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Aliens: Why They Are Here
Bryan Appleyard
Scribner hardcover £15.99

review by Tony Lee

Unlike the vast majority of UFOlogy books, Bryan Appleyard's polemical text Aliens is more concerned with examining the psychosocial underpinnings of the 'flying saucer' phenomenon than simply collating UFO sightings or documenting reported abductions. Although the author is neither zealous believer nor avid debunker, he's far less sceptical and more shrewdly unbiased about this fascinating topic than other commentators.

Appleyard discusses the conceptual and perceptual realities of UFOs and aliens in the light of the intriguingly pervasive cultural impacts of popular folklore, postmodernism, Jungian theory, the nuclear age, Cold War secrecy, the paranoia of McCarthyism, the enduring myth of Roswell, the appeal of religious cults, the unique promise and future-threat of artificial intelligence, the public's frightening confusions of scientific fact and pseudoscience, and even such things as the astoundingly potent image (so dramatic, it's as if we have seen it before!) of the 'face' on the cover of Whitley Strieber's Communion. There are chapters on Kenneth Arnold, John Mack, Ptolemy and Galileo, and Marvin Minsky and Steve Jobs, stacked alongside concise overviews and thought-provoking essays on alien surgery, psychic spies and spirit mediums (in contact with, or avatars for, extraterrestrials), US and UK government cover-ups and seemingly 'undeniable' conspiracies, the supremely daunting prospects of sub-lightspeed interstellar travel, Erich von Däniken's inexplicable 'ancient astronauts', sceptics' claims of mass hysteria, lost memory retrieval via hypnotic regression, and the remarkable power of suggestion.

What makes Aliens essential reading for serious SF fans is that Appleyard boldly links the diverse themes and intoxicating ideas of literary and intellectual science fiction to UFOs in a compelling fashion, and this might well be the first comprehensive study of UFOlogy to make this connection and adequately explore the odd relationship between these two, apparently mismatched, subjects. With sections on SF authors Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem, references to Star Trek, Star Wars, and many other iconic writers and familiar expressions of SF in the media, this is certainly one of the most important genre related nonfiction books of the decade. Aliens probably won't change your life, but I think its wide-ranging and formidable arguments could and should change your mind about at least a few of the uncanny things relevant to both UFOlogy and SF.
Aliens: Why They Are Here

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