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Not all it's cracked up to be
on 16 May 1999
The fundamental problem with Jerome Clark's "UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial" is one of bias. First and foremost, Mr. Clark is a believer, and so everything in this book is put through a UFO enthusiast's filter. This bias is most clearly demonstrated in the consistent offhand dismissal of debunkers (the term "debunkers" being shorthand for anyone critical of the UFOlogist view), which only rarely rises to the level of quoting or addressing specific criticisms. I suppose this particular bias is impossible to avoid, however--after all, who else but a believer would even attempt to put a book like this together?
The second form of bias is Mr. Clark's own sense of priorities among the various UFO-related subjects he is forced to describe. Throughout the book, he cannot help but reveal his favorable opinion of strange CE2's and other simple sightings, or his unfavorable view of the more mystical wing of UFOlogy. His feelings toward the abduction phenomenon and "dark side" conspiracy theories are more difficult to discern, but while reading this book one never feels entirely free of Mr. Clark's filters. This is UFOlogy according to Jerome Clark.
Beyond the issue of bias, "The UFO Book" just doesn't seem to have enough entries to justify its subtitling as an "encyclopedia." When read cover to cover, it provides a fair overview of the history of UFOs, but it don't think it would serve as a true reference work. Mr. Clark writes that "The UFO Book" is an abridged version of a more comprehensive work; anyone planning on purchasing this book might bear this in mind. The writing is average, but my only major complaint would be that the choice of extended quotations often seems arbitrary; I rarely understand why Mr. Clark chooses to use someone else's exact words when he does.