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The Area 51 Series
Robert Doherty
Dell, 1997 -- 2004

Area 51
Area 51: The Reply
Area 51: The Mission
Area 51: The Sphinx
Area 51: The Grail
Area 51: Excalibur
Area 51: The Truth
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'The world's greatest mysteries... Why are there pyramids in Egypt, the Yucatan, and Central America? Why are there similar languages carved into their stones? Did Atlantis really exist? What is the strange formation in the sea off the Bimini islands? Who put the statues on Easter island? Do UFO's really exist? All have the same answer. It's elegant. It's simple. It's absolutely terrifying.'
Long before The DaVinci Code, another writer was putting together puzzle pieces drawn from the most enduring mysteries of antiquity and modern mythology. The Area 51 Series does not purport to be fact, it's entirely fictional and that allows its author license to bend the data as he chooses. Fortunately, this only adds to the fun, and quite often the ingenious linkages he comes up with make a seductive kind of sense. Doherty's legend peppered prose is filled with wonderfully entertaining cod science, shoring up an endlessly twisting plot strewn with edge-of-the-seat scenarios. But don't think this is all macho military and gratuitous violence, as the series includes several strong female characters who use brain-power, all of whom are vital to the eventual outcome. The author does a fine job of mixing what we know in advance, as readers, and what we find out at the same time as the cast, making these the kind of books which are hard to put down.

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Book one is Area 51. We learn that, in the late 40s, the US government made a dramatic discovery under the ice of Antarctica; nine abandoned flying saucers, atmospheric craft which they call Bouncers. Area 51 was established as a base for their testing, and situated there because it is close to where an enormous mother ship was found, underground. Unlike the bouncers, the mother ship is equipped with what is thought to be an interstellar drive. So far untested. Much of what we learn about this hidden history comes from the memories of Dr. Hans Von Seeckt, a former Nazi scientist, and original member of Majic-12. Now a dying old man, Von Seeckt wants to stop the planned test flight of the mother ship, due to what he observed in the past when the ship's engines were brought briefly on-line. In agreement with him is Dr. Lisa Duncan, the President's scientific advisor, and a new appointee to the top secret Majic-12 group. Mike Turcotte, formerly of Special Forces, is assigned to Nightscape, the elite security force which guards Area 51, and witnesses something that places him on Duncan's side. Unfortunately, Area 51's commanding officer, General Gullick does not agree with those who advise caution, for he is quite literally out of his mind. Added to this volatile mix is Professor Nabinger, an archaeologist who has translated a message, taken from runes discovered in Egypt. It refers to the power of the sun, something forbidden, home, a chariot, and death to all living things. When this data reaches the team, they realise that General Gullick is mad and must be stopped at any cost.

Book two is Area 51: The Reply. We now know something of our world's pre-history, which includes the true fate of Atlantis, the Face on Mars, and the Airlia, an alien race remembered as gods. Among the hidden Airlia technology, left behind when they abandoned the planet, is the Guardian; a giant computer discovered under Easter Island. Before anyone could work out how to stop it, Guardian sent a message into space. Soon after, Earth scientist detect a reply, coming from the Cydonia region of Mars. It says that the Airlia are coming back with peaceful intentions. New Airlia sites are discovered, including locations in Africa's Great Rift Valley and an ancient Chinese tomb. Turcotte and his group charge all over the planet, using the bouncers, and engage in action which is never less than nail biting. We learn that the aliens en-route from Mars may not be the friendly astronauts who saved our world thousands of years ago, but rather the surviving members of a devious rebel group, intent on the conquest of humanity or our destruction. Every bit as thrilling as book one, events build up to a literally explosive climax, which of course is not the end.

Book three is Area 51: The Mission. The title refers to a place hidden deep inside the Amazon, established in the past by the Airlia's human agents. The first the world at large knows of this is when villagers nearby start dying of a virulent new virus, even more deadly than Ebola. It has no known cure. As the UN and major governments try to cope, the true level of Airlia interference and influence on human history begins to reveal itself. The Airlia had a doomsday plan, to wipe the Earth clean of upstart humanity, except for their willing collaborators and those who are mind-controlled slaves. The new 'black death' is the first step toward this goal. Once again Mike Turcotte and Lisa Duncan head a cast, desperate to find a cure, racing between locations such as the Great Wall of China and a secret facility beneath Antarctica. More of the fascinating Airlia agenda is revealed, and new characters and covert groups introduced. Answers given lead to yet more questions, but one thing is clear; the war for control of human destiny has only just begun. Doherty pulls off a rare trick here, in making the sequel to a sequel equally gripping. The suspense is steadily ratcheted up, and even though there is little development of the main cast, I was hooked by the jet-fuelled mixture of rush and revelation.

Book four is Area 51: The Sphinx. By now the series reads like Doherty is ticking off all the greatest locations and events which have tantalised human imagination, but that's only part of what he has in store. This time humanity is caught between two Airlia factions, and it isn't clear which side -- if either -- we should trust. The blend of military, science and adventure slows down just a tad, as if to give the reader breathing space. But, there's still a bag full of riddles to solve, including how to stop Airlia who have taken control of Earth's military satellites, using the last surviving Airlia Talon ship, left in orbit at the end of the second novel. However, the Airlia need something -- a key which unlocks one of their mothballed facilities located inside a Chinese mountain. They mistakenly think that the US government has this key and threaten to destroy the whole continent if it isn't handed over. A deadly stand-off gives Turcotte and company the chance to track down the artefact and avert catastrophe. If this sounds familiar, it is because the root of the plot is not enormously different from the first three books. Luckily for Doherty, the on-going events, which contrive to involve the Hall of Records and the fabled Ark of the Covenant, steamroller any doubts.

Book five is Area 51: The Grail. Doherty treads a fine line, balancing the expectations of those who've read the previous titles, with the need for fresh blood. Human history and pre-history continues to be rewritten by Mike Turcotte, Lisa Duncan and those who cross their path. This time the elite personnel based at Area 51 are in search of the Holy Grail. The story begins back in 528 AD, at Avalon with the truth about King Arthur and Merlin, but quickly returns to the present, and the main cliff-hanger of the previous book. This left Lisa Duncan in a chamber under the Sphinx, with her hands on the Ark of the Covenant. Meanwhile, a group of Airlia servants are on their way to China, where they plan to resurrect the former Airlia rebel leader, Artad, and Mike Turcotte is blazing trails across the world, guided by the secret journal of the adventurer Sir Richard Burton (not to be confused with the Welsh actor of the same name). The pace is faster than a Ferrari, but does not suffer due to all the groundwork previously laid. The multi-threaded plot takes us inside Mount Sinai, and to Merlin's Tomb. We learn of the Holy Grail's power and true purpose, and the reincarnating Airlia leader, Aspasia's Shadow, finally makes his move.

Book six is Area 51: Excalibur. This is the novel where everything that has been building finally comes to a head. The two warring factions of Airlia are battling on Earth, using their own advanced weaponry and stolen human hardware. Human nanotechology has been developed at speed and advanced by the Guardian computer on Easter Island. This allows its agents to engage then assimilate the majority of the US Pacific Fleet. Mike Turcotte and his allies have been abandoned as the world drifts toward global conflict and a resurrected Lisa Duncan is a prisoner of the new MJ 12. They are bent on discovering the secret of her immortality, no matter how many times they have to watch her die. On Mars, the surviving Airlia are observed to be constructing something massive atop Mons Olympus. Mount Everest also features, as Turcotte seeks the legendary sword, Excalibur. A fail-safe device, disguised as a sword by the Airlia, it is the only means to activate and gain control over the hidden Master Guardian computer.

Book seven is Area 51: The Truth. Lisa Duncan has been kidnapped from Area 51 by the Airlia's ancient enemy, the alien Swarm, whose agent is particularly interested in the secrets of her repressed memory. Aspasia's Shadow has the answers and he is willing to give them to Mike Turcotte, along with the Holy Grail and the Guardian Master computer, in exchange for the last Airlia mother ship. Hidden inside Mount Ararat, it is guarded by Turcotte's allies. Stonehenge, Nikola Tesla, the Tunguska explosion, Mars, Artad, Excalibur, warring alien species -- this book sometimes feels like it includes everything but the kitchen sink. And only misses out that because it's not an object of legend. The true origins of humanity are finally revealed, as are the reasons why the Airlia came to Earth. In comparison to the thrills and spills that have gone before, some of The Truth felt anti-climactic, but it does provide a much needed conclusion. Even so, Robert Doherty cannot resist leaving a path open for further Area 51 stories, although along a divergent path, and we're given a few taster pages from the first novel, Area 51: Nosferatu.

In conclusion, Area 51 is a set of rip-roaring adventures, which are intelligent enough to provide a feast for enquiring minds without the need for a degree in physics. Throughout, Doherty uses a relentless, action-based style, cleverly laced with the most fascinating landmarks, historical personalities and enduring legends. The fact that most of the fictional characters are two-dimensional is a deliberate strategy, used as the delivery system for hit after hit of pure form science fiction. The end result is something like Tom Clancy meets Dan Brown with effects by Industrial Light and Magic.

Copyright © 2005 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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