Non-Fiction Reviews

Body Snatchers in the Desert

(2005) Nick Redfern, Pocket Books, 8.99 / US$14.00 / Can$19.00, pbk, viii + 248 pp, ISBN 0-743-49753-8

There are UFO books and UFO books, and of course there are an awful lot of them. Because of this last it was perhaps inevitable that in the survival of the fittest market place the quality of UFO books would rise even if - in strict scientific terms - the quality of their analysis leaves a lot to be desired. Also one might have thought that with all those books out with titles like The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell that we might by now know, well, the truth about the UFO crash at Roswell. We do not, and the mishmash of tales about the incident are as varied as ever so that by a process of mutual contradiction the majority have to be just plain wrong. However to be fair when there is a paucity of data (be it deliberate, as conspiracy theorists would have us believe, or not) then quality is bound to suffer. So when something a little different comes along that does not blindly and incoherently present its case, then this surely is to be welcomed.

In Snatchers in the Desert Nick Redfern outlines the case that the Roswell incident was not an alien UFO but a military test. Further that the military was quite likely using humans including, worryingly, the deformed and retarded and prisoners, in radiation experiments.

Nick Redfern has made a small career out of UFO Forteanna and indeed is the co-editor of the zine Phenomena. Here he takes the Roswell saga in a different direction. He argues that post World War II there was a need for the military to understand how humans are affected by radiation. Obviously if only because if the military were to use nuclear weapons they needed to know the effects on their personnel and less obviously because (allegedly) they were hoping to secretly develop nuclear powered aircraft.

Of course WWII saw the Nazis unethically indulge in human experimentation and the last thing the US would want it for it to be seen engaged in similar activities. Nonetheless, separate to the Redfern's Roswell concept, the allies really were doing things like expose their personnel to atomic blasts and fallout to see if there was a problem. This may seem shocking to us now as we have a far better understanding of radiation and its effects than they did back then. Indeed part (just part) of this is due such military exposures, but this is not to justify such experimentation but to point out an historic fact. However what Redfern proposes is that people (non-military personnel) were subject to experimentation and exposures far greater than, say for arguments sake, a troop standing miles away from a test blast. That this was deliberate hence obviously unethical even in those days, it required a cover story. Roswell, Redfern says, was it.

Has Redfern got undeniable proof. No. But then as in such cases where evidence is deliberately suppressed or hidden or simply not exist in the first place because it's the wrong premise, he could not be expected to have such. So it is up to the reader to decide which of the afore applies here, and I suspect that the reader's preconceived views will play a large part in that choice. Nonetheless Redfern makes a reasonable go of it.

The idea is a reasonably fresh take. Redfern has an easy read style. The book will be enjoyed by alien UFO-types but also, arguably more important for Concatenation's target audience, by those (not necessarily 'UFO' believers themselves) interested in the psychology of Roswell and of those who believe in alien UFOs and its socio-political dimensions real or imagined (the latter being a perfectly valid area of socio-psychological interest). Importantly the book has a fair reference list to text notes and a good index. For those into this particular brand of Forteanna this will be a welcome book. However one asks oneself that, having read this latest offering, how much more have we really learned? I guess the truth is out there somewhere...

Jonathan Cowie

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