UFO Book Reviews

An Independent Summary of the UFO Literature

by Mac Tonnies

UFOs have interested me ever since I realized that such things apparently existed. Here are a few representative books on the subject, all of which are worth reading for one reason or another. I make no effort to "endorse" any of the theories espoused by the individual authors other than the commentary in my reviews.

I think a true understanding of the UFO issue can only come about by wading into it. The following titles reflect the UFO "scene" pretty accurately when taken as a whole: abductions, UFO crashes, time travel, alien colonization of Earth, crop circles, etc. Whether any of these phenomena are "real" or related to one another is immaterial from the standpoint of a reader wishing to get a grasp of the subject in general.

(For more recommended "weird" titles, see the Cydonian Imperative book review page. For additional relevant books, please take a look at my reading lists.)


ALIEN DAWN Colin Wilson

"Alien Dawn" is a compulsively readable and literate book. It's also one of the most powerful testaments to the multiplex reality of the UFO phenomenon since Jacques Vallee's Alien Contact trilogy ("Dimensions," "Confrontations" and "Revelations"). Wilson is eminently comfortable dealing with UFO-related activity in a postmodern sense that embraces the phenomenon's seeming contradictions and absurdities. Rather than chasing nuts-and-bolts craft, Wilson explains why he favors the more esoteric interpretations advanced by the likes of John Keel and Carl Jung. Ultimately, he provides a genuinely stirring hypothesis that unites quantum physics, parapsychology and ufology in a holographic model that places humans front-row to an unfolding evolutionary drama with roots in prehistory.

Wilson is an exciting thinker, skillfully synthesizing a mass of disparate weirdness. The result is a heart-felt intellectual odyssey that will change the way you interpret our role in the Cosmos.

PROJECT BETA Greg Bishop

Providing a candid glimpse behind the curtain of one of the most sensational myths of our time, "Excluded Middle" editor Greg Bishop's "Project Beta" ranks as a ufological first: a skeptical field study that tracks the hyperparanoid UFO subculture and its effects on participants who find themselves perilously close to inconvenient truths.

"Project Beta" is billed as a study of what has come to be known as the "Bennewitz affair" -- a government-sponsored disinformation campaign designed to silence an unwitting engineer who had come to believe that innocuous signals emanating from Kirtland Air Force Base contained dire messages from malign extraterrestrials. While packed with colorful anecdotes and some stinging meditations on the military-industrial complex, "Project Beta's" central failure is its scattered approach. Ostensibly Bennewitz's story, "Beta" is easily side-tracked, with chapters that distance the reader from the all-too-human players at the story's heart.

Fortunately, Bishop's subject matter is all-but-irresistable -- especially to readers whose exposure to the Bennewitz mythos has been limited to relatively superficial treatments (such as that contained in Howard Blum's "Out There.") There's a treasure-house of insight in "Project Beta"; Bishop's first book-length expose promises -- and delivers -- rare rewards.

ALIENS FROM SPACE Donald Keyhoe

"Aliens from Space" is a provoking, articulate book that, like Good's "Above Top Secret" or Blum's "Out There," explores the government's confusing treatment of this most unusual of subjects. Keyhoe presents a compelling batch of case files and nitty-gritty behind-the-scenes dealing between NICAP and the ill-fated Condon Commission. But while Keyhoe is a competent investigator, the portions of "Alien from Space" he devotes to understanding the aliens' physiology and psyche are, at best, endearingly naive. It's also interesting to note that certain abduction cases Keyhoe dismisses as nonsense are now accepted as actual events; as convinced as Keyhoe was that UFOs represented emissaries from another planet, "Aliens from Space" seems reluctant to arrive at the conclusions ufologists now take for granted. Though dated, "Aliens from Space" serves its purpose admirably.

ANATOMY OF A PHENOMENON Jacques Vallee

"Anatomy of a Phenomenon" is one of the best books ever written on the subject of unidentified flying objects. Written in the 60s, Vallee shows that UFOs constitute a genuine scientific enigma of potentially explosive importance. Carl Sagan is said to have recommended this book to one of his colleagues before his abrupt departure from esoteric study. Given Vallee's scientific sensibilities and admirable refusal to jump to conclusions, it's easy to see why. "Anatomy of a Phenomenon" reveals a critical phase in Vallee's investigative career. This erudite title demands a reprint.

CRACKS IN THE GREAT WALL Charles Upton

In "Cracks in the Great Wall: UFOs and Traditional Metaphysics," Charles Upton qustions conventional assumptions about the UFO phenomenon, concluding that apparent "aliens" constitute players in a "postmodern demonology" bent on diverting human consciousness from its rightful spiritual destiny. "Cracks in the Great Wall" is engaging, articulate and well-researched, with chapters that dissect the methodology of the late John Mack, attempt to expose popular UFO films as so much benighted propaganda and examine the role of deception (human and otherwise) that lurks behind ufology's facade.

That said, Upton's treatise is far from the definitive UFO book it purports to be, and readers who don't subscribe to Upton's metaphysical hierarchy aren't likely to sympathize with his malignant interpretation of paranormal visitation. Regardless, Upton raises some thought-provoking (if unproveable) possibilities that frame the UFO enigma in intriguing -- and often distressing -- ways.

"Cracks in the Great Wall" isn't for everyone. But it provides a welcome "alternative" viewpoint that, if nothing else, underscores our basic ignorance of the spiritual aspect of the close encounter experience and emphasizes the need for skepticism and vigilance when confronting the likely presence of nonhuman intelligence in our midst.

EXPERIENCING THE NEXT WORLD NOW Michael Grosso

I found "Experiencing the Next World Now" well-structured, philosophically robust and surprisingly persuasive. Is there such a thing as "life after death"? Can consciousness persist without a body? There's a mass of evidence that suggests there's something to it, and Grosso does an excellent job of presenting nagging, neglected evidence that conflicts with Western materialism: out-of-body experiences, lucid states, encounters with the numinous, and perceived alien visitation.

A rich, entertaining read, Grosso's book courageously articulates speculations most of us have probably experienced but refrained from uttering. Grosso's holographic approach is a welcome addition to the parapsychological literature; "Experiencing the Next World Now" is the thinking person's book on the question of what happens when we die, both inspired and inspiring. A must for esoteric collections.

THE OTHERNESS Tim Watts

Most self-published paranormal narratives are sadly lacking in skill and content. Tim Watts' "The Otherness" is an exception; articulate and sensible, it exerts a gentle pull on the reader with its enticing descriptions of half-seen realities and flirtations with high strangeness. "The Otherness" is valuable because Watts' account is free from the conceptual limits of the ufological conventional wisdom. While I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of Watts' testimony has been confabulated -- particularly the episodic visions recounted toward the end -- there's a sincerity here that's engaging, tantalizing and worth the read.

SAUCERS OF THE ILLUMINATI Jim Keith

Jim Keith's "Saucers of the Illuminati" is a scattered, troubling but irresistable work of "hard" conspiracy theory that revolves loosely around the premise that some apparent UFO encounters are in fact run-ins with world intelligence organizations. Contains some fascinating speculation on Philip K. Dick, Aleister Crowley and government mind control. The real gem here is the final chapter, "UFOs at the Edge of Reality."

ABOVE BLACK Dan Sherman

"Above Black" is a short first-person expose by a former Air Force officer who claims to have worked as an "Intuitive Communicator" for a secret government project devoted to alien contact. The book's tone is hardly sensationalistic; Dan Sherman seems genuinely intrigued and confused by his brief, restricted glimpse into the government/alien cover-up.

For better or worse, I found myself accepting his account as plausible, even if the true nature of "Project Preserve Destiny" is quite different than depicted. Perhaps tellingly, Sherman claims that his extraterrestrial communications were telepathic -- and he never questions the ET nature of his unseen contacts. Assuming Sherman is recounting real events, could his experiences be more likely attributed to a perfectly terrestrial "black ops" experiment?

SIGHT UNSEEN Budd Hopkins and Carol Rainey

Budd Hopkins is a central figure in the surreal landscape of alien abduction research. The title of his book "Missing Time" entered the ufological nomenclature and 1987's "Intruders" -- an unnerving case study of multiple abductions -- was pivotal in placing the phenomenon squarely on the cultural map. "Sight Unseen," co-written with Carol Rainey, is Hopkins' best book yet. Subtitled "Science, UFO Invisibility and Transgenic Beings," Hopkins and Rainey take a close look at abduction reports of high strangeness, daring to ask difficult questions: How can aliens possibly abduct people from public places without being seen? Assuming that aliens are here, are they necessarily extraterrestrial? And is there any scientific credibility to the human-alien "hybridization" program documented by Hopkins and colleague David Jacobs?

Hopkins and Rainey tackle these enigmas with lucidity. Rainey provides a running scientific commentary to Hopkins' case-files, methodically searching for avenues of research that mirror the aliens' alleged abilities. Read as a whole, the effect is that of listening in on an extended dialogue between two well-informed friends. Rainey's insightful chapters on contemporary physics and biotechnology are well-researched and entertaining while Hopkins' selected abduction cases reveal a mind surprisingly open to exotic possibilities; some of the incidents recounted in "Sight Unseen," with undertones of Men in Black and "aliens among us," could have come from a Whitley Strieber book.

Hopkins and Rainey claim that cutting-edge laboratory science supports, rather than denigrates, abductee testimony. Both authors argue persuasively for the reality of ET "hybrids" based on current research in transgenics -- in other words, it is possible for two radically different species to produce viable offspring given suitable technological wizardry; moreover, that apparent "wizardry" may not be as far ahead of terrestrial science as we might think. "Sight Unseen" sheds light on other aspects of the archetypal abduction experience, with meditations on everything from string theory to levitation to gynecology.

The picture that emerges is amazingly rich and pregnant with unsettling implications: Hopkins and Rainey conclude that alien abductions have produced a race of "transgenics" who operate according to an inscrutable alien agenda. This paranoid scenario is not unlike that of David Jacobs' "The Threat," but it's presented much more skillfully and with an appropriate measure of humility; Hopkins and Rainey don't claim to have solved the abduction enigma, but they offer witness testimony that suggests they might not be far off the mark.

HUMAN DEVOLUTION Michael Cremo

Cosmologists such as Frank Tipler argue that human existence is an inexplicable anomaly unless the universe was specifically constructed to enable our presence. Others seek out less religiously fraught explanations, postulating multiple universes and an as-yet undisclosed "Theory of Everything." But while theoretical physicists and astronomers attempt to unravel our origins, disturbing evidence that we might be more than the sum of our physical parts is dismissed, filed away, systematically expunged from mainstream discourse. In "Human Devolution," the sequel to "Forbidden Archaeology" (co-written with Richard L. Thompson) Vedic scholar and archaeologist Michael Cremo takes us on a fascinating tour of neglected knowledge, with topics including mysterious fossils, problems with the prevailing "out of Africa" hypothesis for human origins, telepathy, and UFOs. Exhaustively researched, "Human Devolution" is a daunting but compelling attempt to redefine what it is to be human, frequently as engaging for what it leaves to the reader's mind as it is for unearthing revelatory bits of secret knowledge.

Cremo asserts that Darwinian evolution is flawed insofar as the complexity of living things, particularly humans, suggests an overriding order of awareness and intent not found among the molecules and synapses of materialist science. Drawing from ancient Indian Vedic creation accounts, Cremo argues that matter coincides with a subtle cognitive faculty (mind) and a distinct conscious component (spirit) that transcends the other two. In this sense, humans are "devolved" entities blinkered by our relatively low standing in what Cremo terms a cosmic hierarchy of various beings at differing stages of enlightenment.

If you think all of this smacks of creationism, you're absolutely right. But unlike authors of Fundamentalist "Creation Science" tracts, Cremo is honest in his presentation. To be sure, Cremo takes issue with mainstream evolutionary thought -- but given the archaeological enigmas cited in "Human Devolution's" encyclopedic prequel, who can blame him? Something vital is missing in our understanding of our origins; the thesis of Cremo's book is not so much an explanation as a rallying cry for embracing new ways of perceiving our universe. To that end, Cremo devotes a lengthy chapter to cross-cultural examination of world creation mythology, unveiling tantalizing similarities to his Vedic template.

"Human Devolution" is not without shortcomings. While its constituent chapters are informative when taken individually, Cremo shirks the admittedly daunting task of synthesizing them into a sensible whole. The concluding chapter -- so brief as to be almost flippant -- is essentially regurgitated Vedic creation myth that will leave most readers wanting to sink their intellectual teeth into something more palpable. While aspects of Vedic cosmology indeed echo reports of nonlocal consciousness, "alien" encounters and even Big Bang theory, subscribing to Cremo's metaphysical ontology is a leap of faith. Then again, Cremo tells us as much; it's "Human Devolution's" studied honesty and plainly stated iconoclasm that make this tome a valuable contribution.

Like a handful of other works that attempt to "explain it all" (Michael Talbot's prescient "The Holographic Universe" springs immediately to mind), "Human Devolution" is both an invitation and a riddle. I predict it will achieve a significant measure of underground superstardom among discerning readers of the occult. But the real issue is Cremo's potential impact on the dominant materialist paradigm. Will 21st century science dare to accept "Human Devolution's" call for a new epistemological perspective, or will Cremo's work be forever consigned to the ever-growing canon of "forbidden" texts . . . ?

SOCORRO "SAUCER" IN A PENTAGON PANTRY Ray Stanford

Ray Stanford's 1976 "Socorro 'Saucer' in a Pentagon Pantry" is the definitive account of one of the most fascinating close encounters on record: the 1964 landing of an egg-shaped UFO in Socorro, New Mexico. As one of the case's few on-site researchers, Stanford is uniquely qualified and pursues the truth behind the landing with dogged persistance, interviewing the key players -- foremost among them policeman Lonnie Zamora -- and formulating sensible questions.

"Socorro 'Saucer'" is a superior piece of ufological sleuthing; perhaps its most valuable contribution to the field is Stanford's meticulous, scientifically informed analysis of the landing site. The implications of the Socorro landing are multiplex and Stanford does an admirable job of zeroing in on the salient issues. After reading "Socorro 'Saucer'," there is virtually no doubt in my mind that the Socorro incident was a physically real event involving an apparent craft of extraordinary manufacture. This is a fascinating, grounded volume well worth seeking out.

OPEN SKIES, CLOSED MINDS Nick Pope

Former Ministry of Defense UFO insider Nick Pope's "Open Skies, Closed Minds" is a brief, sensibly written book that retreads a lot of familiar ufological turf. Don't expect mind-blowing revelations or answers to raging conspiracy theories; if the UK government is sitting on smoking gun evidence, Pope honestly doesn't know about it. I enjoyed "Open Skies" for its sane, sometimes witty, perspective. With a refreshing emphasis on UFO activity in Britain, Pope manages to convey the microcosm of UFO research and its effects on contemporary culture, addressing close encounters, military intrigue, contactees and the bizarre spectacle of crop circles while ably interweaving his own experience and opinions into the tapestry of a modern phenomenon.

"Open Skies'" major shortcoming is the author's committment to a "nuts and bolts" explanation for UFO visitation. Pope makes no secret of his extraterrestrial bias -- in fact, he goes so far as to interpret UFO activity as a possible military threat to humankind (one of the final chapters is titled, tellingly, "Earth Versus the Flying Saucers"). While I found some of Pope's conclusions naive and credulous (especially his seeming endorsement of the abduction research of Budd Hopkins), newcomers to the UFO controversy could do worse than follow Pope's journey from open-minded skeptic to impassioned advocate.

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CROP CIRCLES: Signs of Contact Colin Andrews with Stephen J. Spignesi

I approached "Crop Circles: Signs of Contact" as a tourist might approach a country intimately familiar from maps and travelogues but nonetheless foreign enough to entice. Andrews' book -- a crowded, sometimes repititious tome suffused with the author's New Age-y interpretation of the enduring crop circle mystery -- is ultimately less than I expected, but not without its highlights. For example, Andrews gives us a number of tantalizing anecdotes that no one but the most committed debunkers can readily dismiss as collective hysteria.

But Andrews neglects to share the entirety of hard scientific evidence he insists proves that some crop formations are of unknown manufacture. A passing attempt is made to demonstrate how the cells of affected crops have been changed (perhaps by microwave radiation), but Andrews too often spends valuable page-space recounting his ideas about environmental maladies and cosmic consciousness. One gets the uneasy feeling that Andrews' scientific acumen is not up to the enigma he investigates. (In the pages of "Signs of Contact," he makes two particularly absurd statements: that anecdotal testimony constitutes "hard" evidence and that fake crop formations would be impossible without "real" ones from which to copy. This sort of thinking smacks of credulity.)

Structurally, "Signs of Contact" is scattered and underdeveloped. Reading it is like wading through a combination memoir/press release/scrapbook. Most readers looking for an uncluttered, objective overview at the crop circle controversy will be left tantalized yet wanting. But despite his book's narrative failing, Andrews has several things going for him: he's passionate and sincere about his field of study and he writes with a pervading optimism and justifiable sense of wonder. While Andrews definitely "wants to believe" that crop circles represent a nonhuman intelligence of some kind, he's not afraid to address the rampant hoaxing that's plagued British fields; indeed, alongside findings that some "authentic" circles possess anomalous magnetic signatures, his insider's perspective on self-proclaimed crop artists and frauds is arguably "Signs of Contact's'" most insightful quality.

So, is something truly unexplained going on? Probably. Unfortunately, "Signs of Contact," while engaging for newcomers, isn't the definitive reference I expected from a veteran researcher.

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UFOS AND THE NATIONAL SECURITY STATE Richard Dolan

Historian Richard Dolan's "UFOs and the National Security State" is an unsparing chronological narrative that charts the UFO enigma (and its disturbing relationship with the US military-industrial complex) from the beginning of the modern phenomenon to 1973. Dolan's book is as intelligent and sober as it is mind-boggling, written with a welcome sense of irony and rooted in documented fact. Dolan revealingly juxtaposes the UFO phenomenon with its Cold War context, shedding light on the military's early search for answers, NICAP's tireless efforts to bring the UFO issue to Congressional attention, the duplicitous tactics of Project Blue Book and the Condon Report, and much more.

"UFOs and the National Security State" is a unparalleled work by an author not afraid to challenge "official history"--even if it means exposing an enigma that defies conventional explanation. I predict that Dolan's study will become a genuine classic; he's raised the bar for scholars of the UFO coverup, and offers a remarkably solid argument to the intellectually fashionable "debunking" establishment. This book does nothing less than redefine the 20th century landscape.

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TIME STORMS, UFO RETRIEVALS and THE TRUTH BEHIND MEN IN BLACK Jenny Randles

"Time Storms" is a brisk, thought-provoking, and thoroughly arresting re-examination of the UFO enigma. Randles argues that some atmospheric anomalies, thought by many to represent alien visitors, are in truth natural phenomena that displace space and time. Randles rounds out her thesis with chapters on synchronicity, theoretical physics, and abundant casefiles. Randles' book is a model assessment of contemporary Forteana that raises fascinating questions. (I also recommend "Breaking the Time Barrier," Randles' "mainstream" treatment of mankind's attempts to manipulate time.)

In "UFO Retrievals," Randles takes a scholarly perspective on the mythology of "crashed saucers," examining such disparate events as the Tunguska explosion of 1908, the alleged alien encounter in Aurora, Texas and, of course, Roswell. "UFO Retrievals" owes its success to its skeptical approach. Randles' book is as an excellent, even-handed introduction to one of ufology's most burning questions.

When "The Truth Behind Men In Black" was first published to correspond with the comedy film "Men In Black," I assumed it was a hasty rehash of familiar cases and didn't read it. I overlooked a gem; Randles' "The Truth Behind Men In Black" is simply the best book about the bizarre "Men In Black" phenomenon I've read, addressed with skepticism, wit and good journalism. Randles not only cites compelling cases you've likely never heard of, but furnishes a chillingly plausible explanation for who the notorious "Men In Black" really are--but not before exploring exotic possibilities a la John Keel's "The Mothman Prophecies." "The Truth Behind Men In Black" is both a balanced treatment of a myth in the making and a rare look at a hidden, thoroughly disturbing reality. This is a must for readers not afraid to look behind the curtain of mainstream ufology.

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THE SCIENCE OF UFOS William Alschuler

In this sporadically interesting look at exotic physics, astronomer William Alschuler provides a scattered tour of hyperspace, space warps, time travel, and higher-dimensional topology a la Stephen Hawking. Occasionally he'll make a vague reference to UFO sightings or abduction reports (hence the rather misleading title). But not until the final fourth of "The Science of UFOs" does the depth of Alschuler's ignorance of ufology become fully evident. We're treated to the usual "debunking" spiel: temperature inversions neatly explain radar-visual cases (although Alschuler is careful not to cite specific cases); sleep paralysis explains so-called "abductions," etc.

Boasting one of the most poorly researched chapters on the Roswell Incident ever penned (Alschuler matter-of-factly informs us that the Army Air Force concocted the original "flying disk" story as a cover for Project Mogul), the author chooses to appeal to the collective debunking "wisdom" rather than address historic UFO cases with any sort of scientific vigor. Alschuler gleefully dimisses UFOs from the scientific stage with the pseudointellectual hand-waving characteristic of UFO debunking's all-time greats, Donald Menzel and Philip Klass. No doubt the act of single-handedly eradicating troublesome UFOs was something of an ego-trip for the author. But for readers looking for answers, "The Science of UFOs" is more of the same myopic terrestrial chauvinism found in the pages of the "Skeptical Inquirer."

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POLITICS OF THE IMAGINATION and LOOKING FOR ORTHON Colin Bennett

In a world of books about anomalies, very seldom does one come across a title that is, itself, an anomaly in its aptitude and outspokenness. Colin Bennett's "Politics of the Imagination," a heady examination of the life, work, and ideas of paranormal heavyweight Charles Fort, is a rich and singular book in which Bennett's postmodern sensibilities are brought to bear on one of the 20th century's most radical thinkers. Fort, an intellectual outcast who viewed science as so much socio-mythological advertising, has become synonymous with the unexplained. Bennett argues that "Fortean" phenomena such as UFOs, inexplicable artifacts, and falls of live fish reveal cracks in the buttresses of Big Science's illusory (and ever-fashionable) rationalism.

Bennett, like Fort, views reality itself as an anomaly to be held in constant question; "explanations," if available at all, are only a superficial means of understanding. Bennett grabs hold of the enigma that is Fort's iconoclasm and doesn't let go. Summoning a mass of scientific and literary esoterica, he writes with impeccable wit, pursuing his quarry with impressive dexterity. "Politics of the Imagination" is a high-calorie intellectual banquet of a book: challenging, learned, and incredibly fun. As long as Bennett is writing, Western empiricism can run, but it can't hide. With a foreword by John Keel, author of "The Mothman Prophecies."

Bennett's paranormal debut "Looking for Orthon" is one of the most compelling treatments of the UFO phenomenon I've read in years. Superficially, "Looking for Orthon" can be read as a biography of the late flying saucer contactee George Adamski, but it's much more; Bennett probes the 20th century's military-industrial-mythological complex with an intellectual and literary fortitude seldom encountered in popular works on UFOs.

Bennett treats Adamski's bizarre story as the multilayered mythological enigma that it is, recreating the circumstances in which Adamski, good-natured opportunist and hobbyist astronomer, supposedly met a man from Venus. Bennett argues that Adamdki's claimed contact rattled Western society's ontological bedrock, regardless if it actually happened. There aren't very many books that address reality-challenging issues as ably or as wittily as Bennett's. "Looking for Orthon" is a must for anyone seeking the roots of the postmodern condition, and destined to be an underground classic.

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THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES and THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO MYSTERIOUS BEINGS John Keel

Are UFOs necessarily craft from other planets? John Keel's classic case study of the 1966-67 West Virginia UFO flap is a refreshing and unusual book that, like Jacques Vallee's "The Invisible College" or Whitley Strieber's "Communion," challenges the popular ufological wisdom. Spooky and startling, "The Mothman Prophecies" indulges in a stew of paranormal happenings that Keel attributes to "ultraterrestrials": denizens of a "superspectrum" that operates on the bounderies of human awareness. Keel suggests that the phenomena that accompany UFO sightings (such as phantom phone-calls and "Men in Black") represent a nonhuman intelligence that intentionally bewilders and misleads witnesses in order to further its own ends.

"The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings" is a rambling but extremely entertaining guide to extraordinary phenomena and bizarre entities as viewed by one of the most original and controversial researchers in the field. Keel sets out to separate the wheat from the chaff, revealing genuine cryptozoological and paranormal mysteries and relating some great hoaxes along the way. "The Complete Guide" is a formidable stew of weirdness: sea serpents; unidentified hairy bipeds; the "Mothman" made famous in "The Mothman Prophecies"; menacing roadside figures; diminutive flying saucer pilots, and blood-sucking phantoms.

Keel is convinced that UFOs and monster sightings are two sides of the same paranormal token. According to Keel, an other-dimensional intelligence is adeptly manipulating and exploiting human belief systems to unknown (but potentially insidious) ends. The "monster mania" that often accompanies highly publicized sightings of "Bigfoot"-like creatures, posits Keel, might be deliberate attempts to attract attention away from deeper mysteries. Keel scoffs at "mainstream" ufology, with its quaint "nuts and bolts" view of unexplained phenomena; he's convinced we're dealing with something vastly stranger. And whether you agree with his thesis or not, you can't help coming away from "The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings" without viewing "Fortean" anomalies in an unsettling new light.

ALIEN ODYSSEY John Meloney

Meloney's self-published memoir is a succinct look at alleged "chanelled" alien communications as experienced by Meloney and his late wife. Within a field that has been relentlessly marginalized by the mainstream scientific establishment, the implications of "chanelling" have been neatly brushed aside by the ufological majority. Thus commentary on perceived "channeled" communications are generally dismissed more vigorously than the numerous "contactee" tales of the likes of George Adamski and Daniel Fry. Meloney's "Alien Odyssey" offers us a personal glimpse of the phenomenon that, while shedding no real insight on its reality, reveals its human dynamic with evident sincerity. To order a copy, email Meloney at betsyross@fcgnetworks.net.

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WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things" contains only one chapter on "aliens" and UFOs--which is fortunate, as he appears to know next to nothing about the subject. (He states that the "alien autopsy" film is the best evidence offered by proponents of the ET hypothesis and proceeds to dismiss the entire subject in a few pages.) Thankfully, Shermer moves on to areas where he is indeed an expert (i.e., "scientific creationism" and Holocaust denial), resulting in a highly readable volume that asks essential questions about the scientific process and people's ability to suspend common sense. Shermer's trenchant perspective on Ayn Rand's "cult of personality" is especially enjoyable, as are his insights into "witch-crazes" old and new. "Why People Belive Weird Things" is a heartfelt and disturbingly funny book that belongs on the shelf next to Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World" and Alex Heard's "Apocalypse Pretty Soon."

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STRANGE CREATIONS Donna Kossy

"Strange Creations" is one of those rare books on fringe thought that disturbs as well as provokes laughter. Kossy's book is a knowledgeable and passionately researched examination of who we are according to various occultists, racists, Creationists and pseudoscientists. With an especially trenchant chapter on eugenics and "racial hygiene," "Strange Creations" could be Steven Jay Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man" as rewritten by Robert Anton Wilson. A must for any esoteric bookshelf.

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ARCHITECTS OF THE UNDERWORLD Bruce Rux

"Architects of the Underworld" by Bruce Rux is a compulsively readable, intelligently constructed encyclopedia of unexplained alien phenomena. Rux attempts to link UFOs and alien abductions with the Face on Mars, drawing on a variety of esoteric sources. While I disagree with Rux' thesis, "Architects of the Underworld" is worth reading for its panoramic slant on mysteries old and new.

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THE ALLAGASH ABDUCTIONS and THE WATCHERS II Raymond Fowler

Raymond Fowler's "The Allagash Abductions" is an important book devoted to one of the most intriguing close encounters on record. Although "The Allagash Abductions" clings uncritically to the "nuts and bolts" interpretation of alien visitors, Fowler demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that the UFO phenomenon can interact with the consciousness of experiencers. This is an unnerving study that ranks with Budd Hopkins' "Intruders."

Fowler tackles some enormously interesting parapsychological issues in "The Watchers II," in which he demonstrates parallels between near-death experiences and alien abduction. Researcher Kenneth Ring ("The Omega Project") has also made a compelling case for this, as has John Mack. Fowler is a compelling voice in the ufological fugue, and "The Watchers II" finds him at his most abstract and metalogical.

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ALIEN IMPACT Michael Craft

Michael Craft's "Alien Impact" is a sensible and well-researched dive into the UFO phenomenon and associated mysteries, written with the sensibilities of an anthropologist. Like Jacques Vallee and John Keel, Craft takes a holographic approach to the UFO mystery that includes psychic phenomena, the prospect of parallel realities, and the hair-raising subculture of extreme conspiracy theory. Much more than just another "UFO book," "Alien Impact" presents the reader with a fascinating view of our enigmatic and misunderstood world. "Alien Impact" is highly recommended reading for scholars of contact with nonhuman intelligence.

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THE GOD HYPOTHESIS Joe Lewels

"The God Hypothesis" is a scattered but often fascinating attempt to merge quantum theory, religion and alien abductions into a sort of grand unified theory of the divine. Lewels explores the dimensions of the close encounter phenomenon and suggests, like John Mack, that our encounters with "aliens" may be much more than meets the eye. "The God Hypothesis" is a recommended read for anyone steeped in the prevailing materialist explanations of UFOs and alien abduction.

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ABDUCTION IN MY LIFE Bruce Maccabee

Dr. Bruce Maccabee's "Abduction in My Life" is a part-fiction, part-fact overview of the UFO phenomenon written from the perspective of an incredulous science fiction writer. While Maccabee's treatise-written-as-a-novel may fail somewhat as a piece of literature (the characters are basically props on which to erect the author's ufological insights), "Abduction in My Life" succeeds in introducing the reader to the bizarre world of UFO sightings and the implications of contact with nonhuman intelligence.

A crisply written nonfiction book is interwoven in Maccabee's narrative, nicely complimenting the fictional abduction investigated by the protaganist. Maccabee saves the best for the final chapter, in which Maccabee's alter-ego (?) Dr. Mac Sargent frames the UFO/alien problem in its cosmic and social contexts. Do we dare admit the presence of alien craft in our skies? What does the UFO phenomenon tell us about our species' past? Will homo sapiens survive the next millennium? "Abduction in My Life" is a brisk yet erudite introduction to the subject of alien contact.

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VOYAGERS: The Sleeping Abductees Ashayana Deane

Deane's verbose tome on alien contact and esoteric genetics is a predictably New Age effort to explain the universe and human origins in terms of extraterrestrial intervention. Supposedly recording the content of an alien "psychic email" transmission, "Voyagers" is compelling if only for the rich descriptions given to the ETs and their technologies. I don't literally "believe" in Deane's account--but that doesn't mean one can't learn from it.

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THE FIELD GUIDE TO UFOs Dennis Stacy, Patrick Huyghe

"The Field Guide to UFOs" is a knowledgeable overview of some of the best UFO sightings on record, with meticulous illustrations and commentary that put the phenomenon in historical and morphological perspective. The authors take us on a brief but invaluable tour into the heart of the unexplained, leaving us startled, curious--and perhaps watching the skies a bit more carefully. Stacy and Huyghe have produced a sensible and scholarly volume that shouldn't be missed.

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THE FIELD GUIDE TO EXTRATERRESTRIALS Patrick Huyghe

For readers intrigued by alleged UFO occupant encounters and close encounters of the third kind, Patrick Huyghe's "The Field Guide to Extraterrestrials" is a fascinating reference that reflects the same academic sensibility on display in "The Field Guide to UFOs." This book is a holistic (and unnerving) rogues' gallery of ETs, categorized according to characteristics and presented in informed, concise chapters. Harry Trumbore's exacting illustrations help bring Huyghe's text to life. "The Field Guide to Extraterrestrials" is as much fun as UFO books get.

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ALIEN AGENDA Jim Marrs

Jim Marrs' "Alien Agenda" is a compulsive overview of all things ufological: contacts and sightings, crop circles, cattle mutilations, saucer crashes, remote viewing and government coverups. While "Alien Agenda" is an extremely fun literary expedition, most of the stories related by Marrs can be found elsewhere; students of ufology are likely to be disappointed in the scattered nature of the author's original insights. Regardless, Marrs creates a panoramic look at the turn-of-the-millennium UFO scene that entertains and fascinates. For readers unfamiliar with the subject of UFOs, "Alien Agenda" is likely to be an astonishing--if overly credulous--treat.

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ROSWELL: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe Karl Pflock

Pflock's "Roswell" is probably one of the most important contributions to ufology in the last ten years. Pflock's thorough exploration of the events of July, 1947 are revealing, insightful, and--best of all--credible. "Roswell" is healthy skepticism with muscle and intellect, and a positively delicious read for truth-seekers disillusioned by Kal Korff's whiny, unconvincing tome on the subject. Although not quite as exhaustive as advertised, Pflock's work is very likely to remain the definitive resource on the subject.

Note: To appreciate the research and scholarship at the heart of Pflock's "Roswell," it's best to be versed in dissenting opinions. I highly recommend Kevin Randle's fascinating "The Roswell Encyclopedia" and Stanton Friedman's "TOP SECRET/MAJIC" as cogent arguments from the "believers'" perspective.

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THE REAL ROSWELL CRASHED-SAUCER COVERUP Philip Klass

Philip Klass is one of ufology's big names. The field's arch-debunker, Klass' self-stated conviction that all UFO sightings can be explained prosaically never fails to irritate open-minded students of the phenomenon. In "The Real Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup," Klass attempts to demonstrate (surprise!) that there was no UFO crash in 1947 and that a stray Project Mogul balloon accounts for the debris at the heart of the Roswell myth.

While I wasn't impressed with some of the author's reasoning (in the final chaper, Klass essentially pleads for his readers to exercise proper patriotism and forget the notion that the U.S. government would keep a finding like a crashed UFO secret), Klass' book is probably the second-best "anti-Roswell" title (next to Pflock's "Roswell"), with interviews and revealing background material. This isn't a definitive exploration of the events of 1947, but neither is it the condescending drivel expected from ufology's most-despised debunker: all in all, "The Real Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup" is a thought-provoking book for readers on both sides of the fence.

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UFO CRASH AT ROSWELL: The Genesis of a Modern Myth Benson Saler, Charles Ziegler and Charles Moore

In "UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth," cultural anthropologists Benson Saler and Charles Ziegler explore the "Roswell Incident's" social and psychological dimensions. While the authors feign agnosticism, the technical addendum by Prof. Charles Moore (of Project Mogul fame) offers the conventional explanation in tiring and not-quite-convincing detail. This book is valuable for its examination of the Roswell story as a modern myth; regardless of what actually happened, even the most credulous pro-UFO Roswell enthusiasts would be hard-pressed to deny the event's folkloric connotations.

Reading list: Kevin Randle

OPERATION ROSWELL (fiction)

Readers who have pored over the Roswell literature (pro and con) will probably find themselves reading "Operation Roswell," Kevin Randle's fictional recreation of the Roswell UFO crash, out of a nagging sense of duty; the book, ostensibly a military thriller, takes a formulaic tack that plods, and the small cast of paper-thin characters offers little relief. But Randle does enough right that I kept turning the pages. Most notable here is the author's historically driven reconstruction of the events of June and July, 1947. Unfortunately, the incendiary "climax" is an acute disappointment -- but the tense, behind-the-scenes sequences read with a certain harrowing realism that makes up for the sophomoric prose. Although not nearly as good as Whitley Strieber's "Majestic," "Operation Roswell" serves as a useful vehicle for Randle's firsthand research and succeeds as an informed ufological "what if?"

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CASE MJ-12

"Case MJ-12" fills a void in the Roswell/crashed-saucer literature. While most ufologists have concluded that the MJ-12 documents (now numbering in the thousands) are clever forgeries, those convinced that an extraterrestrial craft crashed at Roswell, NW in 1947 concede that something very much like the MJ-12 working group would have been conceived. Randle probes the origin of the post-Roswell oversight committee with a keen sense of perspective, demonstrating anachronisms and errors in the MJ-12 papers. More importantly, he fingers key personnel who would have been likely members of a top-secret team devoted to exploiting the Roswell crash debris and alien bodies.

"Case MJ-12" succinctly frames the modern myth that is MJ-12 in historical context and challenges the UFO research community to dig deeper. This book is Randle's most topical and engagingly opinionated since "The Abduction Enigma," recommended to anyone familiar with the convoluted, emotionally charged landscape of the Roswell case. Great fun when read alongside MJ-12 proponent Stan Friedman's "TOP SECRET/MAJIC."

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THE ROSWELL ENCYCLOPEDIA

Kevin Randle's "Roswell Encyclopedia" is a comprehensive reference devoted entirely to the alleged UFO crash of 1947. Loaded with biographies, historical notes, book reviews and longer chapters that delve into territory familiar to readers of Randle's other books, the "Encyclopedia" is an admittedly biased effort on the part of Randle; the conclusion one tends to reach after plowing through this tome is that something weird indeed happened outside Roswell Army Air Field in the summer of 1947, and that this weirdness is most easily attributed to a spacecraft crash.

The question that naturally arises is whether Randle's bias is grounded in fact or wishful thinking. To Randle's considerable credit, he devotes quite a few pages to Roswell detractors, quoting lengthily from Kent Jeffrey's skeptical "expose" in which he claims to have eliminated the possibility of a UFO crash once and for all. Also available for curious readers are references to most of the competing Roswell literature. All said, this is a practical reference for the curious, while students of the Roswell case are liable to digest it in one or two sittings (I write from experience).

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UFO CRASH AT ROSWELL (with Donald Schmitt)

"UFO Crash at Roswell," co-authored with erstwhile research colleague Donald Schmitt, is one of the most important books concerning the alleged UFO crash at Roswell. Randle and Schmitt charge that the crash was extraterrestrial in nature and cite an exhaustive list of first- and second-hand witnesses to bolster their case. This volume is followed by "The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell," which reiterates earlier claims and introduces new controversies.

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CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE

"Conspiracy of Silence" is a soundly researched history of the modern UFO era--and the U.S. government's fifty-year campaign of lies. Randle skillfully interposes the controversial Roswell case into the context of the Robertson Panel, Project Blue Book, the infamous Condon Committee, and Project Moon Dust. Randle's take on the UFO phenomenon is studious, compelling and disturbing.

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THE RANDLE REPORT

Randle offers a concise look at the UFO field in the 1990s in "The Randle Report." This is a skeptical, no-nonsense effort, and stands as one of the few books around that dares "debunk" much of contemporary ufology while insisting the phenomenon is worthy of scientific pursuit. For initiates, "The Randle Report" is a seasoned introduction to the UFO question; for ufologists, it's a testament of much-needed perspective.

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SCIENTIFIC UFOLOGY

Randle's "Scientific Ufology" is a sober, well-argued volume that challenges widespread dismissal of UFO evidence. By citing well-documented visual sightings, credible photographs, radar traces and physical effects, "Scientific Ufology" effectively proves that UFOs (whatever they are) are quite real and pose a legitimate challenge to science. Randle takes issue with skeptics who attribute witness reports to aberrant psychology, and makes a compelling case for careful, methodical study of the phenomenon.

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INVASION WASHINGTON

"Invasion Washington" is the definitive account of the 1952 Washington radar-visual UFO sightings, in which commercial and military pilots described inexplicable nocturnal lights in the vicinity of the Capitol. As usual, Randle is ufology's Joe Friday; while "Invasion Washington" is often dry, its meticulous presentation frames the 1952 UFO wave politically, sociologically, and scientifically. For armchair ufologists convinced that the "Washington Nationals" constitute one of the defining UFO events of the century, Randle's investigation comes as an unusually nonsensational treat. Straight-forward and capably argued, "Invasion Washington" deserves a large audience.

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THE ABDUCTION ENIGMA (with William Cone and Russ Estes)

"The Abduction Enigma" is a well-argued tome that ably skewers much of what's wrong with the current state of alien abduction research. The authors cast a provocative light on the subculture of self-professed alien abductees and raise important questions about the validity of hypnotic regression. Specifically, "The Abduction Enigma" addresses the role of "leading questions" used in extracting hypnotically derived testimony and the problem of media exposure that serves to muddy the waters between memory and fantasy.

While the issues tackled in "The Abduction Enigma" are not new, Randle, Cone and Estes handle them with rare sensibility. Methodically addressing the researchers and writers who have made "alien abduction" a household term, the authors make a convincing case that the apparent outbreak of close encounters in the 1980s and '90s is the result of an epistemological breakdown between experiencers and "researchers" determined to fulfill their own beliefs. UFO research stands in debt to the authors for providing us with so unflinching a perspective.

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ALIEN IDENTITIES Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson's "Alien Identities" is a unique treatise on the UFO phenomenon that suggests that ancient Indian Vedic texts concerning flying vehicles, usually relegated to imagination, might be based in fact. Thompson's considerable historical knowledge makes "Alien Identities" one of the most original interpretations of the subject since Jacques Vallee's "Passport to Magonia." "Alien Identities" is tremendously engaging and expertly argued; like the work of Jacques Vallee or John Mack, its implications have the potential to transform our understanding of who and what we are.

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THE TWELFTH PLANET Zechariah Sitchin

Zechariah Sitchin's cult classic "The Twelfth Planet" (and the rest of his exhaustively argued "Earth Chronicles") insists that humankind is the result of long-ago genetic engineering by entities from another planet. Crafted and (sometimes liberally) "reconstructed" from Sumerian and biblical texts, Sitchin's scientific naivete is overshadowed by some very real historical anomalies, suggesting that his sweeping "ancient astronaut" saga just might be close to the truth. Whatever your interpretation of Sitchin's elaborate hypothesis, "The Twelfth Planet" is an unusual and important book that casts the social and genetic legacy of homo sapiens in a stirring, eerily plausible light.

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ELECTRIC UFOs: FIREBALLS, ELECTROMAGNETICS AND ABNORMAL STATES and UFOS: PSYCHIC CLOSE ENCOUNTERS Albert Budden

In his follow-up to "UFOs: Psychic Close Encounters," Albert Budden presents extensive evidence that "UFO abductions" are neurological reactions to electromagnetic stresses. Budden presents his case powerfully and without recourse to the usual "debunking" angle. If Budden is correct, then the abduction mystery promises to tell us a great deal about ourselves and what we are doing to our environment. This is an unusually cerebral and eloquently argued text that ufologists of all stripes should read and ponder before hastily attributing abduction reports to extraterrestrial intelligence or delusion. Budden's thesis is plausible, disturbing and endlessly compelling.

In "UFOs: Psychic Close Encounters," Budden expounds on the findings of Laurentian University's Michael Persinger and posits that perceived "alien abductions" and similar events are actually organic brain reactions to artificial and naturally-occuring electromagnetic stresses. He notes that UFO sightings tend to increase in areas plagued by earthquakes, indicating high-energy fields that "abductees" may happen across. Budden also notes the proliferation of modern radio devices that may assist in the phenomenon of "signal-linking," which could, in theory, predispose abduction experiencers to future encounters.

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PASSPORT TO THE COSMOS and ABDUCTION John Mack

John Mack's "Passport to the Cosmos" is one of the most interesting books ever written about the "alien abduction" phenomenon. Not since Whitley Strieber's "Communion" have I read a book that addresses the issue of nonhuman intelligence with such humility and restraint (traits lacking in recent books on the subject, such as David Jacobs' insipidly literal "The Threat"). Mack argues that alien encounters, while subjectively real to experiencers, probably reflect a much more sophisticated model of reality than Western empiricism currently allows. In other words, abduction experiences are likely not "real" in the sense of flesh-and-blood extraterrestrial visitors conducting unsolicited health check-ups (an interpretation exploited by skeptics eager to downplay alleged alien encounters). Mack concludes that we are indeed coming into contact with a largely unrecognized intelligence that appears to antedate spacetime as we know it. "Passport to the Cosmos" is a landmark book in a field with too few reasoned perspectives.

In "Abduction," his controversial first work on "aliens," Mack examines the abduction phenomenon and takes the position that the Western empirical paradigm is woefully insufficient when dealing with "reality transforming" experiences. I rank "Abduction" as a tremendously important book for those wanting a holistic understanding of this enigma.

Reading list: Whitley Strieber

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COMMUNION

"Communion" is a chilling, credible account of author Whitley Strieber's alleged encounters with apparent nonhuman beings: slender, big-eyed "Grays" and squat blue dwarves who appear to operate on the periphery of normal consciousness. Most impressive about Strieber's first nonfiction work is his well-directed introspection; this is a book of questions, not answers. As such, it addresses the "abduction" enigma with a rare cerebral gusto. Read either as an account of the author's real experiences or as an exploration into a particularly harrowing--and possibly unprecedented--mental state, "Communion" is an essential book.

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TRANSFORMATION

In "Transformation," Strieber continues to document his encounters with strange beings and altered states of consciousness. "Transformation" is basically optimistic about the alien presence introduced in "Communion," and while Strieber offers no solid proof to substantiate his claims, he writes with an authentic sense of fascination and astonishment. Strieber's experiences (whatever they represent) warrant careful attention, and "Transformation" addresses the subject with an admirable sense of balance.

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BREAKTHROUGH

Strieber uses "Breakthrough," his third nonfiction book, to dispel personal rumors as well as offer a sober and devastating summary of the UFO counterculture. While I don't know what the reality of Strieber's experience is, "Breakthrough" offers a firm case for its ability to manifest as a physical phenomenon. Gems include "Something Very New," "The Horror Stories," and "Congress Smells a Rat."

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THE SECRET SCHOOL

Strieber's "The Secret School" is thought-provoking, disconcerting and not a little forboding. Strieber writes about alien contact from a profoundly personal perspective and the result warrants close reading. The narrative alternates between first-person reflection and scientific hindsight. Strieber uses this format to shed light on his lifelong involvement with apparent alien visitors. Among the fascinating bits to be found in "The Secret School" are meditations on time travel, virtual reality, quantum physics and the duplicitous politics of future Mars exploration. This is Strieber's weirdest book yet. Is he getting closer to the heart of the close encounter experience or just flipping out?

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CONFIRMATION

"Confirmation" is one of the most significant UFO books in recent years. It's also a fascinating departure for Strieber, whose previous nonfiction deals exclusively with his own apparent alien encounters. In this sensible and well-researched book, Strieber examines physical and photographic evidence that indicates an empirical basis for UFOs and alien abductions, emphasizing bizarre "implants" surgically removed from the bodies of individuals claiming contact. Strieber's spare, inviting prose style is very much in evidence in "Confirmation." And though it may read like a textbook compared to his abduction narrative "Communion," its implications are every bit as reality-bending.

THE COMMUNION LETTERS (with Anne Strieber, ed.)

"The Communion Letters" is a representative sampling of unsolicited correspondence sent to Whitley Strieber after the publication of 1987's controversial "Communion." If the accounts in "The Communion Letters" can be accepted, then the quintessential "alien abduction" portrayed in the media and popularized by writers such as Budd Hopkins ("Missing Time," "Intruders") is merely one facet of a vastly stranger enigma. In "The Communion Letters," Whitley and Anne Strieber have attempted to categorize the encounter experience in all of its kaleidoscopic absurdity. The result is an interesting collection of ancedotes and queries that meld close encounters with out-of-body experiences, apparant encounters with deceased loved ones, and half-remembered voyages to lands unknown.

Inevitably, some of the first-person accounts included in the book read like dispatches from the mentally ill. Still others seem to be describing hypnogogic sleep states and harrowing dreams. But the better accounts cast the notion of nonhuman visitation in a puzzling new light. What is consciousness? Do the "visitors" reported by abductees have some unrecognized relationship to the human psyche? "The Communion Letters" encourages the reader to question the prevailing ufological wisdom, even if it's ultimately bereft of "hard" evidence. (The Striebers accept their correspondents' claims at face value, and contributors are left anonymous.)

"The Communion Letters" is tantalizing and frequently eerie. While it is hardly a milestone in the objective study of close encounter phenomena, the Striebers' "revisionist" perspective on the abduction debate is welcome.

THE GRAYS

Strieber's long-awaited alien novel succeeds, if only barely. Departing from the Roswell mythos so convincingly rendered in "Majestic," "The Grays" introduces us to an extraterrestrial reported to have survived the alleged crash of 1947 -- a plot contrivance that sets the stage for a page-turning yet disappointingly hollow fictional treatment of the abduction theme.

From its opening pages, "The Grays" reads with a predictability at odds with Strieber's knack for suspense writing. The end product is an entertaining thriller that lamentably excludes much of what made "Majestic" so haunting and effective; "The Grays" is largely content to ride the wave spawned by its predecessors. Strieber essentially asks readers to suspend awareness of a decade's exposure to abduction-themed media saturation, challenging a post-"X-Files" readership to find a plot element in his novel that hasn't been incorporated elsewhere.

There are some fine moments here (a bit of genuine eeriness here, an authentically spooky reference there) -- but they run the distinct risk of being too little too late.

Self-published works...

THE KEY

Most of "The Key" is composed of a transcription of a conversation between Strieber and an enigmatic personage Strieber calls "The Master of the Key." The story behind this otherworldy dialogue is absurdly quaint: awakened in the middle of the night in a Canadian hotel room, Strieber allows the strangely all-knowing "Master of the Key" inside. After scrupulously downing a glass of milky fluid (a rite familiar to readers of "Transformation"), Strieber (armed with a notepad) proceeds to ask weighty questions about the unknown. Some of the answers are interesting indeed--but they sound suspiciously like the ideas Strieber himself has been publicly wrestling with since 1987. The Master of the Key offers no real insight, but simply extrapolates on the themes that have dominated Strieber's nonfiction career. (Strieber readily admits that he doesn't know if his thoughts are his own or if they've been subconsciously implanted in his dealings with apparent aliens.) "The Key" boils down to a single tantalizing question: Is Strieber's cosmic Deep Throat a real person (or entity)? The implications of such people in our midst is chilling and inspiring.

THE PATH

On his website, Whitley Strieber bills "The Path" as his "most important book." After the relative disappointment of his previous self-published book, "The Key," I wasn't expecting anything overwhelming or revolutionary. And while "The Path" is neither of these things, it's a helpful volume in understanding the role of esoteric knowledge in Strieber's continuing interaction with the "visitors." For readers intrigued by the exploits related in "Communion," "Transformation," "Breakthrough," and "The Secret School," "The Path" offers a glimpse into the subtle mechanics of the contact experience. Recommended for Strieber completists.

Reading list: Timothy Good

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UNEARTHLY DISCLOSURE

As in his previous "Alien Base," researcher and world-traveler Timothy Good takes us on a thoroughly entertaining trip to the core of the UFO phenomenon, addressing rarely discussed UFO sightings and incidents with admirable candor. Good makes no secret of his earth-shattering thesis: he's convinced that various alien species are here on Earth and operating (if only peripherally) with our governments. The controversial Roswell Incident is positively tame compared to some of the conspiracy theories chronicled here: massive alien bases deep below the Pacific, extraterrestrial cattle mutilations not-so-discretely monitored by counterintelligence goons in proverbial "unmarked helicopters," and alleged genetic experiments gone awry in the Puerto Rican rain forest.

Good pursues his subject with passion, dry wit, and not a little incredulity, relating the claims of various latter-day "contactees" with caution. "Unearthly Disclosure" is one of the most compulsively readable UFO books in recent years, packed with enough high strangeness to fuel a dozen UFO conferences. It will set your imagination reeling.

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ALIEN BASE

In "Alien Base," researcher Timothy Good indulges in a controversial synthesis of UFO and occupant encounters, coming to the conclusion that Earth is the base of operations for several extraterrestrial species. While I find many of the author's conclusions engagingly naive, I was very impressed with his rare treatment of the "contactee" cases of the 50s, which modern ufology has declared off-limits.

For example, Good comes to the defense of the late George Adamski, whose seemingly ludicrous claims regrading contact with Venusian "scoutships" won him both a loyal cult following and a host of detractors. Good asks us to reconsider Adamski's case, and others like it, alongside a other little-known UFO cases that trod perilously close to science-fiction. Ironically, I appreciated this approach very much. After all, if the UFO phenomenon represents some form of alien intelligence, do we dare condemn it to what we think alien contact should be like? Good's book should be read with considerable skepticism, but I applaud his willingness to take a close look.

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ABOVE TOP SECRET

Good's "Above Top Secret" is one of the best books about UFOs ever penned. Its coherent and carefully researched chapters prove that the UFO inquiry is taken seriously by high levels of government around the world. Good is convincing and informative. Don't bother discussing the pros and cons of the "UFO coverup" with anyone unless they've read this.

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ALIEN CONTACT

"Alien Contact" is a revealing sequel to the acclaimed "Above Top Secret," bound to excite even more controversy. The claims made in "Alien Contact" are much more difficult to verify, coming from a motley crew of intelligence "insiders" and fringe personalities rather than from Freedom of Information Act documents. Highlighting "Contact" are chapters on Robert Lazar, the physicist who claims to have helped reverse-engineer an antimatter-powered extraterrestrial vehicle in Nevada. Also includes information on cattle mutilations, alleged anti-gravity research, and military involvement. While this slew of conspiracy lore has become a cliche in the UFO literature, Good handles it better than most.

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CRASH AT CORONA and TOP SECRET/MAJIC Stanton Friedman

"Crash at Corona" (co-authored with aviation writer Don Berliner) is a well-researched account of the U.S. government's decades-long coverup of crashed alien vehicles. The authors investigate reports of a second New Mexico crash site and delve into the enigmatic "MJ-12" documents. "Crash at Corona" bills itself as "The Definitive Study of the Roswell Incident."

In "TOP SECRET/MAJIC," Friedman provides a detailed examination of the Roswell UFO crash and subsequent cover-up, challenging the reader with an exhaustive analysis of the "MJ-12" documents: apparent TOP SECRET documents detailing security procedures in the wake of the Roswell Incident. Friedman also tears into the criticisms of arch-debunkers Philip Klass and Carl Sagan. "TOP SECRET/MAJIC" includes the never-before-published "SOM1-01" MJ-12 manual, an apparent "field guide" to extraterrestrial crash recovery leaked to writer Don Berliner ("Crash at Corona"). Friedman remains a voice worth hearing. With an introduction by Whitley Strieber.

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SECRET LIFE and THE THREAT David Jacobs

David Jacobs' "Secret Life" is the quintessential book on alien abduction. Jacobs is convinced that aliens are physically real and here on Earth to help perpetuate their species through genetic crossbreeding with human beings. "Secret Life" is a seemingly objective analysis of the raw abduction experience, which the author breaks down into several distinct phases. Unfortunately, Jacobs' attempt to make the abduction phenomenon understandable is flawed by his certainty in the infallibility of hypnotic regression and his desire to catalogue the experience as an entomologist might prepare a display of butterflies. Jacobs simplifies the experience and in doing so bypasses some of the more esoteric insights offered us by this elusive and misunderstood phenomenon.

In "The Threat," Jacobs presents a distinctly paranoid and malevolent interpretation of the UFO abduction experience. According to the author, a massive alien task force is here to wrest control of our biology and society, with humans ultimately becoming subservient to nasty "hybrids" and Gray overlords. The vast bulk of "evidence" for this chilling thesis consists of Jacobs' hypnotic investigations into accounts of selected "abductees." Reading this text, I couldn't help suspect that Jacobs' "threat" is largely a subjective impression, and not an external reality. By scavenging through vague reports (from witnesses already versed in Jacob's particular theoretical biases), Jacobs is able to slap together an ominous-enough hypothesis to explain the raison d'etre of the mass UFO sightings of the last fifty years. I suspect the validity of Jacobs' doomsday treatise rests in the hands of more capable researchers.

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SPACESHIPS OF THE PLEIADES and THE ROSWELL UFO CRASH Kal Korff

Korff's "Spaceships of the Pleiades" is a decisive piece of research that demolishes the claims of Swiss farmer/cult guru Eduard "Billy" Meier, who insists he has been in contact with human-like extraterrestrials since 1975. A book such as this can only be embraced by ufology; it effectively deflates one of the looming distractions to serious UFO research, and does so with systematic rigor.

However, while I very much liked the information in Korff's tome, I didn't like this book's mercilessly condescending tone and pitiful style. While Korff is obviously a competent investigator, he is perhaps the poorest writer I've encountered in the UFO field. I read "Spaceships" to get the full story on the Meier controversy; instead, Korff delivers a 400 page patronizing spiel that's amusing at its best (witness the macho bluster of the author's "undercover mission" into the Meier camp) and annoying at its worst. Korff apparently assumes his readers are all morons whose capacity for critical thought has been numbed by an omnipresent media, and this comes across loud and clear in his boorish prose. The Meier case is rightfully considered nonsense by the UFO community. For Korff, the case serves as a straw man and not much else that this reviewer could detect.

In "The Roswell UFO Crash," Korff once again flexes his skeptical muscle. Again we're confronted with Korff's painfully amateurish prose and self-congratulatory hype. "The Roswell UFO Crash" sets out to demolish claims that a craft of unknown origin crashed in the New Mexico desert in 1947. Korff does this by throwing away witness testimony (some justifiably, some not), clinging to the Air Force's flimsy "Project Mogul" balloon explanation, and basically nit-picking. After systematically disposing of all relevant witnesses by insisting they've "changed their stories" when in fact all they are doing is recounting fifty-year-old events, Korff is able to "mop up" the Roswell case with a bunch of uninspired posturing and the same plea for critical thought published in "Spaceships of the Pleiades." This is the worst skeptical examination of the Roswell case I've read; I refer the reader to Karl Pflock's excellent "Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe" (reviewed above).

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VISITORS FROM TIME Marc Davenport

One of the most striking and controversial UFO books since Jacques Vallee's "Passport to Magonia," "Visitors from Time" suggests (quite convincingly) that most, if not all, "real" UFOs are time machines from our own future. I cannot do justice to Davenport's thesis in a review. But the oddities and case histories cited by Davenport suggest that he may be onto something. "Visitors from Time" is an invigorating reading experience that reopens and reframes the UFO question in unexpected ways.

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FORBIDDEN SCIENCE and PASSPORT TO MAGONIA Jacques Vallee

"Forbidden Science" is a poignant, behind-the-scenes document of UFO study by the field's most provocative researcher. Vallee's prose makes for a memoir as readable as a novel, with all of the lucid insights of a first-rate field study. Highly recommended.

Jacques Vallee's "Passport to Magonia" is a landmark study of the close encounter experience by one of the most astute thinkers in the field. Vallee compares modern UFO sightings to their mythological counterparts, raising profound questions about the nature of our apparent "visitors" and their role in our psychosocial evolution. Like Jung, Vallee assesses the psychical and psychological impacts of the UFO experience. For more rare insight from Vallee, read "Dimensions," Confrontations" and "Revelations."

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COSMIC TRIGGER (Vol. 1) Robert Anton Wilson

R.A. Wilson's mind-bending romp through alien contact and conspiracy theory is one of the most erudite and well-reasoned books on the paranormal I have ever read, and I've read many. Wilson's book is a fasinating hybrid autobiography/encyclopedia of the strange, emphasizing the author's own inexplicable experiences with synchronicity, ritual magic, psychedelic drugs and literary pursuits.

The most refreshing aspect of this book is Wilson's practiced skepticism; he maintains (correctly, in my opinion) that once a person "believes" in this or that, the part of his/her brain that governs rational thought concering the given subject effectively shuts down. So rather than subscribe to any one interpretation of his experiences--as tempting as it might be--Wilson comes away with an enhanced appreciation for the intricacies of human thought, and the intellectual fortitude to see them to their extremes. "Cosmic Trigger" is a powerful (and powerfully funny) dive into subject matter denied by establishment science and has the potential to redefine your relationship with reality. Wilson's book is an unequaled must-read for any quantum-era intellectual.

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THE MONKEY AND THE TETRAHEDRON David Jinks

In "The Monkey and the Tetrahedron" Jinks accomplishes an articulate and intellectually satisfying synthesis of "paranormal" matters, skillfully addressing apparent artificial structures on the Moon and Mars, breaking developments in "cold fusion" research, and the UFO phenomenon. Ambitious and well-wrought, "The Monkey and the Tetrahedron" bristles with new ideas we'll have to wrestle with in one way or another as we step forward into the 21st century.

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AT THE THRESHOLD Charles Emmons

"At the Threshold" asks a question of consuming importance: Why is the UFO field treated with contempt by mainstream academe and science? Emmons, a sociologist, explores the history of the UFO inquiry, revealing the double-standard endorsed by many so-called "skeptics," the anatomy of the UFO problem, and recent theoretical breakthroughs that may lead to a heightened understanding of our place in the cosmos. Emmons' investigation is sane and refreshing.

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NIGHT SIEGE (J. Allen Hynek, Philip Imbrogno, Bob Pratt) and CONTACT OF THE FIFTH KIND (Imbrogno, Marianne Horrigan)

"Night Siege" is an excellent, straight-forward account of the Hudson Valley UFO sightings of the mid-80s. The reports chronicled in "Night Siege" constitute some of the most tantalizing close encounters in modern history, and the authors do an admirable job of depicting the mystery without recourse to sensationalism.

"Contact of the Fifth Kind," following on the heels of the tantalizing "Night Siege," is a disappointment. Imbrogno and Horrigan relate some potentially interesting phenomena but lose themselves in a disjointed and underdeveloped exploration of interdimensional travel, a particularly credulous recounting of the alleged "Philadelphia Experiment," encounters with channeled alien beings, and a pointless chapter detailing a possible underground UFO base. "Contact of the Fifth Kind" is mercifully skimpy, and students of the "flying triangle" phenomenon will likely find a few compelling details lurking throughout the text. But Imbrogno and Horrigan's effort is weak on evidence and narrative energy. For dedicated ufophiles only. See also: "Silent Invasion" by Ellen Crystall.

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FROM ELSEWHERE Scott Mandelker

Do you feel "different"? Like you don't belong? Have you always been an outsider or a loner? Do you daydream about places you've never been or experience a heightened sensitivity to environmental issues? If so, then you may be..."From Elsewhere," according to author Scott Mandelker, who alleges that not all aliens are of the short, big-headed variety. Some of them look just like regular folks. And the clincher is that you might be one of them and not even know it. No, this isn't the plot of a Philip K. Dick novel. Mandelker is perfectly serious about his subject matter, and writes about those who think they are extraterrestrial "walk-ins" and "wanderers" with candor, defining a loose-knit counterculture of humans convinced of their extraterrestrial origin.

"From Elsewhere" is not a scientific book in any recognized sense, so don't expect proof that aliens are among us. Mandelker's perspective is similar to the intuitive New Age epistemology embraced by John Mack in "Abduction" and "Passport to the Cosmos." Proving one's ET ancestry is not only deemed impossible but considered essentially pointless. Mandelker (who comes out of the cosmic closet as a human-incarnated ET in the book's concluding pages), emphasizes the role of "subjective knowing"--an alienating concept, to be sure, but one that supposed walk-ins and wanderers must deal with before tuning into their authentic selves. "From Elsewhere" is an unconvincing, if intriguing, cultural document that adds a new dynamic to the controversial evidence of alien visitation.

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REACHING FOR REALITY Constance Clear

Therapist Constance Clear's book is a compilation of first-person narratives given by self-proclaimed alien abductees. Clear's book is a welcome addition to the abduction literature, recommended to anyone who's interested in hearing what "abductees" have to say in their own words. "Reaching for Reality" is compelling reading for skeptics of all persuasions.

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BEYOND ROSWELL Philip Mantle, Michael Hesemann

Despite its many shortcomings, I found "Beyond Roswell" intriguing; it takes the unique position that the "alien autopsy" footage released by film producer Ray Santilli is genuine, but not affiliated with the Roswell event. Instead, the authors argue that yet another flying saucer impacted near Socorro, NM, and that the autopsy footage is one of at least two filmed dissections of similar entities. I personally confess to a lingering interest in the Santilli footage, which most of the UFO world has relegated to sensationalism and disinformation. (Other new books on Roswell refer to the autopsy footage as an "obvious hoax." It may very well be a hoax but is by no means an obvious one.)

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WITHOUT CONSENT Carl Nagaitis and Philip Mantle

"Without Consent," newly reissued by Beyond Publications, is a laudable study for readers wishing to understand the alien abduction phenomenon. Plainly presented, "Without Consent" neither indulges in unfettered speculation nor subjective interpretation; the cases it presents stand as representative enigmas from the annals of British ufology. The authors approach the abduction enigma as a challenge to conventional thought, leaving the verdict to the reader. "Without Consent" is a short, sensible primer that shines a much-needed light on the state of UFO research in the UK.

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AREA 51: THE DREAMLAND CHRONICLES David Darlington

David Darlington's meticulously researched and knowing look at the UFO culture at the end of the millennium is a classic, at once thought-provoking and funny. Darlington chronicles the goings-on in Rachel, Nevada, hot-spot for conspiracy-seekers and Black Budget aircraft enthusiasts who camp out in the nearby mountains to catch glimpses of everything from "Deep Black" stealth fighters to back-engineered flying saucers. Darlington reports UFO claims alongside chapters devoted to such topics such as the secret base's history and the quasi-legal Congressional "blank check" that funds the nation's most important defence projects. "Area 51" casts a unique light on where democracy stands at the turn of the century and offers us a cast of endearing real-life characters. Neither sensational nor condescending, Darlington provides us with an uncensored look at the Black Budget underworld and the hidden workings of contemporary society.

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UFO HEADQUARTERS Susan Wright

In "UFO Headquarters," Susan Wright sets off to present a gritty hands-on investigation into the contemporary enigma that is Area 51. The problem with her approach is that journalist David Darlington has beaten her to many of her observations (in "Area 51: The Dreamland Chronicles"). So instead of focusing on Area 51 and its associated personalities and mysteries, Wright veers into territory likely to be more familiar to readers of UFO literature: the Kenneth Arnold sighting, World War II's "foo fighters," the possibility of extraterrestrial visitation in antiquity, joint alien/government abductions, etc. As such, "UFO Headquarters" is a capable introduction to the perplexing world of alien visitation and government duplicity, of which Area 51 is but part of a more elaborate and puzzling riddle. "UFO Headquarters" is a sensible primer for the "X-Files" generation, liable to leave novices searching the shelves for more holistic studies.

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NOTHING IN THIS BOOK IS TRUE, BUT IT'S EXACTLY HOW THINGS ARE Bob Frissell

Bob Frissell's "Nothing in This Book Is True, But It's Exactly How Things Are" (now in its third, expanded edition) is one man's attempt to reconcile subjective truths with a bewildering postmodern universe consisting of alien Grays, monumental architecture on Mars, secret government conspiracies, and sacred geometry. Copiously illustrated and written with surprising lucidity, Frissell's manifesto is an illuminating crack in the wall of orthodox thought. "Nothing..." is an intriguing compliment to other works that attempt to "explain it all," such as David Jinks' excellent "The Monkey and the Tetrahedron" and Bruce Rux' wildy credulous "Architects of the Underworld." Take the plunge!

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REMOTE VIEWING SECRETS Joe McMoneagle

So you want to be a "remote viewer"? McMoneagle's sober, somewhat ponderous tome on the subleties of psychic observation makes for a compelling read that will have you questioning the nature of time and consciousness. "Remote Viewing Secrets" is a coherent primer to a potentially explosive field of study.

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COSMIC VOYAGE and COSMIC EXPLORERS Courtney Brown

Courtney Brown's controversial expose on his own alleged remote viewing sessions is about as outrageously sensational as UFO books get. Basically, "Cosmic Voyage" is a stew of vignettes dealing with alien "Greys" and--more interestingly--a race of human-like Martians who Brown says have already set up a base on Earth. Brown insists that his findings are scientific and repeatable by unbiased remote viewers. And while many remote viewers have indeed had interesting things to say about "targets" on Mars and UFOs, Brown's free-wheeling approach remains largely shunned by the "experts," despite initial encouraging blurbs from Whitley Strieber and John Mack. "Cosmic Voyage" is worth reading for its thorough slant on extraterrestrial activity (in one chapter, Brown views the Roswell crash from the perspective of the hapless aliens). How much of Brown's "Cosmic Voyage" is mere imaginitive stream-of-consciousness is, of course, the question any properly skeptical reader will be left asking in the end.

In "Cosmic Explorers," Dr. Courtney Brown returns with what is essentially a take-my-word-for-it retelling of the interstellar soap-opera depicted in "Cosmic Voyage," with one real exception: a race of malign Reptilians has entered the scene, crowding the Martians and Greys for page-space. Brown's work with "Scientific Remote Viewing," or "SRV," has been justly criticized by members of the paranormal community: he offers no corraborating evidence to bolster his claim that his SRV sessions are conducted to scientific standards.

Oddly, for a scholar of Brown's intelligence (I personally have no trouble accepting that Brown more or less believes the scenario developed in his two books), the goings-on in "Cosmic Explorers" smack of a particularly lukewarm episode of "Star Trek": the Greys are perceived as saintly entities ushering in evolutionary enlightenment (at least for those of us who make it past the unsolicited rectal exams); the Martians are portrayed as celestial foundlings of remarkably little interest--especially for a civilization supposedly living among us; the Reptilians are a particularly nasty species bent on--what else?--genetic enslavement of the human race. That said, "Cosmic Explorers" is an inexplicably fun book to read. If and when the author decides to explain what's scientific about "Scientific Remote Viewing," I'll return to Dr. Brown's cosmic milieu with interest.

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FIRE IN THE SKY Travis Walton

Travis Walton's follow-up to his classic "The Walton Experience" is a meticulous re-examination of his alleged 1975 UFO abduction. Walton's prose is often ploddingly precise. But the points and counterpoints he raises demand attention; it's ultimately worth wading through Walton's maddeningly descriptive recreations. "Fire in the Sky" concludes with an appendix exposing the misinformation tactics of CSICOP guru Philip Klass.

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FLYING SAUCERS: A MODERN MYTH OF THINGS SEEN IN THE SKIES Carl Jung

Jung's "Flying Saucers" is an indispensable evaluation of the UFO phenomenon. One doesn't have to subscribe to all things Jungian to find sense in the author's musings. Jung is refreshingly objective, refusing to cling even to his own theories of "collective unconscious." Indeed, he appears genuinely perplexed by the material nature of the Ufos he attempts to render into psychological nomenclature.

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THE ROSWELL INCIDENT Charles Berlitz, William L. Moore

"The Roswell Incident" is a breezy investigative account about claims of a crashed alien spacecraft in New Mexico in 1947. Including original interviews with witnesses, "The Roswell Incident" describes the mysterious wreckage and possible motives for the presumably ongoing security lid. This effort depends heavily on rumors and hearsay, but remains an interesting first look at the phenomenon's most controversial case. This book is also unique in being the only book-length text on the subject written before "Roswell" became a household term.

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CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FOURTH KIND C.D.B. Bryan

Journalist C.D.B. Bryan takes an astute look at the famous M.I.T. conference on alien abductions. This is a truly objective treatment of the subject, with commentary from Harvard's John E. Mack, M.D. (author of "Abduction"), Budd Hopkins ("Intruders," "Missing Time") and Linda Moulton Howe ("An Alien Harvest"), among other luminaries. If you read only one book on alien abductions in your life, this should be it.

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MISSING TIME Budd Hopkins

Abduction researcher Budd Hopkins offers us an amazing portrayal of alleged alien abductions and their human aftermath, with hypnotic regression transcripts that bewilder as well as frighten. Despite your interpretation of the phenomenon, "Missing Time" offers an urgent perspective. This is a seminal and disturbing work.

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UFOs AND THE ALIEN PRESENCE Michael Lindemann, ed.

A mind-expanding discussion of the "alien presence," Michael Lindemann's contribution to the UFO debate includes interviews with physicist and researcher Stanton Friedman, Linda Moulton Howe, Bob Lazar (of Area 51 fame) and Budd Hopkins. A multi-faceted study that confirms the reality of something unknown in our midst. Lindemann poses the ultimate question to the reader: What is actually happening and what are its implications for humanity?

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SILENT INVASION Ellen Crystall

Crystall's book details the flap of UFO sightings following the Hudson Valley sightings (documented in "Night Siege"). Using self-professed psychic abilities, the author delves into an apparent subterranean alien base and the workings of the visitors' huge, triangular craft. "Silent Invasion" left me thirsting for more information. The book's photographic section is vague at best and the subject matter often taxes the reader's patience; Crystall claims, among other things, that her photographs are not visual representations of aliens and their spacecraft, but records of their electromagnetic fields.

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WATCH THE SKIES! Curtis Peebles

"Watch the Skies" is an unconvincingly skeptical account of the UFO phenomenon and its impact on governmental policy and popular culture. Unfortunately for Peebles, virtually any other reputable book on the subject is bound to make his assertions questionable. The only thing Peebles accomplishes in "Watch the Skies" is an interesting insider's view into the personality conflicts that helped shape the phenomenon's "formative" era. I sincerely hope that future skeptical UFO books are better than this one.

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CASEBOOK: ALIEN IMPLANTS Roger Leir

Dr. Roger Leir's study of apparent "implants" harvested from the bodies of supposed "abductees" is a thorn in the side of those convinced all abduction events can be explained prosaically. Leir's prose is tiring at times but worth the read.

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THE DAY AFTER ROSWELL Philip J. Corso with William J. Birnes

"The Day After Roswell" by Philip Corso is either one of the most significant books of the 20th century or a complete waste of time. Corso, a former high-ranking military officer, claims that he spearheaded the government's supersecret effort to analyze the wreckage of an alien spacecraft and apply the extraterrestrial technology to US industry. Among other items, fiber optics and integrated circuit chips are allegedly the fruits of Corso's efforts. Corso's account is meticulous but leaves many questions unanswered. The author verifies the existence of the infamous, oft-doubted MJ-12 working group and offers the possibility that the "aliens" found at Roswell were in fact time travelers from Earth's own future, raising some bizarre questions: if the "aliens" came to 1947 using technology which we in turn injected into contemporary industry, then where--or, more accurately, when--did the technology come from in the first place?

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THE ULTIMATE ALIEN AGENDA Jim Walden

"The Ultimate Alien Agenda" is a model study of how not to conduct a study of perceived alien encounters. Frequently approaching self-parody, Walden begins his chronicle by reporting an atypical "bedroom visitation," followed by an account of his plunge into suicidal despair. The aliens, according to Walden, are "interdimensional" (although Walden chooses not to tell us what this actually means) and fixated on humans' sex-lives for psychic nourishment (again, this isn't explained, but we're assured it has something to do with "vibrations"; it bears noting that Walden's "career" is psychic channeling). Halfway through the book, Walden reveals that he's gay. While this would be irrelevant in virtually any other narrative, readers have to wonder if Walden's obviously conflicted sexuality and account of childhood molestation (recounted in detail) have anything to do with his "memories" of being strapped to a medical examination table and forced to ejaculate.

This book is disturbing in that it reveals a genuinely tormented individual who happily places himself in the hands of a hypnosis-happy "abduction researcher" instead of consulting with a mental health professional. The unfortunate result is an unhelpful brew of New Age rumination: Walden realizes he's a repressed alien-human "hybrid"; Walden channels a dinosaur-like "interdimensional" god who revels in memories of his reign in ancient Egypt; Walden recognizes himself as nothing less than an ambassador for a reptilian species who, for reasons unexplained, is relinquishing control of the Earth to a burgeoning population of amnesiac "hybrids."

Rambling, inarticulate and more than a little messianic, "The Ultimate Alien Agenda" is one of the most credulous, poorly written books in the genre. And that's no easy feat.

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THE GODS OF EDEN William Bramley

"The Gods of Eden," once excavated from its ufological pretensions, is essentially a brief history of the role of secret societies from ancient Sumeria to the present day. As such, it's reasonably informative. But Bramley's thesis--that beings from UFOs are responsible for corrupting human politics in order to keep us occupied with endless Orwellian conflict--is so weak as to be laughable; I personally suspect the sensationalistic ET angle was suggested by the book's publishers and grafted into the text at the last minute.

Bramley's book is annoying in several other respects. He ceaselessly condescends and pretends to the role of "spiritual mentor," matter-of-factly criticizing world religions and how they fail to address humans as "spiritual beings." "The Gods of Eden" is so thoroughly soaked in Bramley's own belief system that it sometimes reads as conspiratorial self-parody, complete with seldom-seen alien invaders as cosmic scapegoats for humanity's every failing. Toss in CIA mind-control, scheming international bankers, the alternative archaeology of Zechariah Sitchin, and near-death experiences, and "The Gods of Eden" achieves a certain rambling charm. Read Bramley's self-congratulatory tome with the biggest salt-shaker you can lift.

Note: After writing the above review, a colleague pointed out Bramley's affiliation with L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology. The parallels between Hubbard's output and Bramley's biased slant immediately became obvious. While "The Gods of Eden" isn't an "official" Scientology text, Bramley adheres to Hubbard's teachings with discomfiting zeal.

THE UFO CONSPIRACY: THE FIRST FORTY YEARS Jenny Randles

"The UFO Conspiracy" is a soundly written historical treatment of the UFO phenomenon that ably demonstrates the government duplicity that surrounds the subject in both the United States and the U.K.

EXTRATERRESTRIALS AMONG US George C. Andrews

Andrews' book on UFOs and Fortean weirdness is a difficult mix of metaphysical speculation and solid reporting. This is an enjoyable foray into strangeness and conspiracy theory to be read with reserve and skepticism.


Check your local library or used-book store for the following...

THE OMEGA PROJECT Kenneth Ring

"The Omega Project" is a thoughtful study of the strange parallels between out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and alien abduction. Ring addresses controversial ideas with enthusiasm and liberating curiosity and backs his findings with groundbreaking research. "The Omega Project" is a unique and challenging book that adds a startling slant to the abduction and metaphysical literature.

THE FIRE CAME BY John Baxter, Thomas Atkins

Baxter and Atkins' documentary of the Tunguska explosion of 1908 makes for a fascinating scientific detective story. The authors sift meticulously through the evidence and conclude that the infamous blast quite likely resulted from an out-of-control alien spacecraft. Surprisingly, the science and reasoning in "The Fire Came By" is completely sound; even arch-skeptic Isaac Asimov provides an introduction to this insightful odyssey.

GUARDIANS OF THE UNIVERSE? Ronald Story

Story's "Guardians of the Universe?" is a cogent expose of pseudoscientific dead-ends, focusing on "ancient astronaut" claims. While Story finds the theories of self-styled archaeologist Erich von Daniken nonsensical, he recognizes the mystery inherent in the UFO phenomenon and laments the fact that genuine esoteric investigation suffers because of quackery's commercial viability.

ALIENS: THE FINAL ANSWER? David Barclay

Barclay enthusiastically offers the theory that the "aliens" seen aboard UFOs are really bipedal, highly-evolved dinosaurs that genetically engineered humankind eons ago and now reside in enormous tropical caverns in the Arctic. He procedes to point out many interesting "facts" to support the theory that we are descendants of a prehistoric slave race. For example, the human body begins the degrading aging process shortly after sexual maturation: evidence for built-in planned obsolescence? Barclay goes so far as to insist that humans aren't mammals at all, but mutant reptiles. Barclay seems perfectly comfortable clinging to absurdities.

THE UTAH UFO DISPLAY Frank Salisbury

Salisbury's personal investigations result in "The Utah UFO Display," a commendable field study that asks the right questions. Salisbury interviews witnesses to a rash of UFO sightings and offers his thoughts on the phenomenon in general. With an introduction by Allen Hynek.

UNINVITED VISITORS Ivan Sanderson

Sanderson invites readers to wonder if UFOs aren't "nuts and bolts" alien craft, but rather aerial organisms. This is a refreshingly unbiased work, if not an utterly convincing one; it's nice to stumble upon a UFO researcher who doesn't pretend to know all the answers. See also: "Invisible Residents."

AN ALIEN HARVEST Linda Moulton Howe

Howe's opus on the cattle mutilation phenomenon makes for a lavish, if somewhat macabre, coffee-table book. The author details her firsthand research with chilling photos and persuasive eye-witness evidence. Some of Howe's "evidence" comes from questionable "anonymous government sources"; nevertheless, her investigation is essential reading into one of the more overlooked aspects of the UFO phenomenon. With a foreword by Jacques Vallee.

REPORT ON COMMUNION Ed Conroy

"Report on Communion" is a completely absorbing investigation of author/abductee Whitley Strieber, author of the bestselling "Communion." Conroy's multi-faceted approach to Strieber's claims makes a firm case for the reality of Strieber's experiences. "Report on Communion" also features one of the most stimulating interviews with Strieber I have come across.

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