I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised by The Field Guide to UFOs by Dennis Stacy and Patrick Huyghe. At first glance, the book looks rather meager compared to many other works of the genre. It is also tempting to dismiss the book, which features many illustrations, as your garden variety rehashing of some old stories intended to make a buck for the authors. In retrospect I feel these initial impressions were misleading, and that this piece was an enjoyable, worthwhile read.
The theme of this book is, as the title suggests, a field guide to unidentified flying objects. In the introductory chapter, the authors outline previous attempts to classify UFOs throughout modern history. They also point out what they feel are fundamental flaws with said systems, and that they will now attempt a new system of classification: grouping sighted objects by shape or appearance. This brings us to the core of the text: chapters which center around the different classes of objects (Spherical, Light, Triangular, etc.) Each chapter is subdivided into specific entries. Each entry comprises a singular real-world reported sighting of a specific “variant” of that class. Each entry is roughly one page in length, with an accompanying illustration on the mirroring page. Following the “field guide” chapters, the authors wrap up the text with a lengthy chapter which summarizes the data presented, and attempts to draw some basic conclusions. They also present information about the UFO phenomena which does not fit with the field guide model: information on windows, flaps, and scientific theories.
Overall, I found this book very pleasantly readable. It was well edited, and the english was clear, thoughtful, and well presented. I felt the authors did an excellent job sticking to the facts in the Guide, and avoided the ever present temptation of including opinion or bias. The guide entries were also well paced.
There is always a tradeoff between providing raw data and readability. Some books get carried away with data, which is so dry it borders on being unreadable. Thankfully, the Field Guide does not suffer this fate. I found the single page entry length to be plenty terse to keep the material from being boring, yet it was just detailed enough to grab the reader’s interest. The inclusion of illustrations was also a boon, as it really aided one in visualizing the classification system as it was being presented.
Furthermore, the authors did an excellent job of collecting data from a variety of times and places. There are entries which span many continents and over 100 years time. Finally, it seems the authors made a genuine attempt to include only credible, and often well regarded sightings, shying away from likely hoaxes (which many authors may resort to as fluff).
Despite all the good things I have to say about this book, there are a few flaws I must acknowledge. Firstly, the black and white illustrations leave a lot to be desired, especially considering many of the witness descriptions in the book include color! Color illustrations, or even photographs where available, would have been excellent. Also, the size of the book is rather small at around 170 pages. The topic of ufology has generated tomes of data, and I can’t help but feel the Guide could have been easily fleshed out with a bit more detail without compromising integrity. Furthermore, the length of the individual entries, at a single typed page, just doesn’t do justice to some of the cases sited. There is much more information available on some of the world’s most famous UFO cases, and I can’t help but feel some of what was left out must have been relevant. If you’re a seasoned UFO investigator, there is probably very little to see here, short of the classification system being offered.
In summation, I was surprisingly happy with The Field Guide to UFOs. It was more well written and analytical than I had expected. It was indeed rather short, but had good high-level coverage of many well regarded incidents in UFO history. The classification system presented by the authors adds an extra dimension of value that may not be apparent on the surface. I would recommend this to anyone who is a novice or moderate reader in ufology. To the more expert members of the audience, the material is probably too terse to be of much interest, but to the rest of us, it may offer some surprising enjoyment and value.