Review: On the Trail of the Saucer Spies: UFOs and Government Surveillance by Nicholas Redfern

Nick Redfern’s On the Trail of the Saucer Spies takes a revealing look at the behavior of the British and American governments in relation to their observation of and interaction with prominent figures throughout the history of modern ufology. The book draws upon an excellent and well referenced combination of declassified documents and first hand interview material to shed new light on historically secretive government operations in these areas.

The book is well paced, enjoyable, and exceeds at balancing intrigue and information. The text proceeds roughly chronologically, taking us first to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as it monitors UFO believers in the midst of communist tensions. As the chapters progress, we find ourselves crossing the pond and being introduced to the British analogues of our own American government agencies and facilities, spending significant amounts of time discussing the operations of MI5, RAF Rudloe Manor, and Porton Down, among others. A random sampling of the topics covered as we criss-cross the Atlantic include Project Beta, the sad story of Paul Bennewitz, hacking Hanger 18 and Wright Patterson Air Force Base, the destruction of NICAP, and the long and twisting tale of the organization known as APEN. The book also includes several black and white photographs, as well as duplicated documents intermingled within the chapters.

Part way through the reading we meet the “Sandman” who quickly becomes a linchpin character in the novel. This otherwise nameless figure is supposedly an ex-member of England’s Metropolitan Police Special Branch who has chosen (or been chosen) to reveal information regarding the British government’s historical “watching of the watchers.” Sandman’s frequent direct quotations throughout the latter half of the book serve extensively to validate and confirm various theories our author and his associates have put forth based on prior research. The Sandman is truly one of those “too good to be true” types when it comes to his apparently uncanny ability to put the puzzle pieces in place. In fact, he seems to have a hand in just about every European incident Redfern discusses. Regardless, for those readers who manage to suspend paranoia and suspicion long enough, his claims make for some highly engaging and revealing reading.

When it comes to following the UFO phenomenon, straight answers are a virtual impossibility. Everyone chooses their own particular degree of paranoia, and credulity is something often in short supply. The fantastic thing about Saucer Spies is that its contents, if they are to be believed, give many answers regarding government activity surrounding UFOs in a spectacularly elegant and cohesive package. First hand accounts are corroborated to the “T” by recently uncovered documents, government informants, and Redfern’s “Sandman” contact. Of course, as the author is quick to point out in the closing of the novel, nothing is guaranteed. In the end, we still don’t know if some UFOs are extraterrestrial, we don’t know who or what some men in black may be, and we certainly don’t know just how open and truthful our respective governments are really being. That said, if you can bring yourself to withhold distrust and paranoia long enough to read through these pages, I highly recommend it. Nick Redfern has done the UFO community a great service with this book, which would appear to be as revealing and honest as it is fascinating.

Rating: 5/5

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