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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bryan modifies his initially skeptical stance and confronts the heart of the matter, 10 Nov 2010
By 
The Guardian (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Alien Abduction and UFOs - Witnesses and Scientists Report (Paperback)
Yale-educated C. D. B. Bryan was a prize-winning novelist (for "Friendly Fire" in 1976 later made into a successful film), accomplished journalist, professional academic writer and ex-military intelligence officer who died of cancer in December 2009 at age 73. This thoughtful book, published in 1995, is an account of his attendance at the 5-day academic conference on the alien abduction phenomenon held at MIT in the summer of 1992 which was co-chaired by Professor John Mack of Harvard University Medical School and MIT molecular-physics Professor David Pritchard.

10% of the conference attendees were journalists, on the whole a skeptical bunch out for a good story and intrigued by the high-calibre academic credentials of the conference organisers and speakers in this most prestigious of venues (MIT was and is seen as the foremost academic scientific university in the USA if not the world), on this most unusual subject-matter.

Right off the bat in the first chapter, Bryan writes:

"One might expect that a `scientific conference' on such a subject ...ought to be dismissed out of hand...but for the credentials of those chairing it, the site of the conference...and disturbing credibility of the hundreds of individuals who, uncontaminated by exposure to any previous UFO lore or to each other, have so hesitantly, reluctantly, timidly come forward with their utterly incredible accounts of having been abducted and examined by spindly-limbed, 3 -4-foot-tall telepathic gray creatures with outsized foreheads dominated by huge, compelling, tear-shaped black eyes...it is in the similarities of these abductees' stories and the consistency of their details that the true mystery lies...as John Mack would ask at the Conference, `if what these abductees say is happening to them isn't happening, then what is?' "

Presenters at the conference included John Mack, David Pritchard, Budd Hopkins, Professor David Jacobs of Temple University, the folklorist and writer Dr. Tom Bullard of Indiana University, Stuart Appelle of NY State University, Jenny Randles, abduction researchers John Carpenter and Yvonne Smith, Professor Mark Rodeghier of the University of Illinois, John Miller and many others. Bryan listens to the presentations, interviews and socialises with researchers and abductees, reads the data and gets to know the subject. From his understandably initial skeptical position, he becomes gradually convinced that this odd phenomenon is something real and important, and starts to pay serious attention.

The book is quite long at 450 pages. A seven-page chapter introducing the conference and the subject matter is followed by a chapter devoted to each of the five days of the conference proceedings, occupying in total the first 200 pages of the book. The second half of the book comprises 13 separate chapters of post-conference interviews and focuses in particular on the long and complex story of two abductees with IDs disguised as "Carol" and "Alice." These two are also known as Beth Collings and Anna Jamerson, who later co-wrote and published a book "Connections" about their multiple and interconnected experiences with this phenomenon and which, for the serious student, is worth reading as an informative (if somewhat paradigm-stretching) contribution to the subject.

This close-up focus on specific individuals and their experiences is of course a standard journalistic device to "personalise" the narrative. Though interesting to a point (some of the details are downright weird, but supported by pretty compelling evidence), Bryan does spend a lot of pages on this case and it must be said the first half of the book makes for better reading.

In the concluding chapter, the author examines "Various Theories" about what the abduction phenomenon might be. He concludes not as a "believer", but convinced there is a real phenomenon here; he admits the academics at the conference are not pursuing delusions and acknowledges their courageous stance about the issue which, at some level, is real and needs to be understood.

Bryan was a thoughtful and intelligent journalist. It is to his credit that such a successful and well-known writer from the mainstream should investigate this subject impartially and thoroughly and devote a great deal of his time to understanding it. CE4 is one of the better (of more than 60 so far published) books on the abduction phenomenon because of the author's analytical and non-partisan approach and his high "mainstream" credentials. It's well written and well organised.

A criticism might be the lack of photos or illustrations: the book is 450 pages of solid text. The original hardcover had a substantial print-run of 50,000 copies excluding overseas printings in a number of languages and you can still find a few brand new copies here and there. It's definitely worth reading.

The full 1992 MIT Conference proceedings were also published in a large, 600-page double-columned volume titled "Alien Discussions" which is hard to find, sought-after and expensive, but well worth investing in if you can find a good copy - and afford it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent and erudite study of the phenomona, 23 May 2010
By 
R. CRAWFORD (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Alien Abduction and UFOs - Witnesses and Scientists Report (Paperback)
I'm surprised there hasn't already been a review of this book, since its one of the best I've read on the abduction phenomenon. I picked it up for 1 at a book sale. Bargain. The author is a skeptical journalist/writer who went to the MIT conference in the early 1990s at which John Mack was co-chair. The first half of the book is pretty much reportage of the conference, with interesting asides about people encountered and theories expounded. The second half of the book consists of post conference interviews with many of the people first encountered at the conference, especially a pair of female abductees, who are subsequently taken through hypnosis sessions at which the author was present. These sessions are pretty much reported as they appear to have happened.

It's all fascinating stuff, but the author clearly keeps an open mind and so theres a strong sense that you can trust what is written down here for you, unlike some works in this particular genre. Some of the remembered experiences are incredible. It's an old book now, published in 1995, but still one of the best and most "honest" I've read. Highly recommended for those who are wary of over-believers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Chosen, 18 Mar 2013
By 
R. Higgins "Electronically challenged" (Shropshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Alien Abduction and UFOs - Witnesses and Scientists Report (Paperback)
My wife chose this book to skip through it, looking for something she had seen in an older copy some time ago. Not sure I will read it as although I was interested in this stuff years ago, I kind of got fed up with the stupid infighting, bitterness and ego's amongst some of the community of people who deal with this subject and related subjects. That's a shame really as some of the information is still valid, and interesting, but it will never amount to anything but an interest for people. If, and more unlikely when the governments of the world spill the beans on this vast subject, everyone else will already know about it.
Good book though.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Close Encoumters Of The Fourth Kiknd, 6 Jun 2010
By 
Mrs. A. Rhodes "angie" (england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Alien Abduction and UFOs - Witnesses and Scientists Report (Paperback)
A truley, scary book!!!! well written, easy to understand, and a must for all Fox Mulder fans, this book, should be read by everybody, who loves the X Files, as Mulder says"The Truth Is Out There!"
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