Started off well, I kept on listening thinking it would build up to something more in line with the classic Area 51 rumours.
The stories of pilots and staff working at the base become tiresome and sometimes, in my opinion, were not worth mentioning.
I optimistically chose to listen to this book despite the mediocre reviews because I'm interested in national security, CIA, spy aircraft, etc., but was greatly disappointed.
First the Good Stuff: Jacobsen actually did a lot of interviews for this book and was welcomed (past tense, before the book was published) into the network of retired contractors and military personnel who ran programs or flew planes at Area 51 over the years. To that extent, it's very interesting because she presents some interesting (and probably true) stories from pilots who flew the A-12 and other aircraft at Groom during its heyday in the mid-1960s. One particularly interesting event that I've never heard of before (and I've done a lot of reading on these subjects) involves a pilot recalled being scrambled in an A-12 to intercept a Soviet balloon that was overflying the U.S. in 1965.
Now the Bad... The book begins with a story that could most generously be described as highly implausible about the Soviets crashing a Nazi-built flying saucer near Roswell in 1947 to scare Americans and proceeds into a surprisingly non-critical (or insightful) recounting of Bob Lazar's even less believable tales. The book then transitions from utter fabrication to a poorly written history of the Nevada Test & Training Range, atomic testing, etc, during which the author and her editor repeatedly demonstrate that they neither understand basic concepts about science and technology that any college graduate should know nor apparently have the ability to cross-check their historical information against wikipedia. The author/editor repeatedly describe historical events, technology etc. in a way that would seem unnecessarily simplistic to a high school student, their explanations running the gamut from kind-of correct (as in, what's said isn't WRONG per se but anyone who actually understands the subject matter can tell that the author clearly does not) to simply off the mark. For example, Jacobsen feels like she needs to explain the concept of stealth aircraft to her readers (whom she assumes have never watched CNN) using a poorly-chosen analogy about how animals use skin color to blend into the environment. I felt my intelligence insulted on many occasions, not the least of which was the (second) time she explained that OXCART, the code name for the supersonic spy plane, was chosen because it's ironic (get it? an oxcart is SLOW but the A-12/SR-71 was really FAST!!!). In another minor-but-annoying error that typifies the book and erodes any credibility that survived the first chapter, the author describes an Area-51 employee flying to the Site in a Constellation aircraft and then says something like "...then the twin-engine aircraft banked and..." I want to shout, "Annie, have you ever seen a picture of a Constellation? It would take you like 5 seconds to google it and find out that it has four engines."
To summarize, her book is really a travesty to the men and women who worked on these projects over the years. It's truly disappointing that that their fascinating stories got blended into this melodramatic and otherwise poorly-written book. If you're really interested in classified projects or Cold War history then parts of this book might be interesting to you, as they were to me, but be prepared to wade through a lot of nonsense in the process.
One final note: the narration was usually fine, I didn't even realize that it was done by the author until I came to write the review. However, I did notice that, unlike every government official, newscaster or person around the country, Annie pronounces "NASA" as "Nasaw."
No, not to my friends or family. It had very little new information and was a bit slow.
I didn't find one. The entire book wasn't interesting or exciting enough to to inspire interest.
Yes. Slow and Monotone.
I kept falling asleep while listening to this book.
If you listen to this book, start at about the 1 hour mark, and stop listening with about 2 hours remaining. That way, you will hear an interesting work of clandestine and military history, with an engaging narrative style. The un-sensationalised history of the Nevada nuclear tests, the Area 51 site, the U2 spy plane, and their effects on Cold War US/Soviet relations make the middle section of this work very interesting and worthwhile.
Unfortunately, it seems the author couldn't resist adding some unbelievably sensationalistic touches which spoil the entire book.
So - the infamous Roswell craft was a (purposely) crashed Soviet hover-plane created by ex-Nazi rocket scientists and crewed with aviators who had been genetically/surgically altered to resemble extra-terrestrials by Josef Mengele, on the orders of Stalin who believed this would cause mass UFO panic in the United States?
This is the first theory I've heard that somehow manages to be LESS credible than little green men from outer space.
If you are looking for an interesting alternate history, this book is for you. If you are looking for a genuine history of Area 51, then not so much.
The "history" is liberally sprinkled with factual trivia, but over all, she missed the mark. The author was not really into fact checking or due diligence while writing this book. From trivial items (Surface to air missiles do not threaten ground troops, the Japanese did not have jet fighters in WWII, altimeters do not measure airspeed, etc, etc...) to major factual errors like yield and fireball size of various nuclear weapon tests, Jacobsen got most of it wrong. Some of what she presents as fact has no basis in reality.
Either the people she spoke with were pulling her chain, or she simply got what they told her wrong. Those of us that worked on the lake know better. In most cases a simple trip to the library would have set her straight.
Frankly, I was very disappointed. But it will probably sell well at the science fiction and conspiracy conventions.
Just A Guy
The ridiculous Roswell/Stalin/Nazi/hovering disk theory that bookends this book is beyond belief. I understand that the author wanted to appeal to the Art Bell crowd, but she went way beyond what is needed.She also feels the need to paint the U.S. government in general and the Atomic Energy Commission in particular as evil incarnate, which gets very tiresome. The author stretches the umbrella of 'Area 51' to encompasses all sorts of defense related programs that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Groom Lake facility. The author does a pretty good job of recounting the stories of the U-2, A-11, and a bit about the the SR-71 and F-117. Most of of what is discussed in this book has been covered elsewhere, but Ms Jacobsen did interview some of the key players in these programs.She does include some distracting howlers mentioned by other reviewers, such as general officers with 'stars on their chests'.
No, I find the history of the Cold War to be interesting, as I had a bit part in it.
Everything about Roswell, everything about Bob Lazr, everything about 'The Engineer'.
I did not find Ms Jacobsen's reading of her book to be as off-putting as some of the other reviewers, but a professional reader would have done a better job. To give just one example, I got confused when she started about Nassau's space program until I realized she was really just mispronouncing 'NASA'
Ok , Annie, please tell us in a sequel, just how it was that the Russians were
able to transport the Roswell craft close enough to the USA for the landing.
The biggest aircraft the Russians had at the time was a reverse engineered copy
of the Boeing B29, which would have had to make an impossible trip from eastern
Also, if the Russians went to all that trouble, and as secretive and paranoid as they
were, would they be so incompetent as to leave Russian cryillic lettering on components?
The Horten flying wing is not the mystery she claims. In the early 50's, a former
German pilot was winning glider contests all over the US in a restored Horten
Annie Jacobsen has a voice I could easily listen to for 16 hours if she was reading a phonebook let alone a well researched history of a place as fundamentally interesting as Area 51. This is a great read that avoids sensationalism but adresses the most sensational topics surrounding Area 51. The answers provided for questions like "What really happened at Roswell?" are either the truth or the best lies I have heard so far. This is a genuinely fascinating read.
I very much enjoyed the technical and mission oriented focus of this book and found the author to be a compelling narrator. Fortunately, the bulk of this very interesting narrative focuses on the covert aviation technology developed and operated at Groom Lake in the Nevada Desert including the building, testing and deployment of the U2 and the A-12 Oxcart spy planes. The A-12 Oxcart program was the actual workhorse of the high speed, high altitude fleet of spy planes often mistaken for the more widely known SR-71 Blackbird. The technical and mission differences between these aircraft variants are discussed. Most of this book is a work of investigative journalism backed up by extensive documentary analysis and interviews. Towards the end, the author wanders off the path of fact and carefully reasoned analysis into the weeds of conjecture and speculation regarding the Roswell "UFO" incident. The author admits that the information presented is based on a single human source and, as presented, is bizarre enough to rival the usual UFO conspiracies. Fortunately, this comprises a small part of the story of Area 51 and even seems to differs in tone and structure from rest of the book. It may be nothing more than the publisher wanting to open up sales to the conspiracy theorist market. Still, I found it easy enough to set that portion aside and focus on the well presented history of engineers, pilots and crews that pushed the boundaries of technology to new heights as they pursued long-range recon missions testing the endurance and abilities of men and machines. The long and dangerous U2 and A-12 missions provided essential information that very likely kept the Cold War cold and prevent unnecessary excalation into a World (and very probably nuclear) War. Highly recommended for readers interested in aviation, engineering, military, covert operations and the geopolitical impact of these efforts. Absent the UFO portion I would have rated 5-stars.
Say something about yourself!
Although its not what the world wants to hear. Facts are facts. of course there are always big fish stories. its a very good history. I was there in the 80's and all the UFO hype is such a joke. and its cool my stuff is in this book makes me bias,,, I earned it! No I was not interviewed I would not be interviewed but the book is great. one review says about many things not being so like rank on chest,,, unless you were there you would not know the rank on a flight suite then was on a tear off patch on your chest so satellites could not pick up who's who on shoulder rank. so to that guy do your homework before you give it a bad review