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on 22 January 2011
Having read The Truth Agenda, I was familiar with Andy's approach to subject matter which, for many, would be hard to swalllow. In that later work, Andy superbly illustrates a very wide cross section of alternative perspectives on many aspects of the world and the mysteries within it which the modern scientific orthodoxy and political conservatism have deemed too radical for their consideration (or so we are led to believe).

What Andy does as well as anyone I've read - and I've read a few authors over the years - is to set out the evidence in such a way as to appear impartial and unbiased at the same time as representing the material in the most positive light. He is not an advocate for hippie sentimentalism. His methodology is hard-nosed and empirically driven. Yet his humanity is also clear for all to see. He makes ostensibly bizarre concepts accessible and even seductive through a balanced and coherent assessment of the best evidence available in each area under discussion. If you had previously read no other book on esoteric/non-mainstream subject matter, Andy's book would give a perfectly good grounding on much of it and a sound basis for further exploration. In this respect, he is 'the opener of the ways' for the genuine truth seeker.

His book Vital Signs focusses on the mystery of crop-circles, which have been appearing all over the world with increasing complexity for the last thirty years (and before, though less well documented). The majority of these - and usually the best - have occurred near ancient sites in Wiltshire, such as Avebury and Stonehenge. To this day, no-one has adequately explained how they might be made and for what purpose.

The perennial argument is over whether they are genuinely produced by means as yet unknown to man or simply brilliant hoaxes. Over the years, many have claimed to be the creators of what are, in most cases, extraordinarily beautiful and geometrically perfect works of high artistic expression (witness the Milk Hill design on the book's cover). The problem for these people is that they have never been able to repeat their skills in the incredibly short time periods in which some circles have 'arrived', in some cases as little as 30 minutes. Many other factors militate against the plausibility of the hoaxers' claims.

Andy wisely keeps his judgements within the bounds of the credible, only occasionally going out on a limb with a tentatively voiced opinion at the further fringes of science. Just as with The Truth Agenda, he sets out the position on all sides of the argument and like a time-served and venerable magistrate, allows the weight of evidence on each side to make its own case. This leads to an implicit trust which many, more proselytizing writers would do well to heed.

In the end, you will believe what you want to, whether it be about crop circles or any other of the more ineffable mysteries of this strange experience we call life. In the contemplation of these matters, however, it is wise to have a reliable and friendly guide: Andy's work fulfills this requirement most handsomely.
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