on September 5, 1999
This is surprisingly one of the best books I have read. The authors give a colorfully accurate account of the events that occured decades ago, all of which still echo into our current era. It covers the origin of LSD, as a drug the CIA funded research on for use as a tool for mind control applications using civilians and military personnel as test subjects. At the very outset, it was obvious that the CIA was well aware of the potential power of this substance in its ability to wreak havoc on the collective psyche, to shatter current assumptions and threaten cherished ego boundaries. Yet, eventually it became available to the masses who would come to extol it's use religiously and otherwise.....giving rise to the groundswell of counterculture in the 60's. This book, more than any other source I have encountered, explores the underlying causes of the demise of the cultural/political/self re-evolution of that time and gives us pause to reflect on the politics of consciousness - to see who really won The War Of The Mind. Proof again that truth <however relative> is stranger than fiction. Be informed.........read this book.
on January 7, 2001
This one caught me by surprise. It's not the stuffy this-is-all-the-bad-stuff-that-happened textbook I expected, but rather a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable study of LSD and the CIA's role in the cultural and political maelstrom of the 1960s. Over the past thirty years, from Watergate to Zippergate, Americans have learned that their government is capable of some pretty amazing shenanigans. That helps what we read in this book seem more plausible. What Lee and Shlain document in Acid Dreams, with an impressive volume of research, is the CIA's enormous effort to develop mind-control methods. These included various psychedelic drugs--with LSD topping the list--hypnosis, and more. The potential uses of such control range from military to civilian--and to downright bizarre. For example, they discuss the unresolved question--in some minds--of whether Sirhan Sirhan was actually a CIA-created murdering automaton, a drug-and-hypnosis-induced killer, programmed to kill Robert Kennedy.
Some the things they reveal are far-fetched and may be impossible to ever prove one way or another, but there's plenty more that is incontrovertible. And everything in the book is interesting. Acid Dreams adds a fresh and wonderful perspective on this aspect of our recent history. A more recent book called "Hepcats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams," provides a complimentary education on this topic, covering a broader history of illegal drugs throughout America's past. Readers who enjoy Acid Dreams may want to follow up with this one.--Christopher Bonn Jonnes, author of Wake Up Dead.
In 1969, the year of Woodstock, I was 16 years old. Acid Dreams actually takes us back, back, much further to the beginnings of the LSD phenomenon in America in the fifties, through the turbulent sixties, and beyond. I was completely mesmerized by energy and enthusiasm Lee injects into his prose. The history of the Baby Boom generation is not one to be dismissed lightly, as many try to do, especially those in positions of corporate power who would rather forget that "tune in, turn on, drop out," meant a diversion *away* from the great American past time...shopping, consumerism, and corporate profit! If you aren't old enough to remember these times, and if you didn't learn about them in school (and I'll just bet you didn't!) this book should be mandatory reading in every high school! Because it condones and encourages the use of drugs? NO! Because it encourages critical thinking, questioning authority, and looking long and hard at the "war against drugs," which is nothing more, and nothing less, than a war for the *control* of who is going to make the money off them. That's not what LSD was about when it got away from the Government...for it was the Government that first brought LSD to these shores in an effort to control people to begin with. It flew in their faces as they watched the younger generation make it their own flight to freedom. The psychotic breakdowns of bad trips were largely scare tactics designed to put control back in the hands of the "experts" who originally "tabbed" thousands of people in this country without their knowledge and/or consent, which, with LSD, *creates* the paranoia of the "bad trip." With LSD, awareness and environment and the people you are with mean everything in terms of how it affects your ability to perceive the possibilities within you. Yes, I took LSD back then. I treated it with respect and when I had the time and the support to know I was safe. After reading this book, I am sad that it took the political turns it did, for it had so much potential, particularly in the therapeutic setting, where many doctors and patients found it mutually beneficial. If you didn't know that, that's just one reason of many to read this book! While I wasn't part of the core of the "revolutionary movement" of the sixties, I was aware enough to know that we *had* something, something *important* that needed to be said and heard, and in a desperate grasp to get a handle on it, I found the sweet taste of it in Acid Dreams. I am pleasantly surprised, and thrilled to feel reassured that there is hope left in a world that is so rapidly becoming globally Corporate. Let us not go quietly into that good night!
on July 19, 2002
Let me jump on the hype-this-book bandwagon...
Amazing! It's been said, "If you can remember the 60's you weren't there." Well, Lee and Shlain in _Acid Dreams_ not only take us back but provide an accurate, entertaining, and well-documented chronicle of government abuse of power and, once more, of the CIA's sinister involvement.
In these post-9-11 times when the current administration wants to unleash bureaucratic watchdogs on its citizens in the name of the "war on terror" this history book should alert us to what can happen when government agencies are set upon us unrestrained by checks and balances.
This history of "the CIA, LSD and the Sixites rebellion" is nothing less than a kaleidoscopic tour that not only names, but documents the outrageous actions of, the major players of the day from CIA Director Richard Helms to Timothy Leary to the messianic street alchemists who wished to bring instant enlightenment to the masses.
Whereas the CIA wished to conduct mind-control experiments on unsuspecting human guinea pigs, the underground rebels simply wished to expand minds.
Although many many infamous and not so infamous individuals are interwoven in this highly readable narrative from Dr. Albert Hoffman to Captain Alfred M. Hubbard to Abbie Hoffman to Charles Manson to Ken Kesey and Tim Scully the real characters are the CIA, LSD itself, and the Sixties! What a concept!
According to this richly documented and indexed (wow-the other reviewers are right-on;a hell of a reading list in its own right!) book, nothing of significance in the 60's was untouched for better or for worse by acid:The Free Speech Movement, the Vietnam war, campus demonstrations, the Nixon presidency, Ginsberg, Dylan, and the Beatles.
For instance, it's ghastly to read that Nixon seriously considered nuking North Vietnam but reconsidered due to the acid(?) energized youth that marched, protested, demonstrated, and risked violent police rioting to stop the war. Did LSD prevent another Hiroshima?
It's disgusting to read the elitist condescension by the very influential Clare Booth Luce (yes, of Time-Life) a tripper who believed acid should remain 'in the ruling class' and explained, "we wouldn't want everyone doing too much of a good thing."
It is, however, a pleasure and refreshing to read a book that debunks quite a few myths, distortions and outright lies about LSD spread by the government and other unscientific sources.
Only one other history book has excited me as much as _Acid Dreams_, William H. McNeill's slender volume _The Shape of European History._
Were it up to me I, too, would urge every single high school student to read _Acid Dreams_. It is a cautionary history that deserves to be not just read but preserved and remembered. I am 51, I think I was there, and the memory of some of the events still sends shivers down my spine.
Somebody was THERE, Martin A Lee and Bruce Shlain tell all, and _Acid Dreams_ eliminates page by page any excuses for historical amnesia.
on June 22, 2006
I can't give this book 5 stars because it doesn't shed any light on a subject that has been well documented by the likes of Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, and Jay Stephens, among others. What it does exceptionally well, something those authors fail at, is that it brings many things together in a tight narrative which merges elements of the Leary following, Kesey's Merry Pranksters, the New Left, countless other interesting personalities of the time, as well as the CIA, a somewhat surprising player in this scene.
Another admirable trait is the objective, non-judgmental stance by the authors regarding LSD and those who used it. The authors freely point out the eye-opening potential of the explosive drug while not being afraid to say this is often a transitory and illusory effect. They laud the potential of medicinal use, while starkly pointing out that the Haight-Ashbury scene morphed into a white trash slum at the end of the 1960s. Given these opposite, and accurate, assessments of the drug, it's easy to see the book as a balanced look at the subject matter.
The crowning achievement is the ability of the authors to put ideas and history forward to speak on its own. CIA involvement is not touted as some nefarious and astounding mind-control conspiracy of the late 60s that much of America's youth was being exposed to. Instead, the authors frame it in the context of global espionage and what the CIA was willing to overlook in an attempt to pursue their aims. Much of what is written here just makes sense. And the details of how the CIA went about it are no less explosive knowing that.
I immensely enjoy books that take this perspective, because they do not come off as for or against anything. They choose to tell it like it is, supporting their objectivity with well considered thoughts and ideas on both sides of the fence, presenting it so the reader can take or leave what they desire. From my perspective, the authors rarely (if ever) bend the truth to make an ill-documented point. They don't stress nefarious CIA involvement to sell more books. Because fact is intriguing enough, merely telling the story keeps you riveted.
As I said in the beginning, the only downside is the lack of information I hadn't already read before. That's not to say the book is entirely devoid of anything new, as it does contain elements here and there. Regardless, the book stands as a well written social history of LSD as it pertained to both the CIA and the culture of the time. Fascinating, well-written, and well-researched, this book is certainly worth the time if the subject matter is of interest to you.
You will count yourself experienced after reading this completely fascinating book. Lee and Shlain deliver the social history of LSD, along with the historical forces that shaped it and were shaped by it, with both investigative integrity and a refreshing amount of hip slang. You can't go wrong with a book that combines chemistry, political analysis, and sociology with witticisms like "listen to a digger rap it down" and "that great Dionysian rap dance." This book has it all: top secret government shenanigans, bizarre medical experiments, spooks and infiltrators, beats and hippies, radicals and revolutionaries, international drug cartels, outlandish conspiracy theories (with clarity and a grain of salt), rock n' roll and pop culture. It's all wrapped up in a stirring social history of the United States during the 1950's through 1970's, as the influence of LSD spread far beyond it's origins among chemists and CIA agents.
In addition to Lee and Shlain's completely insightful social history, they also deliver some keen revelations about the US government's shifting attitudes toward drug control, which are rarely based on sound science or medical studies. You'll learn that LSD was once heavily supported by the CIA as a mind control drug, but they disowned it when it hit the black market and inspired a generation of activists and free thinkers. LSD was then outlawed supposedly for public health reasons, but Lee and Shlain give plenty of evidence that these new drug laws were merely a tool of social control to hose down restless young people and nonconformists. The same could probably be said about most other drug laws. This is just one of the many intriguing revelations in this outstanding book. Not unlike its root subject, this book can blow your mind, simply by the power and fascination of the writing and investigation by Lee and Shlain. Highly recommended.
on December 12, 2006
This book is perfect - It offered everything I was hoping for when I first purchased it. It covered from the end of the 50's and the Beat generation and how their influence lead into the hippie generation, and it ended in the early 70's tying in the beginning of rock and punk. It is a true spectrum of the 1960's counterculture generation.
It's a large book but its facinating to learn about the history and the culture. Like previous reviewers said, it really ties up everyhting and clearly shows the correalation between the drug counterculture and the govn't & society during that time period. I was born in the 80's and this book really showed me alot about the 60's counterculture and the attitudes towards drug use and young people during that time. I can see alot of correalations between that era with Vietnam as the war that they were protesting versus todays war in Iraq and the amount of US citizens that are against it.
The author also goes into government policies at the time and conspiricys and covert CIA and classified documents. I was amazed by the actions of the CIA and thetesting of LSD on unsuspecting American citizens. It is like the stuff movies are made of but it really happened! Truly and amazing and interesting book - I could not put it down. I reccomend it to everyone, regardless of your view on LSD or drug counterculture - a true wealth of information on 1960's America.
on July 29, 2000
i am 14 years old. therefore i wasn't there in the 60s, and was actually only about 2 feet tall when this book was written, but i got it from the library to read on an overseas plane flight and i was blown away. from the disturbing CIA expirements to Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters to the 68 democratic convention, this book has it all. a good read whether you were there or not.
on October 10, 2015
This is a must read for those wanting to know the history about LSD. I lived in California (1966-1970) when all this was going on, so I was one of those hippies passing out flowers on Haight-Ashbury. It discusses how the CIA was obsessed about LSD. It goes into discussing Timothy Leary, a professor at Berkley, who coined the term, "Tune In-Turn On-Drop Out." Leary had be-ins or love-ins and gave LSD to people to trip on. It mentions Abby Hoffman and the Yuppies. It gives the name of the man who discovered LSD and the man who first brought LSD to America. Here is some info on LSD. Augustus Owsley Stanley III was the undisputed KING of the illicit LSD trade. Haight-Ashbury was the world's original psychedelic supermarket, the place where acid was first sold on a mass scale. Owsley first produced LSD in a powder form that could be put in gelatin capsules. Then he sold it in a liquid form ("Mother's Milk") tinted light blue so that distributors could keep track of which sugar cubes had been spiked. But it was hard to control the dosage with those two methods. So Owsley invested in a professional pill press and soon he started dyeing his tablets a different color each time he turned out a new shipment. So that is how people came up with the terms of, "Orange Sunshine," There was no difference in the tablets as each contained a carefully measured 250 micrograms. The LSD that was put out then was PURE and not filled with speed or any of the chemicals that are found in acid today. LSD back then was so smooth that when you came onto it you thought you had died and went to heaven. The first time I tried it I pinched myself to make sure that I was still on earth. The LSD that is out there today is something to laugh at. It is not really LSD.
on February 12, 2014
This is a great book about government abuse of citizens, military, mental patients and even each other in the interest of learning to control people. The book reads very smoothly and is hard to put down.