Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen

What is more disturbing than aliens in Roswell? The “big reveal” at the end of Annie Jacobsen’s book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base!

Let me preface my review of Area 51 by saying that I am not a conspiracy theorists, I do not believe aliens from another planet have landed in Roswell, New Mexico (or anywhere else on Earth), and I am not particularly enthralled with government cover-ups. I am, however, very curious about just about everything, which is what led me to read Area 51.

Ever wonder why you can’t seem to get your teeth as white as the “whitening strips” promise?  Ever wonder why your third cousin removed says, “like” a lot? According to author Annie Jacobsen, your permanently yellow teeth and your cousin’s annoying linguistics are both because of Area 51. Not really, but by the time I finished reading Area 51, it seemed as though there were less then seven degrees of separation between every event and circumstance in the world, and Area 51.

In case you’ve been living in a cave for 100 years and don’t know what Area 51 is, it is a not-so-secret yet unacknowledged US military base about an hour west of Las Vegas, Nevada, with an amazing real history and very entertaining imagined history.  It really is a base where much fascinating military technology was developed and/or tested (i.e., supersonic jets, stealth technology, atom bombs, reverse-engineering of the Soviet MIGs, satellite espionage, etc.). Jacobson, a long-time and well-known reporter for the Los Angeles Times, relates some fun, albeit rehashed, stories about the plethora of history tied back to Area 51. And then there are the sagas about elaborate tunnels that run all the way from Nevada to Washington DC, alien bodies, bazaar human experiments, and the filming of the “fake” lunar landing. In any case, Jacobson’s connect-the-dots book about the 50-year history of Area 51 was pure-d-o fun.

The reviews of Area 51 were almost as entertaining as the book. Half claimed it was an unprecedented and immaculately researched account, while an equal number of commenters were rabid-dog pissed at the inaccuracies. What makes Area 51 (the book) really thought provoking is that it is supposedly the first book based on interviews with eyewitnesses to Area 51 history. Apparently enough time has finally lapsed that some records have been declassified and Area 51 engineers have began to talk. Of course the few remaining witnesses are all really, really old, so it could be just senile ranting, but whatever, it was entertaining at least and mind-boggling at best (and OK, occasionally stunningly stupid).
I loved Jacobson’s story about trying for more than a year to pry info out of her star witness, a well-placed and long-time engineer at the facility. One day while having lunch, she asked the engineer, “If this crouton (from her salad) is what you’ve told me, how much more is there that you haven’t told me? Is what you’ve not told me bigger then this plate?” After a very long pause, his reply was, “No, it’s bigger then the table.”

So, what about the big reveal at the end of the book, well, I’ll just tell you it involves Joseph Stalin, Josef Mengele, children, and Occam’s razor! 

1 comment:

  1. My son encouraged me to read this book. I thought it was going to be about Area 51. It is but much more. I have lived in Southern New Mexico much of my life. Including Roswell & Las Cruces. I found it fascinating to learn much more about what I thought I knew about the Roswell Incident, the first atomic bomb, Los Alamos, Sandia Lab & so on. I have read & heard about these places & goings on all of my life. I encourage anyone who wants to better understand "The Cold War" with Russia, the "Black Ops" that our country has been involved in & much more.