by Robert Sheaffer

(Book Review reprinted from the Nov.Dec., 1979 issue of the now-defunct magazine, Second Look)


by Leslie Watkins, David Ambrose and Christopher Miles. New York: Avon Books, 1979.

Can a book be banned from sale in the United States? Well- known UFOlogist Gray Barker [died 1984] claims in his regular column in UFO Review (June, 1979) that this one was. The book's thesis that the end of life on earth is coming, and that only the elite of the world can be rescued, is purportedly too shocking for the government to permit the book's release. "I'm not going to risk trouble by trying to get a copy," Barker shudders (although after I effortlessly obtained a copy of the original British edition, no "Men In Black" came pounding on my door).

An American edition of Alternative 3 is available now. It is not difficult to see why the government might want to suppress the book, if what it says is true. East/West tensions are a deliberate fraud, it says, a smokescreen thrown up to divert attention from the real danger now reportedly facing the world. The eco-alarmists are right, the authors contend: the world is now facing certain extinction due to an accelerating runaway greenhouse effect resulting from the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels. Alternative 1 was supposedly discussed by an elite panel of end-of-the-world brainstormers, and rejected as being impractical and hazardous: using a series of nuclear explosions to "punch holes" in the supposed envelope of carbon dioxide. Alternative 2 - moving the elite of mankind to live in underground cities - was also rejected as impractical and undesirable.

That leaves us with Alternative 3: transporting the world's intellectual and governmental elite off the earth completely, using the moon as a way-station in the colonization, and eventual terraforming, of Mars. The technology to accomplish this is alleged to already be in existence: the space program as we know it is said to be just a diversion from the real space effort, a joint US/USSR venture, which is far more advanced than everyone has been led to believe. A lunar colony is claimed to already exist, managed by the elite "designated movers," where a corps of de-sexed, lobotomized slaves, tactlessly called "batch consignments," performs all of the manual labor.

It is difficult for the casual reader to know what to make of Alternative 3. The book purports to be non-fictional (the British edition carries the categorization "World Affairs/ Speculation"), an adaptation of a supposedly earth-shaking TV documentary produced by Anglia TV. It is filled with references to real persons and real events. Otto Binder did make wild claims about weird objects that the astronauts supposedly sighted in space. Gerard O'Neill [died 1992] did make headlines with his advocacy of space colonies (the US/USSR conspirators are said to have debated whether Professor O'Neill should be done away with, since he knows so much: "not necessary," they decided. I wonder if he realizes how close to death he came!) We find references to Senator Edward Kennedy, astronauts Mitchell, Aldrin and Armstrong (as well as a fictitious moon-walker named "Grodin"), UFOlogist Dr. David Saunders and many others. We find many apparently authentic quotes from newspapers and magazines.

Yet the book is obviously a novel. The dialogue is too contrived, and the protagonists' slam-bang uncovering of layer after layer or treachery and conspiracy is typical of low-grade spy novels. Can anyone truly convince himself that top American and Soviet officials meet regularly in docking submarines beneath the arctic ice cap to review conspiracy developments, and that the transcript of their ultra-secret deliberations would read like this?

American 2: I told you we should have killed that guy Gerstein . . . way back in February . . . I said that he was dangerous . . .
Russian 4: My friend is right . . . he did say that. And I pointed out that Gerstein's talk could start a panic among the masses . . .
A 8: . . . and I propose an expediency.
A 2: Seconded.
R 8: Those in favour? . . . then that is unanimous. The method?
A 3: How about a telepathic sleep job . . . maybe with a gun.
R 8: that seems sensible . . . it's too soon after Ballantine for another hot job.

Gray Barker devoted a full column to the book because of information received from an unnamed Major so-and-so. (The hints Barker drops appear to be chosen to make us immediately conclude "The Major" to be former NICAP director Major Keyhoe. But it is not. It is a different retired Major [Wayne Aho], living on the West coast, not nearly as well-known as Keyhoe, who has long been associated with Adamski-style contactees.) The Major attempted to buy one hundred copies of Alternative 3 from the Canadian publishing firm or Thomas Nelson & Sons. Jim Gifford, the manager of the paperback division, informed the Major that the order could not be filled because, in his ill-chosen phrase, "the above title has been banned from sale in the United States."

The Major apparently sent a copy of this letter to Barker, who picked up the football and ran a hundred yards, charging that this book was suppressed in the U.S. because it was embarrassing to the authorities, and that the "space program is a hoax" movie, Capricorn One, was canned prematurely, supposedly for the same reason.

Since, however, the full letterhead of Thomas Nelson & Sons is reproduced in the Barker piece, I wrote to Gifford asking if Alternative 3 really was banned in the United States. He replied that it is unfortunate that Barker did not contact him before rushing off to print, as it would have saved considerable embarrassment on both their behalfs! The reason the book was supposedly "banned" in the U.S. , he explained, was that Avon Books had purchased the U.S. paperback rights. Had the Canadian firm filled the Major's order, it faced the risk of a whopping lawsuit from Avon Books.

But are the startling claims of Alternative 3 true? How do we explain the interviews with whistle-blowers, the tie-in with missing persons, the clues to allegedly mysterious deaths of prominent persons? Our British readers already know the answer: April Fool! As reported in The Times of London on June 21, 1977, the day after the TV version was presented, "Independent television companies last night received hundreds of protest calls after an Anglia programme, Alternative 3, giving alarming "facts" about changes in the earth's atmosphere. It was a hoax, originally intended for April 1." Reporter Alan Coren observed that "the year's worst kept secret was that Alternative 3 was a spoof . . . if you know that 'a hoax is a hoax, how can you possibly attack it for lacking authenticity?" He suggested that had he not been in on the "secret" in advance, while the total preposterousness of the story itself might not have deterred belief, the acting was so unconvincing as to remove all doubt.

It seems that we Americans, who almost never read the British press and whose own media have said virtually nothing about this matter, are having our credulity tested by the promoters of Alternative 3. Some of us have already risen to the occasion, mustering credulity above and beyond the call of duty: Major A., Gray Barker (the first to write a book about the supposedly mysterious "Men In Black," whose existence has now been swallowed by Hynek, Vallee, Keel, Clark and many others), as well as Timothy Green Beckley, editor of UFO Review. Don't be the next to bite the hook. The marketing of Alternative 3 represents a real-world test of the old adage that a fool and his money are soon parted.

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