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Keep Out

Book Review of: Keep Out

Top Secret Places Governments Don't Want You to Know About

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Review of Keep Out, by Nick Redfern (Softcover, 2011)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


Redfern always does a good job of separating fact from fiction, of asking rather than concluding, and stimulating the mind of the reader. Unlike most other "alternative explanation" writers, he doesn't specialize in a given area. So when you pick up one of his books, you don't know what you're going to read. But you do know it's going to be good.

One problem with"alternative explanation" writers is they usually are trying to persuade the reader of an alternative explanation based on scant evidence and thin logic. That's not Redfern's style. One of the hallmarks of a good writer other than an op-ed writer is you can't tell what the writer's opinion is. The writer's viewpoint isn't apparent in the text, and the reader reaches his/her own conclusions.

That is not to say Redfern never draws conclusions. If certain facts don't fit, he'll point this out. If a conclusion suggested by someone else (whether an official explanation or a conspiracy theory) doesn't fly, he'll explain why.

Redfern also digs up facts surrounding a particular issue, and he digs up a lot of facts. His bibliographies tend to be disproportionate to the body of the text, and this book is yet another example of that bibliography on steroids thing he does. For this size book, on these topics, I think a bibliography of 6 to 8 pages would be reasonable. The actual size? 23 pages. Some of these are dubious (e.g., New York Times), and others are more authoritative (e.g.,

The premise of this book is exactly what the title and subtitle suggest. The top secret places include Area 51, Hangar 18, HAARP, and Fort Detrick. Not making it on the list is the Men's Room on the top floor of the Treasury Department, but I guess we can let that one slide.

But it's not just USA installations he covers. There are crazy places in Australia, China, Russia, and the UK. He covers them all. He looks at places deep underground, places deep under the ocean, and places in between. He explores questions such as "Why is Pine Gap the only place in Australia you can't fly over?" And what, exactly, is on the dark side of the moon?

In the course of looking at these places, he raises questions and theories about extraterrestrial aliens, subterranean humanoids, and biological weapons. In doing this, he doesn't advocate crackpot theories. He presents the evidence or, if it doesn't stand up, points to false evidence upon which opinions have been built. And he gives alternative explanations the same treatment, in many cases explaining why a given theory just does not work. He may discuss multiple theories about a given oddity, or just go with one; that really depends on the oddity and how many theories are floated around about it.

The reader is left to speculate, which is fine with me. If he claimed to "know the real story" in each case, that would be a red flag to me. Instead of taking that approach, he takes an investigative, "Let's explore this and ask relevant questions" approach. He chooses to instill curiosity, rather than try to indoctrinate. And that makes a big difference in how enjoyable this book is.

A quote from Redfern sums up his philosophy: "Clearly, there is a degree of division between what we know as undeniable fact, what we think we know, and what many still consider the stuff of rumor, theory, hearsay, and unproved, outrageous conspiracy mongering."

People who normally chit chat about the weather or some other same-o same-o topic might do well to pick a chapter in this book and make that the basis for the next conversation. For example, what has been in Wright-Patterson Air Force base for the last half century or so, and why is it still classified as Top Secret? Not that you'll figure it out, but what are the possibilities?

This book consists of 235 interesting pages covering 15 topics in as many chapters, plus a 16th chapter "Conclusions."




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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