Sunday, 13 September 2020

Communion - Whitley Strieber (1987)


Rating: Admirable

When I was a child in the 1970's I was obsessed with UFOs and aliens. I'd have dreams that featured seeing the night sky filled with alien spacecraft, including one in which a bright white cigar shaped UFO hovered over my backyard. I was taken to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) by my father, which both fascinated and freaked me out. I remember when Communion was published and seeing it on the shelves gave me the creeps, even though I was older (17-18) and my perception of the UFO phenomenon had changed. In my adult life I've read a lot of science fiction and books on cosmology, astronomy and physics and I've given the possibility of advanced alien life a great deal of thought. I'm sure it's out there, somewhere; but the universe is so massive and space/time so difficult to traverse that the question of whether alien life has visited Earth is, for me, mostly tinged with scepticism, which is how I approached reading this book. 

Initially Communion is very convincing. Strieber outlines his emergent memories when he is prompted by his increasing paranoia and other psychological disturbances to seek help and undergo hypnosis. His memories of being visited by the aliens in his country home and his experiences on their space-craft is genuinely creepy. Strieber's musings about just who these creatures are, their possible influence on humanity, their motivations and his own philosophical position on the phenomenon is interesting and sometimes even compelling. However as the book progressed through his childhood memories, his family's recollections and finally Strieber's thoughts about the possible mystical influences of the alien creatures (revolving around triads) it became less interesting and even laughable. Aside from being a sceptic I approached reading the book in an anthropological manner because I've long thought that the UFO/alien phenomenon is tied to humanity's need for the 'other'; the strange, half seen creatures that inhabit our imaginations that used to manifest as fairy creatures but now, with the advent of the technological age post WWII, manifest as aliens. Were Strieber's experiences a manifestation of an inherent need for the 'other', something beyond ourselves that therefore defines who we actually are? Possibly, but in any case it was nice to read the book that introduced many of the alien abduction tropes into popular culture pre The X Files (1993-2018), but other than that I remain both unimpressed and sceptical. 

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