Area 51 by Annie Jacobsen

a review by Ant, in the genre(s) Science Fiction. Book published by Little, Brown Books in May 2011

Area 51 - also known as Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, Home Base, Watertown Strip, Groom Lake and Homey Airport - is one of the worst kept secrets in the world, a top secret government facility located within the Nevada Test & Training Area that even now, the US government refuses to admit existence of. This refusal of admission seems even stranger when you consider that not only can you see the base from Google maps but anyone trying to go within miles of the perimeter is forcibly turned away or even detained.

But Area 51 wasn't always public knowledge and in fact managed to exist unknown to nearly everyone for over 30 years, it was when one contractor actually broke the signed confidentiality agreement that all visitors to the base must sign the secret leaked out. For most people Area 51 represents alien technology, it's been considered by many that the American government keep all the crashed UFO's, alien bodies and other pieces of extra-terrestrial technology within the base.

In this book, Annie Jacobson (contributing editor of the Los Angeles Times Magazine) helps to finally lift the lid on some of the secrets from the base, with exclusive access to nineteen men who served the base secretly for decades (now aged between 75-92) and unprecedented access to fifty-five additional military and intelligence personnel, scientists, pilots, and engineers that have links to the secret base - thirty-two of whom lived and worked there for extended periods.

Over the last 4 years there have also been a number of declassified documents and these help to lend weight to claims made within the book. On release, it caused a massive controversy - not only from the ideas presented in this work of non-fiction (yes I know it's in the science fiction section of the site) but even from a few disgruntled witnesses. There have been many heated discussions both for and against Jacobson's findings, and there was a mass media frenzy that actually carried on for some time.

I can understand why some people have reacted strongly to this book, it does in part attack the faith structure of those who believe in extra-terrestrials and flying ships from other planets but does so only as far as Area 51 is concerned. It isn't just that people believe but as the X-files once stated people WANT to believe - and for some Area 51 is the Mecca of that belief. I am actually one of those who consider that the universe is too vast and far too wonderful to not contain life elsewhere in the cosmos and I have even seen sights in the sky that clearly weren’t "weather balloons", strange clouds or any thing other than Unidentified Flying Objects.

As such I did at first struggle to accept what the author hypothesizes, and to a certain extent I still do. This isn't naivety or blind faith but the fact that like the boy who cried wolf, the US government have covered up, lied and disseminated to such a degree that you just can't trust any information given out by them. In the back of my mind lurks the suspicion that this could all be another smokescreen by those in power to divert attention from the real facts. The other major fact remains that there simply isn't sufficient evidence to give enough credibility to Jacobsen’s claims and when confronting an anonymous source it seemed clear that the book is hardly even touching the surface of the real truth.

I do however think that the author has done an incredible job of investigative journalism and has presented the many facts in a considered, unbiased, and structured manner that is both easy to read and understand. The author also acknowledges that sightings of UFO's have appeared for over 2000 years and the mistake some people appear to be making is that the author is saying aliens don't exist, which she isn't. What the author is suggesting is that the UFO's and alien bodies that have been found, stored and experimented with at Area 51 are of terrestrial origin - and she makes a strong, well researched and considered thesis for this revelation, even if it doesn't provide incontrovertible evidence or a convincing enough argument.

The amount of research that the author has gone to is actually quite staggering, describing the secret base's history and the larger history of those involved in minute detail and illustrating many of the people's lives and political conditions at the time. Even going as far as interviewing as many people connected to Area 51 as possible, which not only gives context but creates more of an interesting story than the otherwise hard and unwieldy facts.

While it doesn't really answer any big questions, anyone even slightly interested in Area 51 should read this book - it's well written, full of facts about the US and the cold war and is probably the closest we will get to knowing what goes on at the most famous base that doesn't exist.

Written on Friday 12th August 2011 by .

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Area 51, a novel by Annie Jacobsen

Book Details

  • Area 51
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books
  • ISBN: 9780320000000
  • Published:
  • Pages: 544
  • Format reviewed: Hardback
  • Review date: August, 2011
  • Language: English
  • Age Range: N/A