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From Barnes & NobleThe 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.