In his review James McConnachie says UFO believers will not like this book, ‘it is not a classic debunking. David Clarke is too subtle and warm for that’ but it is ‘a good book…it pulls off being sceptical, respectful and dry…’
‘Clarke, who has a PhD in folklore, insists that everything is “perceived through the distorting prism of popular culture”. Before flying saucers there were phantom rockets, winged airships and fiery celestial chariots, as seen by the biblical prophet Ezekiel. Postwar UFO sightings aped prewar science fiction. In the 1950s and 1960s, everyone saw saucer-like shapes. (The “saucer” image derives from a misreporting in a newspaper: ‘”Why would aliens redesign the appearance of their craft,” Clarke demands, “to conform to a mistake by a journalist?”) From the late 1970s, people saw huge, hovering black triangles with pulsing corner lights, “strikingly similar” to the opened image of the 1977 film Star Wars.’
Meanwhile Marcus Berkmann, reviewing the book for the Daily Mail, said the great question ‘is, as it always has been, are little green men from distant planets visiting Earth or is it all a load of hooey?’ He goes on to say:
‘Dr David Clarke, academic and folklorist, has been asking himself this since he was a child. What he is interested in though, is the way in which the idea of the UFO has seeped into our lives and culture…the word he specifically uses is ‘myth‘ – not to mean that it’s untrue, but that it’s a story, unverified and possibly unverifiable, that millions of people have come to believe.’
Elsewhere Peter Rogerson in the Magonia Review of Books says, he ‘found this a really refreshing change after reading one naïve UFO book after another, and happy at last to read one which Magonia can wholeheartedly recommend.’
‘In this book…Britain’s leading ufologist, through his personal reminiscences and interviews provides a portrait of the rise of the UFO mythology. He recounts how seeing a (particularly dire) UFO documentary sparked his interest in the subject…In the end David Clarke comes down firmly in the psycho-social camp.. It’s important not to confuse this psycho-social approach with simple debunking. It does not take the view that because UFO reports are essentially human documents and are in some sense or another products of the human imagination they are of no interest and can be just thrown away. Rather it argues that their roots in the human imagination is exactly why they are interesting and important.’
Blogger Andrew May makes a similar point in his review for Brian Clegg’s Popular Science. In How UFOs Conquered the World May says ‘Dr Clarke focuses on what he calls the UFO syndrome: ‘the entire human phenomenon of seeing UFOs, believing in them and communicating ideas about what they might be’:
‘…This isn’t a book for UFO believers, who will see it as a systematic attempt to kick over all their carefully constructed sandcastles. The fact is, however, that Clarke doesn’t kick over any sandcastles at all – he simply looks at them with closer scrutiny than their builders would like. To continue the metaphor, it’s a book for people who are prepared to admire sandcastles without needing to make-believe they’re real castles. If you’re the sort of person who would never dream of buying a book with ‘UFO’ in the title – this is the one that ought to change your mind.’
Author Jenny Randles – a former director of investigations for the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) – says of it:
‘….This book is primarily about the effect that the widespread belief in UFOs has had on our society – because whatever else is, or is not, true then that effect is profound. Since famed psychologist Carl Jung penned a book on the subject in the late 1950s we have been in need of a modern appraisal from someone who knows both the facts and how to read the signs. Now we have just that.
The world is awash with UFO books and the net an unregulated morass of web sites and chat forums dedicated to believing in six million impossible things before breakfast. This book is not one of these. It is free of jargon and is a highly intelligent look at a mysterious phenomenon that has insidiously invaded the consciousness of our world. It is one of the most illuminating and interesting books on the subject in years.
After you have read it then you may not find the UFO phenomenon to be quite so mysterious but you could very possibly consider it to be even more fascinating.’
In his reader review from Amazon, Andy Owens says:
‘A triumph of investigative journalism and logical reasoning. David Clarke is the John Pilger of ufology. Like Jon Ronson and Louis Theroux, the author reveals human nature to be far more fascinating than anything extra-terrestrial. Read any book about UFOs – but read this first. Should be on every ufologist’s bookshelf. One of the few books to have changed my way of thinking.’