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Hybrids by Whitley Strieber

Hybrids by Whitley Strieber (TOR/Forge, 2011) is a book that’s absolutely consistent with his previous work. Depending on your point of view, this is either a confirmation of his status as a New York Times Bestseller author selling into the modern science fiction market, or it confirms the existence of a remarkable number of people who are caught up in the same belief system. To understand this proposition, I need to rehearse a definition. A conspiracy theory asserts that there’s a hidden reality behind world events. This assumes governments or other large organisations suppress the truth, whether directly or by more subtle means. All we have is speculation because, by definition, the conspiracy is effective to keep the evidence from us. So, for example, there’s considerable debate as to the reality of the Kennedy assassination. Somewhat remarkably, a majority of people do not accept the official findings that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. But the most important and long-running theory concerns UFOs. This has actually produced a mythology of its own. The Fortean view of the world suggests there are a vast range of unexplained phenomena which we conveniently group together as paranormal or supernatural. One such claimed phenomenon is that a significant number of people disappear without explanation. Charles Fort was the first to suggest these were alien abductions. Subsequently, others have claimed evidence to show aliens have been visiting Earth for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Some with credentials as experts in mainstream science, assert governments have been collaborating with these extraterrestrials, covering up signs of their visits by hiding evidence about the reality of UFOs.

Whitley Strieber walking out of the light

The importance of Whitley Strieber is that his fiction presents alien abductions as if they are real. He adopts the views of David Jacobs and Budd Hopkins that the purpose of these abductions is to collect enough DNA and other human samples to breed or construct alien-human hybrids. In a way, this builds on the post-return interview claims that some female abductees have experienced symptoms of pregnancy after their return. To bolster the credibility of his work, Strieber claims that he was abducted from his New York cabin in 1985. His book, Communion, purports to describe what happened to him. This book and several others that followed it are labelled as nonfiction. Others like The Grays, are admitted as fiction. But they all share the same belief in the reality of “visitors” and suggest a range of motives for their arrival including the visitors’ need to interbreed with humans.

As the title of this immediate book suggests, we’re back in the scenario of a program to produce hybrids. This time, a human scientist working for the US government has appropriated alien technology and is using it to produce programmable super-soldiers to fight for Earth. However, when the Senate Oversight Committee understands the abilities of each new generation, our scientist is ordered to shut the program down and dispose of the hybrids. Being of a sentimental nature, he’s unwilling to “kill” them. So some are dropped into a “secure place”, while two are reprogrammed and released into the human world. This is the story of the two more human hybrids that later meet, having no idea of their origin. In the meantime, there are increasing sightings of supposed alien hybrids.

So here’s the dilemma. Given the consistency of the belief system on display here, I could review this as a fictionalisation of real-world events. Although this book describes more use of force and explosions than it would be possible to cover up, we could take as real the availability of extraterrestrial technology to create the next generation of humans. Alternatively, I could review it as pure fiction pandering to the belief systems of conspiracy theorists who want more fuel to add to their fires of belief. If I go for the former, I can adopt a slight less severe method of critique. You cannot always expect real-world reporting to be internally consistent. People forget things. They fail to understand what they see or, if they can’t remember, they make stuff up. But if an author sits down to write a piece of fiction, we expect it to be coherent and follow the usual rules of narrative construction.

So, rather than produce a spoiler-rich analysis, let’s just take as real the notion that the US government is in cahoots with aliens to get access to their technology. It therefore makes perfect sense that Earth would then try to use this technology to protect itself. A secret project to make super-soldiers so they can fight on our side is perfectly rational. We then get into the usual underground lab with massive security to protect the breeding program. When we have three generations, it’s less credible that government would be frightened of these constructs and order their destruction. If the scientists are confident these new hybrids can be controlled, their super powers are just what Earth needs to fight the aliens (assuming the aliens are hostile to us, of course). It goes without saying that politicians are notoriously fickle and easily spooked by their own fears. Perhaps they would rather gamble the aliens are basically nice folk with no hidden agenda. OK, we’ll assume fear prevails and the underground lab is to be mothballed. This would be tightly supervised. With the navy involved for transport purposes, the idea a cabal of scientists would be able to conspire against the government to keep two of the second generation alive seems improbable. Worse, we then have to assume that the lead scientist would be able to get into another pivotal role and, when they have grown up, sneak these two hybrids back into government service. Even a routine background check would throw up anomalies in these two people’s personal histories. Further, we’re to assume they would not have shown any super powers while growing up. Even if programmed not to do anything special, are we to believe they would, say, allow themselves to be run down while crossing the road when a little burst of speed would save them? I could go on but none of this makes any sense as either reality or fiction. It’s just not a credible narrative and, in my view, the story gets even less credible as it develops.

So, sadly, Hybrids would be in the running for a clean sweep of the literary Golden Turkey Awards. I don’t care what Whitley Strieber chooses to claim happened to him. Self-promotion takes many forms and, I assume, anything that gets him talked about sells his books. I bracket him with David Icke who sells books based on the notion that Earth is under the control of human-reptile hybrids. Paranoia sells books.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.

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