An engrossing work on unearthly visitors, written for the nonbeliever. Bryan (Friendly Fire, 1976, etc.) embarks on this account as a skeptic, but his deeply affecting chronicle is remarkable for its balance of journalistic distance with compassion for individuals who, whatever actually happened to them, have clearly been traumatized. Bryan uses a five-day conference at MIT to introduce us to a cast of characters that includes psychiatrists, researchers, ""ufologists,"" and abductees -- or, as many prefer to be called, ""experiencers."" Significant among them are John Mack, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard who treats abductees (and wrote last year's Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens); Richard Boylan, an anthropologist and psychologist crusading to open government files on extraterrestrial life; Budd Hopkins, who researches and runs support groups for abductees; and science journalist Linda Moulton Howe, one of the book's most lucid voices. (She made a documentary about possible links between bloodless animal mutilations and UFO sightings.) Bryan allows the participants to speak more or less independently of his own narration, as he outlines the flux in how experts deal with the topic. Abduction stories have often been seen as screen memories for childhood sexual and satanic ritual abuse, to which they bear great resemblance. Bryan even suggests in passing that the reverse might be the case. While he concludes that the abductees believe what they are saying, he is not on a crusade for the truth but rather to engage readers in this strangely compelling subject. But sometimes it goes on for too long;, the author rambles towards the end, and the abduction accounts begin to read like other people's dreams -- interesting only if we can get a handle on what they might mean. Despite these problems, a highly enjoyable and thoughtful introduction to the subject.