Saturday, January 05, 2008

BOOK: Donald Keyhoe, "Flying Saucers from Outer Space"

Donald E. Keyhoe: Flying Saucers from Outer Space. London: Tandem, 1970. (First ed.: NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1954.) 256 pp.

I first heard of Keyhoe some time ago when I found an e-text of his 1950 book, The Flying Saucers Are Real, on the web site. Apparently its copyright had not been renewed and it ended up in the public domain. I found it readable enough (if not terribly exciting), so when I recently noticed Keyhoe's Flying Saucers from Outer Space for sale cheaply on eBay, I decide to give this second book a try as well.

Flying Saucers from Outer Space is very much a sequel of The Flying Saucers are Real; they are both written in the more or less the same style and use the same investigative approach. Keyhoe keeps on tirelessly running around and interviewing people from various governmental agencies, chiefly the Air Force; he is constantly pestering them for more information, asking them to release documents and reports, etc. Many of these conversations are then reported practically verbatim in this book, in a suitably colloquial 1950s style with a sprinkling of military lingo here and there. Thus it isn't so much a story of ‘these are the facts about the UFOs’ but rather ‘this is how I investigated the UFOs’. I found this style of writing rather boring and I couldn't even be bothered to remember who exactly his interviewee is at any given point.

The gist of the story is that Keyhoe has no doubts that the UFOs are flying saucers from outer space, and he's trying to find out how much the Air Force and similar agencies know about them, and how they intend to present this information to the public. He finds that the opinion in these agencies is divided; some people there believe that the UFOs are flying saucers, others believe that they are just optical illusions; and those who believe that these are saucers then disagree among themselves as to how much of this should be told to the public, and how, so as not to cause a panic. Throughout most of the book, the upper hand clearly belongs to the side that wants to downplay the flying saucer theory and to reassure the public that nothing unusual is going on. However, at the very end (ch. 14), the Air Force sends Keyhoe's publishers an official statement that practically amounts to admitting that the UFOs are from outer space (p. 244). Keyhoe ends the book with an epilogue calling upon the government to honestly share its knowledge of the UFOs with the public and to step up its investigation of this phenomenon.

The UFO incidents described in this book are mostly fairly sober, as far as such things go — no lurid abductions and the like; most of the cases involve UFOs (of various shapes and sizes) that were observed by pilots and often also by radar operators. From the radar sightings, it was sometimes possible to estimate their speed, which could go up to 10,000 mph; the accelerations were likewise very impressive and well beyond the reach of human technology. It would seem that the UFOs have a particular interest in military facilities, especially nuclear ones.

Keyhoe also includes some discussion about what the intentions of the UFOs may be. He presents several possible explanations without quite committing to any of them (which I think is commentable): they may be hostile, and reconnoitring for an attack; they may be friendly, trying to assess the situation before making contact; they may be looking for a planet to colonize, perhaps because their own is becoming uninhabitable; or they may be merely disinterested observers, just trying to see how humankind is progressing technologically.

An interesting reminder of how strong the cold-war paranoia was in the 1950s appears in Keyhoe's epilogue (p. 246), where he mentions, as another argument in favour of informing the public of the extraterrestrial origin of the UFOs, the possibility that the Soviet Union (which would soon “be able to stage a mass A-bomb attack”) “[b]y starting false rumours of Russian saucer attacks, they might cause stampedes from cities, block defence highways, and paralyse communications just before an A-bomb raid”!

All in all, I found this book fairly boring and didn't particularly enjoy reading it, mainly because of the style — a long series of interviews, press conferences, and UFO incidents. In a way it's nice to be able to follow Keyhoe just as he is investigating these things, but I personally am really not that interested in the course of his investigation, just in the results.

For me, the best thing about its book was that it mentions many sober UFO sightings. I still think it's unlikely that we are being visited by extraterrestrials, but I nevertheless cannot help wondering what is the explanation behind the sightings described here. Surely they cannot all be explained away by hallucinations, optical illusions and deceit.

Anyway, before buying this or any other Keyhoe book I suggest that you take a look at the free on-line text of his Flying Saucers are Real to find out if you enjoy his style.

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Anonymous jin said...

My friend, you have been bewitched by all this sorcery and aliens. I fear for your ewternal soul. Read the Bible instead, so the good Lord can save you in time!!! :)

Ok, only kidding

Monday, January 14, 2008 4:18:00 PM  
Blogger ill-advised said...

Five words, my friend:

God Drives A Flying Saucer!!!


P.S. I realize that my reading is a bit paranormality-heavy lately, but in my defense (1) I bought approx. 20 of these books really cheaply :) (2) they don't take much time to read, even if I'm sleepy, and (3) they are sometimes amusingly bizarre :)

Monday, January 14, 2008 9:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent review! I agree. I was an Air Force officer for 32 years. One quarter of that was spent flying and one half was served as an intelligence officer, with very high security clearances. There was never any information related to UFOs that would support an extra-terrestrial theory.
The U in UFO means unidentified. There is no E for extra-terrestrial.

Friday, July 17, 2009 9:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Doc vega said...

Having read, Aliens in Space, I would observe that Keyhoe was adroit at correlating data and coming up with some shocking conclusions about the Air Force's potentially disastrous pursuit policies when the Cold War was in full swing and the super powers were locked in a race to grab superior technology. I found the book to be riveting in its sheer weight of high ranking officer testimony in validating the existence of UFO's. Great Read!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 9:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doc Vega said...

This review typifies in my mind the sheer disinterest of the critic and his lack attention to detail besides it's always easy to do a hack job on someone who id dead. I read this book not long after it was released in a very different environment than today when government suppression of such information was formidable, in it's time this book was a huge breakthrough but that mere fact is lost upon those who do reviews and are oblivious to fact and don't do their homework either.Why even bother to do a review if you are so biased against the subject? You have no objectivity and your work is unprofessional. By the way, the former Air Force officers entry is probably a troll from the reviewer as well as I have interviewed pilots myself who don't share this Air Force man's incredible obliviousness to the subject. In summary, there is a difference between a book review and a bungled literary job, and you bungled it my friend.

Sunday, July 24, 2011 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous UFOBLVR said...

Doc Vega got it right. The former Air force soldiers comment is sheer bs. There is no doubt that these visits ARE extraterrestrial. The preponderance of evidence through through eyewitness accounts supported by radar is not explainable using natural phenomenon, end of story. The only question now is when we will know. I am amazed how this has been kept at this level of understanding for so long...a testimony to Air Force secrecy threat.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 7:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keyhoe's style is rather bland but I think he is writing the story as he investigated it without the sensational aspect that many other authors use. Many high ranking military types have told their story and the evidence points to the fact that many ufo incidents are unusual and the fact that the military are not apparently conducting proper investigations into it means that either they truely don't know and don't care what is going on or they know but don't want to tell us.

Friday, March 30, 2012 4:19:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

The secrecy group of military and gov contractors fought hard to discredit Major Keyhoe and both of his books so he wroth another in 1955 "The Flying Saucer conspiracy" explaing just what he went through. Then as now there is way too much information and reliable sightings for something that doesn't exist. Col Corso's story "The day after Roswell" goes hand in hand with Keyhoe's books. I know Corso has been trashed because he said the microchip and lazars and fiber optics were a result of his giving stuff from the crash to contractors but I think he really gave them stuff and they didn't know what to do with it, the when we invented those things he went Aha that must have been what that junk was. Except for that the book was accurate and he had no reason to lie in his last days.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 7:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Brennan said...

We don't take 'anonymous' seriously about anything, the guy who said he was in the air force for thirty; kehoe was for real and ufos exist and you can be sure that the air force believes in them and whoever doesn't is mentally sick...those sightings that are real, less than ten percent, are interplanetary in origin and i've been researching this stuff for some fifty years.

Friday, August 05, 2016 6:43:00 PM  

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