Do you believe in UFO's? I'm still on the fence, to be honest. It's like ghosts and mediums and crop circles ... I'm sure that 99% of them are all hoaxes but some of them just seem totally strange and inexplicable. Even if just 1% can't be explained away, that's still a lot of incidents that still have no rational explanation. When I saw that there were two UFO books up for review, I decided to request them to see if they'd help me make my mind up either way.
First up was Midwest UFOs and Beyond by Tom Baker (does it make it extra freaky that he shares his name with one of the Dr Who actors ?!). Tom Baker is a believer, but he is also very objective and says from the off that many UFO stories aren't true - they may be deliberate hoaxes or hallucinations or genuine mistakes. But even these non-stories make interesting reading so he includes some of them in his book.
What seemed a bit strange to me was that for the first six chapters, there is no focus at all on the Midwest. The author takes a look at UFOs in ancient history and the very dawn of tales of aliens. This got a bit heavy-going in parts and I would have preferred to jump straight in with the "tales of the unexpected" from the Midwest that I was looking forward to discovering. From Chapter 6 onwards, he does deliver though, and a large catalogue of unexplainable incidents, from strange flashing lights to full on encounters and even alien abductions, follows. They're presented in a very concise, factual manner, reading almost like police reports or "in brief" newspaper articles, all with dates and places. Some are only a short paragraph, others extend over a couple of pages, but we are given the bare bones - there is no story-telling and scene-setting, so it's up to you to take the facts and decide what you want to believe. I did feel that I would have liked a bit more fleshing out and atmospheric descriptions to get me in the right mood and mindset, maybe even a few photos. If you live in the Midwest, it's probably more interesting because you would know some of the place names, but I did start to lose interest towards the end.
By contrast, UFOs Above PA by Gerard J. Medvec and Mark Sarro goes more the other way. We get the photos (not of anything even vaguely extraterrestrial but the locations they reportedly took place in) and longer stories, covering a few pages each, adding atmospheric descriptions of feelings and personal background. The authors take us by the hand and bring us into their world of believers, rather than leaving us at the door to decide whether or not to enter. I would have liked more precise detail about when and where the different incidents took place though. In this book, the authors clearly state that they present nothing but the true UFO stories that they believe in, anything that seems like a hoax is filtered out. They do have an interesting point too - as they say, UFO's, as the term is properly intended, DEFINITELY do exist, there is absolutely no doubt that certain flying objects remain unidentified, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are in the slightest other-worldly or extra-terrestrial.
So there you have it. Do I believe any more now than when I started? In a word, no. Some of the stories seem so bizarre that they're almost laughable, resembling a low budget 1950's sci-fi movie. But others, often the less impressive, more discreet ones, do give you food for thought. I think you definitely need to be at least an open-minded sceptic to really appreciate the books.
MIDWEST UFOS & BEYOND Paperback – 28 Jul 2013 - by Tom Baker (Author)
RRP : £13.99
UFOS ABOVE PA Paperback – 28 Jun 2013 - by Gerard J. Medvec (Author), Mark Sarro (Author)
RRP : £13.99
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