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Dreamland: Travels Inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51 Hardcover – July 21, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

Dreamland is journalist Phil Patton's chronicle of his road trip into the low deserts and dry lakes of southern Nevada in search of the truth (which, presumably, is Out There). It's a cultural history of the cold war, a psychoanalysis of the military, and an unswerving look at our fascination for UFOs. What happened at Roswell in the 1940s? What is the Air Force doing out at Area 51? Whether you join the "youfers," and decide that genuine aliens are here, doing their inexplicable thing, or the "Interceptors," who desperately seek sightings of stealth planes, or "black aircraft," you'll need to camp at the perimeters of the vast desert wildernesses set aside for secrecy to do your research. Patton explores the edges (and sometimes the insides) of these strange, lonely places in the same way he examines the psyches and motives of the people who inhabit them--with bemused semiobjectivity. Patton seems to be saying that human weirdness is roomy enough to encompass everything, from UFOs to top-secret military planes to global atomic destruction. He writes of Dreamland: "I came to believe that its legend and lore, its language and paradoxes, provided a strange and yet appropriate time capsule of a half century of cold war and black secrecy. Here, the cultures of nuclear power and airpower merged with the folklores of extraterrestrials and earthly conspiracies; their interference patterns formed a moiré of the weird. It was a place from which to see our own planet with the eyes of an outsider." --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

"Dreamland," "Area 51" and "Groom Lake" refer to a military base in Nevada about which the government has maintained a stony silence. Built in the early 1950s, this testing site marked the first flights of U2, SR-71 Blackbird and F-111 Stealth aircraft, and is the subject of wide speculation among ufologists. Patton's (Made in the USA; Voyager) detailed work follows last year's Area 51 by David Darlington. With a mixture of solid research and first-person ruminations, Patton explores a loosely knit community of tech-obsessed sky watchers dubbed "the Interceptors," who are dedicated to unlocking the secrets of Area 51. As opposed to Darlington's earnest but unsophisticated work, Patton makes sure there's enough erudition to make the subject safe for readers of Esquire, where he is a contributing editor. (He compares, for example, military artifacts left in the desert to "an Anthony Caro sculpture.") As he seeks out the often trailer park-based Interceptors (and sub-groups such as the "Stealthers," and "Youfers"), his invocations of Freud, Jung and even "the dreamings of the aboriginal people of Australia" turn the Interceptors' passion into a pat vision of millennial malaise. On the other hand, Patton often succeeds in illuminating military aviation and issues of secrecy, though he cannot offer any substantial revelations on what is or isn't at the base, be it planes that fly at Mach 15 or hidden spacecraft wreckage. Security remains uncompromised. Sixteen pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; 1st edition (August 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679456511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679456513
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,020,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on July 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
The section of the Nellis Air Force base in Nevada labeled "Area 51" continues to fascinate everyone from lovers of military aircraft to UFO buffs, from Cold War military historians to surveyors of the delightfully weird. The American government's dedication to intense secrecy regarding this "Dreamland" further stokes the curiosity of the public. What goes on at this secret research facility out in the middle of the desert? Why are there signs on the borders of the base stating that a person caught trespassing faces a stiff prison sentence and fine? Are there really strange, unexplained lights in the sky over the base or are these supposed sightings of UFOs just test flights for the next generation of high tech aircraft, like the stealth planes of the last two decades? Author Phil Patton decided to examine the aura of mystery surrounding a base that the American government actually denied existed for so many years. What Patton finds is an amazing blend of Cold War philosophy, pop culture, and UFO lore. The only thing stranger than what possibly goes on in the hangers of this base is what goes on outside the fences amongst a quirky collection of conspiracy theorists, UFO buffs, and aircraft enthusiasts.
"Dreamland" is first a history about the American military during the Cold War. Patton discusses in detail the atomic bomb tests in the Nevada desert and their effects on the residents in the area, the colossus of secrecy that emerged in these years surrounding military programs, and the developments of various secret aircraft that led to the construction of this air base in the Nevada wastelands. Several chapters intimately describe the Lockheed Skunk Works and its projects in the desert.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Scott Snyder on June 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you feel that the Cold War years were some sort of bad dream, and you catch yourself wondering what it was all about, this is a great book for waking up. Patton uses Area 51 as an entry into the psychology of the era. The skunk works, strange lights in the sky, the secrecy and paranoia all come together in a sane and down to earth commentary on those times.
I especially enjoyed the history of Area 51, the workings of the Lockhead SkunkWorks, and the story of the U2 and other spy planes. I was distrubed by the book's portrait of Curtis Lemay (of Dr. Strangelove fame)and his nightly bombing raids on American cities. Strange things indeed were happening in the skies. They may still be going on.
Patton's style is on the level and humorous at times, a delight to read. Highly recommended.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Takis Tz. on October 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Ok, for those interested in the subject: if you expect to read all about aliens, conspiracies about strange beings governing from below, strange otherwordly craft being tested, or any such info, well, choose another book if this is what you seek.
If you happen to be a planespotter this book should be precisely right for your money. Furthermore, if you're looking for the purely conventional history of "area 51" then you've hit the bull's eye as well.
But this calls for some specification here. It all comes down to what you're ready to assume, believe, expect. Area 51 may have an unconventional side to it and it may not. This is all extremely open to discussion and anyone who has delved deep into all this phenomenon will know very well that this subject could span to lenghts and depths unimaginable. If it comes down to purely concrete evidence then area 51 remains a blurry subject, more so that other sides of the bigger scheme for which way more evidence exists.
Now, summing it all up, i find the cover of this book ridiculously misleading. Why put an alien on the cover if this precisely what you are NOT talking about inside this book??? This alone, leads me to thoughts it shouldnt lead me, it puts me in suspicion about the motives of the author. If you're going to go on for 400 some pages explaining that all that area 51 is is a secret giant facility for testing secret (but earthling made!) aircraft than what's with the alien hint on the cover mr.Patton?
I found myself reading an extremely interesting book about the history of fighting aircraft, stealth aircraft, cold war intrigues, test pilots of dangerous aircraft etc. For this i rate this book highly.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book provides lots of insight as to why people find Area 51 so fascinating, but doesn' really draw any conclusions.
Phil Patton interviews every type of person interested in the workings of the Air Force's facility at Groom Lake, from aviation buffs to "youfers," all the while maintaining objectivity. He doesn't seek to judge the conspiracty theorists, but rather gives a basic history of black projects in general and Area 51 in particular.
I found it an easy and fun read. If you're at all interested in the United States' most secret military facility, black projects or secret aircraft, this is a good read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By JPC on August 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Dreamland is a fun read, thanks to Phil Patton's entertaining writing style and his dogged willingness to uncover the mysteries surrounding Area 51. It's also an important book in the sense that we finally have a credible investigation into the complex and elusive world of Area 51 - a world that Patton coins as "Dreamland." However, don't be fooled into believing that Dreamland supports any of the conspiracy theorist claims. In fact, much of Patton's findings do more to debunk them.

Patton's admirable efforts to gather as much empirical data on far-reaching claims of the existence UFOs inside Area 51 often and invariably lead him into very murky water. However, seeing this through the eyes of a journalist, you get the sense that the "youfers" and the higher-profile witnesses of UFOs are just plain full of baloney. Never once during Patton's campaign to find the hidden truth is the author surprised, amazed or taken aback by any tangible evidence or revelations.

Though it's no fault of Patton's, the lack of any shred of stirring evidence of the existence of UFO's in Dreamland makes this book just a tad anticlimactic. In this vein, I disagree with some other reviews of this book. For example, the back cover says, "Reviewers have applauded Dreamland as brilliant, fascinating, weird, wonderful, sometimes spooky, curiously epic, frequently humorous, and always entertaining." In fact, Patton's closing statement - the final sentence of the book, seems to contradict this notion: "...This seemed appropriate, but as with so much in Dreamland, it proved impossible to determine conclusively." (Patton pg 299). There's not much in Patton's findings that would leave a reader spooked or fascinated.
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