Most people believe in all kinds of things that seem strange or silly to others. Ghosts, divination, bigfoot, UFOs, and the list goes on and on. For most people these are personal, some connect with others who believe the same, and some even devote their lives to the belief. A small number within that last group reside within the armed forces of the United States, running or participating in programs devoted to the military applications of psychic phenomenon. Telepathy, astral projection, telekinesis, death stares… just another day on the battlefield.
This is where Ronson comes into the picture. He investigates these programs and the people involved in them, following the breadcrumbs through a mix of declassified documents, public statements, personal interviews, and other sources. Surprisingly, the concepts and ideas go all the way back to the Vietnam War and while the programs and some of the applications have changed, some are still in use today.
I’ve seen some reviews that question the book’s authenticity, citing Ronson’s opening sentence “This is a true story”. I think that the key word in that sentence is “story”. Ronson cannot verify all of the things that are in this book and he doesn’t try to. Of course some of the anecdotes and information are exaggerated, misremembered, or even outright fabricated. Ronson knows that the things he’s working with are bizarre, and so do most of the people involved. His goal in this investigation isn’t to assess the claims but rather just record them. Readers are tasked with coming to their own conclusions of how much is true—and how much is only true for those involved.
At times humorous and at others sobering (sometimes on the same page), this book kept me thinking the whole way through.