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

Area 51 by Annie   Jacobsen
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's review
Jun 25, 11

Read in June, 2011

I so wanted to like this book. Really, I did. I heard about it on the radio -- a normally-staid public radio interview show host was talking to the author. At first, Jacobsen was talking about the history of advanced aircraft development and testing that happened out there in the desert; that's the part of Area 51's history I was familiar with. By itself, it's fascinating. The SR-71, developed there, was literally generations ahead of other aircraft.

After the author talked about that, she went into the history of nuclear tests done in that area. I was familiar with some of the nuclear bombs that were tested outside of Las Vegas, but I didn't really have good knowledge of the connection between the different programs. At that point, I figured this was a book I had to read. I had hopes that it would be a classic, discussing secretive US government programs, based on interviews with insiders and thoroughly-researched documentation -- something like "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" by Rhodes or "Puzzle Palace", about the National Security Agency, by Bamford.

Finally, the author started talking about the most fantastical aspects of this book, and the parts that are generating the most publicity for this book. She said that part of her research involved an interview with someone that had worked on the most secret of programs out at Area 51. This engineer, she continued, was someone that had intimate knowledge of military programs, someone whose involvement in Area 51 was vouched for by unimpeachable sources. Jacobsen said that she didn't have independent confirmation for what he told her, but she believed him. She couldn't present his information in the same way of the rest of the book, that contained info that could be independently verified, so she put wrote it from a first-person perspective at the end of the book.

The engineer told her that he was brought in to investigate some technology. In 1947, army intelligence recovered an object near Roswell, New Mexico. The public was told that it was a weather balloon, but it was actually a hovering disc that contained humanoid creatures. Aliens? No: in fact, it was sent by Stalin to create mass chaos in the US, similar to how the Welles's "War of the Worlds" radio program had created large disruptions among the population. Stalin made deals with Nazi after World War II: with Mengele, the doctor who experimented on humans, to create alien-looking creatures -- actually children who had been surgically altered -- and with the Horten brothers, a pair of Nazi aeronautical engineers, to create an aircraft capable of hovering flight. Jacobsen's informant said that he was brought to Area 51 to reverse-engineer the secrets of the hovering craft, and to reverse-engineer the secrets of how the humanoid creatures were created. The engineers were able to discover how the hovering technology worked, and they continued their human experimentation for decades.

In the end, I was extremely disappointed in this book. I was hoping the parts of it that covered the secret aviation experiments and nuclear tests would be very thorough and documented; it was interesting, but much of it seems to be deduced indirectly, and that part of the story is intermingled with the hovering disc / humanoid creatures conspiracy. I was hoping the alien conspiracy part would be more entertaining, but it ended up seeming like someone had tried to combine just about every pre-existing conspiracy story they had previously heard, into one gigantic super conspiracy. This book would have been much better if it had split into two completely separate books; both sections would have been somewhat thin on material, but at least neither would undermine the purpose of the other.

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