to be involved in hostile activities as friendly. It made no announcement to us in fifteen years which we considered an unfriendly relationship. Therefore, we destroyed it [HAL] with an atomic bomb.
- “Sadly, this young woman [Theresa] had to be sacrificed. The alien [HAL] remained with her at all times. We could not destroy the alien without destroying her too. We put her on a plane with the bomb.
- “She claimed the alien [HAL] jumped out at her from a fox. We still don’t know if this was true or a little girl’s imagination. We do know something remarkable happened to her.”
- He said the Defense Intelligence Agency had briefed him about the alien and Theresa Hartley four months ago.
- Steve’s testimony had been anxiously awaited. Who better to tell the world what I had been doing with the alien than my husband?
- “Now then, sir [Steve]. Can you tell us what your wife [Theresa] said about the alien?”
- Other girls worried about diets and hairstyles. She [Theresa] worried about being the mediator between the alien [HAL] and the world. That’s what her major and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE file were about.
- “Everybody will tell you she [Theresa] was a good girl, a brilliant girl, the pride and joy of her family. If this alien’s [HAL] arrival was an inevitable event of the natural world, God saw to it that it associated itself with an exceptional girl.”
- It was important for Theresa to get a truly worldly educational experience. She might have had some role in dealing with the alien [HAL] in the name of humanity.
Chapter 6 Edit
- “Good evening, Mrs. Hartley. You asked to be told everything related to HAL. What I have to present involves his activity. I’ll be complete. “When I heard you were dead the tears leaked from my eyes. So much hope crushed. As a staff member said, ‘It was a heroic effort, Prime
Minister. Her family will be grateful.’ I said, ‘Thank you. We are all lost, ladies and gentlemen.’ Without you there was no possibility of communicating with the alien.
- One said, “How does the Prime Minister know Mrs. Hartley is the right person to restore the wind? Does she have communication with the alien?
- Yeah, well, poor me [Theresa]! I had to deal with a real alien who was destroying the world. And everybody expected me to save them.
Chapter 7 Edit
- I said, “We came into this meeting hoping to get an alien to give us a break. It’s in human hands. That sounds a lot better to me. After what happened to me two weeks ago most people would give up. I’m still here.”
Chapter 8 Edit
- “Your mother is having a rough time. First you were dead. Then you were invaded by an alien. Then they said you fell out of the plane. Then they said you were screaming in the water, then they found you in the water and declared you dead again. Then you came back to life. Now it’s your job to save the world. That’s a lot for a mother to take.”
Evidence that HAL is not an alien Edit
The following are examples were HAL is explained as coming from space, but not being an alien.
Chapter 6 Edit
- “HAL has nothing to do with any alien civilization. He has no more brains than a jellyfish. He’s a natural thing left over from the Big Bang. There must be trillions of HALs all over the universe. After spending time on one planet they reproduce somehow and travel to other stars.
Chapter 7 Edit
- People didn’t understand because they didn’t get what they wanted, an intelligent alien that could communicate and negotiate with them.
Chapter 8 Edit
- “I thought he [HAL] was an alien for a long time. It’s males who go out seeking adventure. I don’t know why. It’s like the guys who climb Mount Everest. A quarter of them are killed or permanently injured. A surgeon lost the use of his hands from frostbite. What’s the point?”
Chapter 9 Edit
- “We’re all trying to understand what’s going on. This is new territory. We’re not being invaded by an alien race or attacked by an unexplained force. HAL is neither an alien nor a force. From now on whatever happens will be one hundred percent Theresa’s responsibility. This is a story like none we’ve ever heard. An eighteen-year-old girl is singlehandedly driving world events. Heaven help us all!”
- ↑ pg. 15
- ↑ http://www.amazon.com/review/R1U460R88DR2E2/ref=cm_cr_rev_detmd_pl?ie=UTF8&asin=B00MJPIX26&cdForum=Fx32NQR1MUHPCVO&cdMsgID=Mx2RU3IZ4MJ039U&cdMsgNo=980&cdPage=98&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=TxQA03WM82RZXF&store=digital-text#Mx2RU3IZ4MJ039U
- ↑ http://www.amazon.com/review/R1U460R88DR2E2/ref=cm_cr_rev_detmd_pl?ie=UTF8&asin=B00MJPIX26&cdForum=Fx32NQR1MUHPCVO&cdMsgID=MxQ7MOMR2UTI9S&cdMsgNo=986&cdPage=99&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=TxQA03WM82RZXF&store=digital-text#MxQ7MOMR2UTI9S
- ↑ pg. 107