... fascinating, troubling, compassionate and — in the end — deeply thoughtful ... Dickey uses such incidents not merely to tell good campfire stories but to illustrate their shared darker themes — a deep distrust of science and government, amplified both by self-promoters and by conspiracy lovers. And he notes that scientific arrogance and excessive government secrecy have fueled these fires ... There’s nothing startlingly new or transformative in these conclusions. But Dickey’s sense of history reminds us of the complex reasons our odder beliefs endure. It’s not that we necessarily want weirdness, he suggests, but we do want wonder, we want the freedom of possibility. So there’s beauty and even comfort in the idea of 'a world beyond our understanding, a world we can glimpse here and there but never fully see.'
These are very broad historiographical strokes, and Dickey is much more inventive where his subject is narrower and more recent. But he is right to ask: How did these shocks play out in the American context? ... With so many outrageous lies in mainstream currency, Dickey’s focus on aliens feels almost beside the point. But, although he declines to write directly about the conspiracy theories that helped elect our ludicrous outsider of a president, it’s impossible not to draw a parallel between the classic conspiracy theorist’s fear-driven fantasies and the 'Birther' wave Trump himself promulgated during Barack Obama’s time in office ... As popular histories go, The Unidentified is unusually terrifying, like one long gesture at an unspeakable truth Dickey is unable to express directly: the paranoid crisis afflicting American culture is exactly as bad as it seems.
... a thoughtful, searching book about people’s deep investment in unexplained phenomena ... forthright about its thesis and develops it further ... The point of Dickey’s journeying is never to prove eyewitnesses and believers wrong, although he acknowledges that he experienced nothing extraordinary himself during his travels. The point is to find out what drives the faithful ... By treating the iconography of the weird as an equal-opportunity bin of elements to be combined with postmodern abandon, the artist of the weird rebels against what passes for expertise in cryptid and UFO research. What results is a collage that cheerfully announces the meaninglessness of its subject.
Here, he hits the road again, this time turning his critical and clever eye on enduring stories about strange beasts, alien visitors and other oddities. In this compelling historical and cultural analysis of human nature, in terms of where myths come from and why they persist, Dickey cites the historians, credible or otherwise, who have made conspiracy theories and UFOs their life’s work, and shares his take on their motives and popularity ... engaging and impressively researched.
... so much more than a catalogue of the weird; Dickey positions these creatures against discussion of science and exploration, and, importantly, the role of colonization and the erasure or co-opting of native beliefs ... Meticulously researched and written, this is the grown-up version of the mysteries of the unknown books that were cultishly popular with children in previous generations. Perfect for the skeptics and believers alike.
Dickey succeeds in informing and entertaining his audience with his sense of wonder, rather than frightening them ... As a fascinating blend of history and the strangeness of human nature, this book will appeal to readers interested in the sociological aspects of popular folklore.
... a fascinating expedition through fringe belief and theory ... With a wry tone and incisive analysis, Dickey explores how these stories have developed alongside the country through scientific innovations, evolving frontiers, changing ideas about race, and more. Readers will find this to be a thought-provoking and deliciously unsettling guide into the stranger corners of American culture.
Here, the author allows his Fort-ean subjects no quarter, eschewing the paranormal in favor of a steadfast adherence to earthbound explanations of the unknown ... Any true sense of wonder that the author exhibits is aimed at often inscrutable characters like Tom Slick, Charles Fort, and Madam Blavatsky, some of the leading purveyors of extraordinary hokum through the decades. An intriguing mix of myths and monsters that lacks much of the inherent fun but should appeal to UFO and Bigfoot watchers.