Charlie's Reviews > Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base

Area 51 by Annie   Jacobsen
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U_50x66
's review
Jun 08, 11


What could have been an interesting New Yorker article was stretched too thin in this book. In fact it should have been two articles. One article could have covered her "War of the Worlds" theory regarding the Roswell UFO crash. The second article could have discussed what it means to run a top-secret black site developing cutting edge technology with no oversight. This second article makes up the overwhelming bulk of the book. The anecdotes she gathered from the men, given the time and place yes they are all men, provided an interesting insight into what it must have been like working on cutting edge technology, while at the same time having all the information so carefully compartmentalized that you may have no idea what the person next to you is working on. She chronicals the development of spy planes, stealth, and drones, some new details occasionally shine through. The author normally makes a point of telling the reader that some obscure fact is made public for the first time in this book, but I do not recall any of these disclosures knocking me back in my seat. An example would be she states how fast the A-12 Oxcart flew and how this set a speed record that stood through the end of the 20th centurty. Of course most aviation enthusists already knew the A-12 and its Air Force cousin the SR-71 were the fastest aircraft around, so the reveal of the top speed was largely meaningless to me. These planes fly at 3+ times the speed of sound, learning what the exact number represented by that + did not alter my appreciation for the accomplishments represented by the aircraft. But this portion of the book appeared to be well researched and sketched a compelling story of the various programs that were developed at Area 51. However, outside a narrow constituentcy of individuals who are interested in the mechanics of how you create and operate a base that is so secret and compartmentalized that you fly your employees into work rather than allow them to move their families nearby to live, the book covers ground that is largely familiar and not overly exciting. This is why the author wraps a rather prosaic tale of a secret government buracracy and the men who work there, with a startelingly unique theory to explain the Roswell UFO crash. I imagine that most people who buy this book do so to hear this part of the story, which the author introduces at the begining of the book, abandons through the vast majority of the book, and then returns to at the end for her big reveal in the last chapters. It is obvious that this is the part of the story the author wanted to tell, but the author does not have enough information to make this story stand on its own as a book
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