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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 24 May 2011
I wish I'd tried the free preview with the Kindle. Then I'd have known that the author's first primary source (of the 70 or so people she claims to have interviewed) was (in)famous conspiracy theory superstar Bob Lazar. She glosses over most of his claims and outright ignores his most outlandish ones while playing him up as an authoritative source on this most secretive of places.

I'd have also noticed some of the quite bizarre and jarring factual errors/typos (claiming the CIA had no idea what the USSR was up to "west of the Volga, let alone west of the Urals" when she surely meant "east" being the most egregious example).

At this point I abandoned it as a serious work of research (try Trevor Paglens excellent book Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World if you want that). Instead I pressed on with it as a sort of techno/conspiracy thriller and actually it works really well in that genre - and as such I won't spoil the twist.

Fans of the X-Files might like this book (and people who think the X-Files is a documentary definitely will), just don't expect a serious academic work.
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on 6 December 2012
CAUTION; SPOILERS. Now, at first glance this appears to be a scholarly history of spooky old Area 51, where conspiracy nuts claim downed saucers are reverse engineered and alien bodies dissected.
But Annie's having none of that - she doesn't believe aliens are involved, and takes us through the fascinating history of this area and the various high tech armoury birthed there. There's also plenty of jaw dropping accounts of deadly A bomb tests that were ill advised at best but potentially planet- destroying at worst.
So far, so good; but any good work is undone by the last chapter where Annie loses the plot in a major way - SPOILER COMING - apparently, a UFO did crash at Roswell, but it was sent there by Stalin, and piloted by genetically engineered handicapped children who just looked like aliens.
Stalin got the technology from - guess who - the nazis, who had incredibly advanced tech but completely forgot to deploy it in any way to help them win the war; oh those crazy National Socialists.
So, in order to scare the Americans into thinking there were aliens, Stalin sends his most precious piece of technology straight into US hands where it can be studied and replicated. He also fills it full of children, making him officially a techno-liability-child-abuser.
WHY Stalin would hand over this tech, and WHY he thought he'd scare the US with his creepy alien children plan isn't really explained to any satisfaction, going, as it does, against any concept of logic or sense.
But Annie tells us that it's so, and that people who believe in UFO's are a bit sad, while she, who believes in Stalin's great Saucer/Handicap plot, is completely on the money. A shame, then, because the rest of the book really is fascinating, if true. But by the time you've read that last chapter, you do find the ground shifting beneath your feet somewhat.
Mind you, Stalin was insane so perhaps.......no. Oops she nearly had me there for a moment.
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on 31 August 2011
Annie Jacobsen's sensational "tell-all" book is nothing of the sort. Rife with factual errors, relying heavily on unnamed sources some of whom now have come forward to deny involvement with secret programs or the author, this should be relegated to at least the dubious, if not downright ridiculous. See Jon Stewart's interview where he rolls his eyes in disbelief of the cockamanny nonsense she spouts. Only for the gullible and easily distracted...
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on 17 July 2011
I truly wish i had read these reviews before i bought this book, this is not a history of area 51, it's a mish mash of views that towards the end of the book become insane add to that the factual mistakes and you have a OTT book that cannot be trusted as it seems the author cannot be bothered to get her facts right.
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on 26 May 2014
4 stars here. Inevitably, Area 51 drives conspiracy nuts crazy and anyone with more than half a mind knows that secret aircraft have to be developed somewhere and a secret airfield in the middle of the desert is a good place to do it ! SO it should be no surprise that someone has written a book to tell us that that is precisely what has been happening ! Year by year, the last "UFO wave" turns out to be the latest military stealth machine ... And I am sure this will get worse as unmanned aeroplanes are becoming more common and an unmanned plane can turn 90 degrees at MAch 7 without flattening the pilot because he's ensconced in a comfortable chair in an office somewhere and not in the plane at all ! A good read but rather disappointing as I was expecting to learn something about REAL UFOs and all I got was secret military developments !
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on 16 July 2011
The straightforward telling of the history of 'Area 51' is littered with fundamental errors and sloppy research. Dates are wrong, established facts are ignored or forgotten and the roll of key personel confused - as a historical account it is very poor. Were this an essay on the history of Area 51 presented by a student for assessment it would be heavily marked down.

As for the account of the Roswell Incident, its rather silly really. Russian midgets (bred byDr. Josef Mengele no less) crashed their ship while on a mision to panic the American public ala Orwells War of the Worlds radio broadcast. Why was it covered up? American were trying to do the same thing. Source? 1 88 year old retired engineer who had previously been interviewe on America TV and found to be a bit confused.

But why should the author or the publisher care? The book says AREA 51 in big letters on the front cover so it will make them both a lot of money.
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on 21 January 2017
mainstream garbage by a mainstream writer looking to make a buck. She explains away descriptions of heiroglyphs on craft as "Russian writing." She obviously thinks it is all nonsense;very condescending. I learned nothing from this book.
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on 23 February 2012
The story of the development of early spy planes used in Korea and Vietnam through to what can only be presumed is the latest tech flying over Iraq and Afghanistan reads like a good thriller. The author's depiction of the CIA and Air Force's power struggle for control of the facility is engrossing and descriptions of post-war nuclear bomb tests are both vivid and staggeringly frightening. Indeed Annie Jacobsen's narrative tries to be all encompassing and she can be forgiven a few factual errors along the way.

But where she comes totally undone is in relying upon one unnamed source to explain the thing we all really want the answer to - the Roswell Incident - and in accepting a single ludicrous account as fact.

In 1951 the Roswell wreckage was moved from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where it had been stored since the crash site was discovered in 1947. It was taken to an as yet unnamed secret facility, where a team of engineers was ordered to figure out how it hovered and flew.

I have to ask at this point, did any Roswell eyewitness ever claim to have actually seen the vehicle in the air, hovering or otherwise?

If the incident was, as Jacobsen asserts, really a Russian hoax designed to strike fear into the average American how did the Soviets achieve this engineering marvel when it's well documented their technology was well behind that of the US. And if they had such technology why would they hand it over to the US military as a gift? It makes America's later procurement of a prized Russian MiG (also covered in the book) at the height of the Vietnam War look like chicken feed.

Jacobsen and her unnamed source go on to describe the allegedly still living occupants of the craft as being modified human children, genetically or surgically altered by former Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele. Co-incidentally I've just watched an episode of The Outer Limits from 1963 called "The Architects of Fear" that features a plot startlingly similar to Jacobsen's central idea!

Setting aside the practical improbabilities facing the Russians, what's the likelihood US brass would name their prized top-secret base responsible for developing sophisticated aerial surveillance and supersonic aircraft after a vile and elaborate practical joke designed by their nemesis, Joe Stalin?

Overall, the book feels well researched and fluidly written on a fascinating subject, but every time she brings up Roswell, which happens to be the lynchpin around which everything else revolves, she loses all credibility.
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on 2 May 2014
A really fascinating orgy of background information on events that 'old fogies' like me can remember. once started, hard to put down.
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on 2 December 2013
Excellent book - covers in much more detail than any otherbook Recommend!!! Read this you will not regret it at all
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