The Most Famous Top-Secret Place on Earth

Cover: Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie JacobsenArea 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base / Annie Jacobsen

I don’t believe in those big-headed, squat-bodied extra-terrestrials with the unhealthy interest in the lower reaches of the human intestinal tract. Yes, I do suppose someone is out there, if only because the place is so big the laws of probability demand it. I just figure they are not in the habit of venturing into the vast vacuum of space for a cocktail or two with the boys, then, after a few too many, ending up in Iowa making crop circles in some hapless farmer’s field of sorghum.

So it wasn’t the prospect of finally getting the skinny on the U. S. government’s menagerie of intergalactic castaways that got me reading Jacobsen’s book. I just wanted someone other than those sad little whack-jobs and smarmy fear-merchants from Coast-to-Coast with Art Bell to address the subject.

In Jacobsen's telling, Area 51 was, and is, the spawning ground of America’s tippy-topmost top secret technology-- from Manhattan Project-era nuclear testing to ever more intrusive satellite surveillance and good old-fashioned black ops. The little green (actually gray) men do make an appearance, but they are far from the focus of the book. Instead it is a straight-ahead, well-researched and documented piece of reporting on very terrestrial, but just as mysterious—and frankly frightening—forms of life.