Area 51: The Dreamland Chronicles [NOOK Book]


Area 51, Dreamland, Groom Lake, Paradise Ranch, Watertown Strip, the Box: all refer to the top-secret research installation, located a hundred miles north of Las Vegas, which, for many, has come to stand for all that is shadowy and nefarious about the military-industrial-intelligence complex. Built under the direction of the CIA in the 1950s, the base served as the original test site for the U-2 spy plane and F-117 stealth fighter jet. In more recent years, Area 51 has spurred public interest from its role in ...
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Area 51: The Dreamland Chronicles

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Area 51, Dreamland, Groom Lake, Paradise Ranch, Watertown Strip, the Box: all refer to the top-secret research installation, located a hundred miles north of Las Vegas, which, for many, has come to stand for all that is shadowy and nefarious about the military-industrial-intelligence complex. Built under the direction of the CIA in the 1950s, the base served as the original test site for the U-2 spy plane and F-117 stealth fighter jet. In more recent years, Area 51 has spurred public interest from its role in the government's $30 billion "Black Budget," from legal claims of worker illness due to toxic burning, and from sensational charges about captured alien spacecraft. It has also given birth to a feisty guerrilla subculture bent on exploding the secrecy surrounding this mysterious spot. David Darlington unfolds the history, legs, and characters involved with Area 51, weaving a weird tale of intrigue and outrage and UFOs that speaks volumes about popular culture and American democracy at the of the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Could the U.S. government — or some other unknown entity — be hiding captured alien spacecraft in the Nevada desert? What is being done at a secretive and mysterious site that costs American taxpayers billions of dollars per year? What work could be so sensitive that employees are threatened with jail and subjected to toxic chemicals, the very names of which are classified?

Area 51, Dreamland, Groom Lake, Paradise Ranch, Watertown Strip, the Box — all refer to the notorious top-secret research installation that has inspired these odd questions. Built under the direction of the CIA in the 1950s, when its location qualified as the most remote and secure place in the continental United States, the base served as the original test site for the U-2 spy plane and the F-117 stealth fighter. This once obscure operating location a hundred miles north of Las Vegas — the mere discussion of which can cost an employee a fine of $10,000 and ten years in jail — has come to stand for all that is shadowy and nefarious about the military-industrial-intelligence complex. From alien spacecraft to mind-control technology, genetic experiments on kidnapped children to the diabolical invention of deadly diseases, the imaginative tales of Area 51 could pass for an "X-Files" script. Amid this atmosphere of hyperbole and hysteria, critically acclaimed journalist David Darlington set out to sift the truth from the illusions.

The result, Area 51: The Dreamland Chronicles, is an eye-opening and disturbing look at this infamous place. Darlington unfolds the history,legends,and characters involved with Area 51 and, with his trademark ability to fuse broad themes with local detail, weaves a weird tale of intrigue and outrage that speaks volumes about popular culture and American democracy at the end of the 20th century.

To the most provocative stories — those alleging alien contact — Darlington brings an unusual balance of skepticism and open-mindedness, weighing the odds by comparing accounts and assessing eyewitnesses. For every frantically spun yarn, there turns out to be one from a reliable source that will disarm even the most defensive reader. But Area 51 is about much more than merely bringing sci-fi to life; it's about the culture of paranoia that modern technology has bred and will continue to foster, about grand-scale government secrets that threaten the democratic ideal, about the ethics of military spending in times of peace, and about the limits of public knowledge and the limitlessness of the imagination.

David Bowman

David Darlington's Area 51: The Dreamland Chronicles gave me an epiphany about the nature of extraterrestrial life that I will share at the end of this review. But first, know that Area 51 is a secret air base in the Nevada desert about 100 miles northwest as the crow flies (or saucer saucates) from Las Vegas. Area 51 is where the government ostensibly tests duplicated alien technology. There may also be aliens themselves stashed there, critters resembling the ambassador that stepped off the mothership in Close Encounters (who, in turn, was a dead ringer for one of the bodies found in Roswell, N.M., so long ago).

Whatever is going on in Area 51, the governor of Nevada recently renamed nearby Interstate 375 the "Extraterrestrial Highway." Darlington knows about desert highways. His last book, The Mojave, was a lively chronicle of that Californian dry land where the author found a UFO nut or two. Nevada, however, seems to be filled with nothing but such folks (hereafter called UFONs). Darlington's new book is primarily set in the Mecca of UFONs, the Little A-Le-Inn motel in Rachel, Nev. There, he recorded pages of dialogue that sound like this: "The saucer that Lazar worked on at S-4 boasted three gravity amplifiers and a reactor. The latter, which was about the size of a basketball, contained a small particle accelerator, in which a chunk of 115 was bombarded with protons."

In addition to dry techno-speak, one of the UFONs has a poster of a saucer flying over the words, "They're here." Ah! Just like Fox Mulder's "I Want to Believe" poster on The X-Files. In fact, Area 51 is the book Mulder would write if he weren't a fictional FBI agent. After all, Fox isn't a particularly wild guy. And neither is Darlington. At no point do either one of them pull a Hunter S. Thompson on us. Area 51 is no Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, beginning: "We were under the saucers around Papoose Lake when the drugs began to take hold." But this complaint is only a matter of taste. Darlington remains a fine Sunday-morning magazine kind of writer. The only "druggy" prose is spoken by the UFONs themselves.

As for the aliens, they're dull as dishwater. Which is my epiphany. Aliens don't care about culture -- they've never visited the Louvre or hung out backstage at a Stones concert. Aliens have never abducted anyone interesting, like rude NBA coaches. Worse, aliens have no sense of humor or mischief. If I came from outer space, I'd land on the White House lawn and demand that President Clinton reveal his crooked penis.

Instead, aliens hang around with career military personnel in the desert, which is to say aliens have as much personality as turtles. Now, let me make it clear, this is my take on ETs. Darlington himself reveals little of his. Neither is he judgmental about the kooks he investigates. Not even when one of them reveals that those missing children on the side of milk cartons are all organ donors to alien research. It did dawn on me while I was reading his fun -- but not fun enough -- book that Darlington could be an alien abductee himself. If he is, I hope he gets picked up again. This time by the same saucer that abducted Hunter S. Thompson so long ago. -- Salon

Library Journal
Although dozens of books have been written about the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, and "Area 51," north of Las Vegas, Nevada, both supposed sites of extraterrestrial biological entities (EBEs), most of these books rely on indirect evidence and questionable witnesses, and the present work is no exception. Darlington (The Mojave, LJ 4/1/96) conducted a series of interviews and direct observations of the now tourist-infested Area 51 site. Unfortunately, he uncovered no new evidence or credible testimony to finally prove the existence of EBEs. Darlington follows the trials and tribulations of Bob Lazar and Glenn Campbell (not the singer)characters with dubious backgrounds who attempt to spread their beliefs in UFOs. Unless readers are interested in the life of an amateur UFO investigator or trailer life, they will likely find nothing new or even entertaining here.Mark E. Ellis, Albany State Univ., Ga.
From the Publisher

"This witty yet disturbing book reminds us that citizens in a free society still have the power to challenge the secret activities of government."--Steven Aftergood, The Federation of American Scientists

Catch this page-turner before those damn CIA goons seize all the copies."--Maxim magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466861978
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 637,282
  • File size: 739 KB

Meet the Author

David Darlington is the critically acclaimed author of The Mojave (1996, 0-8050-5594-0), In Condor Country, and Angel's Visits. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

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Interviews & Essays

On Wednesday, December 10th, welcomed David Darlington to discuss AREA 51.

Moderator: Welcome, David Darlington! Thanks for joining us tonight. Is this your first online chat?

David Darlington: Well, it's nice to be here. No, I've never done this before.

Scott Carr from The Flying Saucer Gazette: Having reported the death of Psychospy in THE DREAMLAND CHRONICLES, how do you feel about his recent rebirth? What do you think of the "new" Desert Rat?

David Darlington: As far as I know there has only been one, and specifically it was a review of a book or a story. It would be nice if Glenn Campbell would go back to his freewheeling style of the Desert Rat. I think that the Desert Rat is so entertaining that it can only benefit readers if Glenn decides to keep going.

Foo Bar from The Land of Id: What was it about this area in Nevada that made it so appropriate for 51?

David Darlington: If you mean for the base itself -- in the time it was built (in '55), it was considered the most secure part of the continental U.S. It's right next to the Nevada test site where the government has tested nuclear bombs since 1950. At first they thought that was a bad reason to put it there, but then they decided that the security was so valuable that it was a good idea after all.

Barbara from Tempe: What is the significance of the number 51?

David Darlington: That number was picked randomly; the test site is divided into separate areas, so I think they just picked a number so it would seem as if it were part of the test site. Although, from my experience, people who are into numerology can come up with some significant reasons for the number 51. I know that the Tour de France bike race has been won by the number 51 more than by any other.

Dave Snyder from Chicago: After all of your research, do you believe that extraterrestrials exist here on Earth?

David Darlington: I always hate this question! I remain an agnostic on the question of extraterrestrial life; there's no proof either for or against it. There's an expression that's been circulating recently to the effect that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But there are a lot of things you could say that about. One thing you can say about Area 51 is that aside from the UFO questions, the story of the base and the characters that surround it is a fascinating topic, and essentially the real topic of my book is the paranoid mentality bred by the cold war.

Grace from S.L.C.: Hi, David. Did you see the movie "Independence Day"? If so, did you find it at all plausible?

David Darlington: Yes, I did see it. I felt obligated to see it. The portrayal of Area 51 was only remotely connected to the reality of Area 51. The idea that there's an underground lab for working on recovered alien spacecraft certainly seems feasible from the point of view of the base's high security. But the portrayal of this lab was rather fanciful, and the spacecraft itself bore no resemblance to the craft described by Bob Lazar, who is the premier spreader of rumors about flying saucers at Area 51. Certainly the occupants of the spacecraft in the movie are much more reptilian and monstrous than any that even the tall tales depict.

Melissa Shipp from Delaware: What was your reaction to new television programs like "The X-Files" -- and what do you think of their strong following and avid fans?

David Darlington: I am an avid fan of "The X-Files." They do a great job of depicting some of the most paranoid conspiracy fantasies that are in circulation, and they enjoy the great luxury of not having to prove any of it. One of my theories is that since the end of the cold war, the American populus still seems to require some sort of outside threat to justify the continuing secrecy and vast expenditures that were once reserved for the Soviets. Hence, a great upsurge of interest in the idea of alien visitation.

Kyara Bushnell from Columbus, OH: I just have one basic question: How does the government benefit by keeping Area 51 secret from the public?

David Darlington: When you enjoy the privilege of operating completely in the black with regard to public or congressional oversight, you have a lot of freedom to do whatever you want. Unfortunately, this has been seen to result in wastage of billions of tax dollars, and if you believe the anonymous workers who recently filed suit against the government for health injuries due to burning toxic waste at Area 51, then you can see how a secret base is able to operate outside the law and the rules of the Constitution.

Jesse from Minneapolis: What fact about Area 51 freaked you out the most?

David Darlington: The idea that if you were to cross the boundary or even be taken across the boundary without any witnesses, you could disappear permanantly, since no law enforcement or other agency is authorized to go in and look for you.

Becca from Deerfield, MA: I was an American Studies major in college, and I focused on the '50s, the McCarthy era, and the paranoia that you described. Now that there is no longer a cold war or an iron curtain, do you think that the resurgence of interest in areas like 51 and in UFOs and extraterrestrials is the result of the American people needing to feel unified against a common enemy?

David Darlington: Yes. As I said before, that is what I believe. I also believe that this is a result of the cold war and the culture of secrecy bred by the last half century of paranoia, which has had the result of making American citizens distrust their own government. Along with the cold war itself, the running subject of my book is democracy from the level of rural Lincoln County, Nevada, all the way up to Congress, the Pentagon, and the President, who recently exempted Area 51 from complying with environmental law. (I also was an American Studies major in college, and I feel that Area 51 is a great study in American culture.)

MW from God knows where: When a great deal of the public know of Area 51, why does the government still try to cover it up?

David Darlington: For that same reason of maintaining the privilege and freedom to operate without rules in total secrecy. Although at this point you'd think they would see that it begs the question of exactly what they're trying to hide; when even the funds are kept hidden from Congress and taxpayers, it violates the clear demands of the U.S. Constitution.

George from Louisville: What has actually been developed at Area 51? Stealth technology...what else?

David Darlington: It was built for the U2 Spy Plane in 1955, and after the U2 it was the secret testing and development site for the A-12 Blackbird Spy Plane. Among other secret projects, one theory advanced by two of the characters in the book is that when the U2 was shot down over Soviet Russia in 1960, it was sabotaged or allowed by the U.S. in order to create the necessity for continuing to develop the A-12, which was already underway.

Dr. Blue from Salt Lake City: Is Area 51 still active with UFO aircraft? Some have suggested that they have moved some of the UFOs to Utah. Close to Green River, Utah, I believe. What have you heard?

David Darlington: The suggestion in Popular Mechanics Magazine was not that UFOs were moved but that the secret aircraft operations of Area 51 were moved to Green River, Utah, and Michael Army Airfield. But this is false. The Green River location is empty and vacant, and Area 51 is still quite active at its location near Groom Dry Lake in Nevada.

Kevin from Canada: Are there any locations remaining that have not yet been cordoned off by the authorities -- where parts of the base are still visible to the human eye?

David Darlington: Yes, a mountain called Peekaboo, south of the town of Rachel, is a good viewpoint about 25 miles away. It's pretty far, but you can still at least see that the base exists. A good guide to these places is the Area 51 viewers guide by Glenn Campbell; see his Web site:

Jim from San Jacinto: David, what are your views on the Lazar story? Do you believe him? How do you feel about Lazar's friend Gene Huff? In reading your book, I sense some hostility there.

David Darlington: [Laughs] Bob Lazar is a curious and fascinating individual. His story is amazing in its content and detail, but his background seems to cast doubt on his credibility, and the physics of his claims of UFO propulsion don't hold up. As for Gene Huff, it's interesting that Lazar would allow such an offensive person to function as his spokesman.

Scott Carr from The Flying Saucer Gazette: What is your prediction for the future of all the interesting characters in your book -- the Travises, Merlyn II, Glenn Campbell-- now that the Area 51 saga seems to have peaked and leveled off?

David Darlington: Glenn Campbell seems to be settling down into domestic life, and it will be interesting to see what he does next. He's a very talented writer but seems to function most comfortably in the libertarian context of the Internet. Tom Mahood is now a graduate student in physics and is actually working on a project that, if it pans out, could result in major advances in propulsion. As for the Travises and Ambassador Merlyn, they were essentially given life by the intrigue surrounding Area 51, and one assumes that their notoriety will continue only as long as Area 51 continues to intrigue the worldwide population.

M. Swake from Chicago: Do you think with all the public attention on Area 51, with both books and movies speculating on it, that the government has closed it down or moved it to another location?

David Darlington: No, see the preceding question and answer. It's not inconceivable that there are even more secret sites than Area 51 that the public hasn't found out about. One of my sources was told by an Air Force officer to "look to the north."

Robert B. from Columbia: Will you have a follow-up to this book, or are you working on something else now? I am anxious, having read this work, to read more of your writing.

David Darlington: Thank you. My previous book, THE MOJAVE, is just out in paperback and was what led me originally to the topic of Area 51. Area 51 is such an engrossing subject that I'm currently at a loss for what to tackle next -- DREAMLAND covers so many stimulating areas of human and nonhuman endeavor. In the meantime, everyone should tell their local Barnes & Noble store to move AREA 51: THE DREAMLAND CHRONICLES out of New Age and Occult and into New Nonfiction, where people might actually be able to see it.

Moderator: Thanks for answering all of our queries here tonight, Mr. Darlington. I've no doubt you've inspired much thinking! Best of luck and happy holidays.

David Darlington: It's great to see so many thoughtful questions and interest in this subject. Thanks to everyone for paying attention, and all I can say about the book is: The truth is in here!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2001


    Amazingly detailed, and full of facts. A must read for any UFO buff, or Dreamland fanatic. It retells the acounts that the author experienced in his journey to discover the truth about Area 51.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2000

    Interesting Reading!!!!

    The subtitle of this book is appropriate, as David Darlington literally 'chronicles' the history of Area 51 and the people involved, and offers explanation after explanation for its continued intrigue. The book is filled with one-on-one interviews with the major players who have helped shape the history of the base, putting the author in some rather strange situations and places at times. The book lends the occasional 'light touch,' but never strays far from the seriousness of the subject matter, as the author reminds us by the end of each chapter. A unique blend of wit and earnestness, it truly depicts the base in a (pardon the expression) 'down-to-earth' fashion. This book should not be used as a final guide for anyone contemplating a visit to the region, but instead as an unparalled source of historical and biographical information. It contains some interesting pictures, too.

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