Weird doings are afoot, aliens are among us and so is Raytheon—all stories that figure in Los Angeles Times Magazine contributing editor Jacobsen’s supremely odd book on that most classified of American military installations.

Acting on tips and leads by those who were there, the same kinds of fighter jocks and spam-in-a-can aeronauts that figure in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, Jacobsen set out a few years ago to uncover what could be uncovered about Area 51, the huge military/intelligence base in the desert of southern Nevada. Huge is right—it’s “just a little smaller than the state of Connecticut”—and it’s carved into subdomains so secret that one agency, whether the CIA or the Air Force or the Atomic Energy Commission, often doesn’t know what the next one is doing. Indeed, Vice President Johnson didn’t know about Area 51 until after he became president—and we can guess that Joe Biden hasn’t been briefed on the odd things that happen there. Famously, as Jacobsen notes, Area 51 has been associated with UFOs, and some of the earliest sightings thereof, beginning in 1947, have taken place in or near the facility. As for the spooky-faced aliens so beloved of X-Files fans and so feared by the Whitley Strieber fans in the audience? Well, the big news in Jacobsen’s book is…no, it’d be stealing her thunder, and perhaps inviting a probe, to say much in specific, except to say that the grays are real, if tinged red. Jacobsen’s expansive, well-written narrative takes in the sweep of Cold War history, from the Bay of Pigs to Francis Gary Powers to Joe Stalin to Vietnam to the Nazi doctors pressed into service by U.S. and USSR alike—and none of it is pretty. As readers will see, it’ll be hard to double-check Jacobsen’s reporting, so leaps of faith are required. But Jacobsen provides an endlessly fascinating—and quite scary—book.


Pub Date: May 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-13294-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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