Annie Jacobsen’s Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base is one of those books that comes out only after decades of secrecy. Like the raft of books on MI5, the Ultra Secret, or the CIA’s “family jewels,” it is full of fascinating stories of what really went on during the early decades of the Cold War. Such stories are finally revealed due to two reasons: the secrets are declassified after a proscribed period of time (say, 50 years) and/or the people who were involved are too old to give a damn about repercussions and want to get the story out before there’s no one left alive who can.
Let me get this out from the start: the story Jacobsen writes never once includes extraterrastrials, but that only gigs up the weirdness. Stick with her story. It will keep you buckled into your seat just as the test pilots who flew out of Groom Lake where the new weaponry was tested. Here you get the birth of Stealth, the Hortons and their designs, Operation Paperclip, and miles of irradiated landscapes.
This is a book of serious, hard Cold War, of science and technology, of destruction in the name of preservation, and, in many cases, of people doing horrible things in the name of the highest calling. Jacobsen will detail the events not only of Area 51 but of many of the other areas, all helpfully laid out on a map.
She will tell you what crashed at Roswell. And what she reveals will be even more unsettling than the little green men you expect. You’ve been warned!
–JB, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Seattle, WA