BookBrowse Reviews Journal of a UFO Investigator by David J. Halperin

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Journal of a UFO Investigator

A Novel

by David J. Halperin

Journal of a UFO Investigator by David J. Halperin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Feb 2011, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A sparkling debut novel set in the sixties about a boy's emotional and fantastical journey through alien worlds and family pain

I grew up surrounded by science fiction, the brightly colored spines of my father's extensive novel collection emblazoned with titles like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Rendezvous with Rama, and The Mote in God's Eye. While I never warmed to the "hard" sci-fi that my dad favored (descriptions of the intricate workings of space stations and the barometric pressure of Pluto tend to make my eyes glaze over), I found myself drawn to the darker, more melancholy aspects of the genre, eventually succumbing to the spell of Ray Bradbury's stories and developing a taste for dystopian literature. Without this early immersion in the trappings of sci-fi, I may never have appreciated Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, Michel Faber's Under the Skin, Angela Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman, or Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. And I might have laughed if someone had told me that it was possible to write an enthralling and deeply sad meditation on adolescence and Judaism in the guise of a novel that includes futuristic spacecraft, bug-eyed aliens, and conspiracy theories, but Journal of a UFO Investigator is that book.

We meet narrator Danny in 1966 during his senior year of high school, but most of the journal's action takes place about four years earlier, during the heady days of the Cuban Missile Crisis and America's burgeoning cultural fascination with space. Fed on UFO sensationalist literature like Gray Barker's They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers (the source of the "Men in Black" trope - see the sidebar for more about Gray Barker), Danny and his friend Jeff form a UFO Investigators Club and set out to write the definitive book on the subject, but when a girl comes between them, the friendship sours.

As the lone Jewish boy at his school, Danny subsequently embarks on an interior journey where he meets a trio of likeminded co-conspirators: the savvy and alluring Rochelle, her taciturn boyfriend Tom, and their Cheshire Cat-like leader, Julian. Under their aegis, Danny becomes involved in the notorious controversy surrounding an alleged alien crash landing in Roswell, New Mexico. Dodging the omnipresent Men in Black, who appear throughout the novel in a variety of guises - often as a kind of sinister take on the biblical Three Magi - Danny pilots a saucer to an isolated planet. Fighting to survive in this dry, ashen landscape, our hero undergoes a remarkable transformation that not only prepares him for the challenges he faces as an earthbound teenager but also for the roles that he will eventually play as a man: lover, father, scholar, and chronicler of family history.

Halperin makes the wise decision not to dwell on how much of the narrative takes place in Danny's notebook and how much takes place in his "real" life, trusting the reader to see parallels between the two and make inferences. The boy whose mother is too ill to plan his bar mitzvah instead creates his own initiation into manhood via a journey through the cosmos. Yet the novel eschews easy answers or a false sense of triumph, ending with a series of scenes that acknowledge the profundity of Danny's alienation and, indeed, that illustrate the aptness of science fiction as a metaphor for this concept.

At the end of the section entitled "Moonlight Bay," as Danny escapes the barren planet, he reflects: "Somewhere in the blackness ahead of me, I knew, there was a slit wide enough for me to pass through. In the massed fabric of reality there's always a slit. You must find it...Miss it, and you wander in darkness and endless thirst." Journal of a UFO Investigator explores what happens on both sides of that massed fabric and suggests that the gap between darkness and light might not be as wide as we would like to believe.

Reviewed by Marnie Colton

This review is from the March 24, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Midwinter Break
    Midwinter Break
    by Bernard MacLaverty
    Northern Ireland's Bernard MacLaverty is the author of five novels and multiple short story ...
  • Book Jacket: The Ninth Hour
    The Ninth Hour
    by Alice McDermott
    In a pivotal scene in The Ninth Hour, young Sally encounters an increasingly loathsome series of ...
  • Book Jacket: Rebellion
    Rebellion
    by Molly Patterson
    Rebellion overlays the stories of four women, spanning a century and the globe in their wide ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Twelve-Mile Straight
    by Eleanor Henderson

    An audacious epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford

    Inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle's epic 1909 World's Fair.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If the Creek Don't Rise

If the Creek Don't Rise

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y Can't M A S P O O A S E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.