The Dreamland Chronicles

David Darlington

AREA 51 - also known as Groom Lake, the Ranch, the Box, and, more lyrically, Dreamland - is a top-secret military installation in the Nevada desert that the United States government pretends isn't there. However, anyone who's climbed the nearby ridges can attest to it's distinct reality: the base has a runway five miles long, hangars big enough to house several 747's, and scores of smaller buildings hiding ... who knows? A super-stealth fighter? A new space-age beam weapon? Bits of flying saucer, perhaps? Bits of their pilots?

Sometimes rumoured to be the resting place of wreckage from a UFO that allegedly crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, Area 51 was actually built for the U-2 spy-plane in 1955. But as it has continued to cloak itself in the wake of the Cold War, it has become a victim of its own subterfuge. The more the establishment endeavours to dent its existence, the more the curious want to know. What, exactly, has the government got to hide? And why are the people who own the place - American tax-payers - not allowed anywhere near it, let alone given an account of its budget? Recently, President Bill Clinton went so far as to exempt the base from US environmental law, disposing of troublesome toxic-waste charges at Groom Lake. But with the increasing scrutiny of Internet-users, media correspondents and UFO believers, a growing army of outraged observers is refusing to accept the official stonewall. A guerrilla sub-sulture has sprung up along the borders of Dreamland, aiming to explode the secrecy that surrounds this mysterious spot.

Acclaimed journalist David Darlington sifts myth from reality in this fascinating look at a place that doesn't exist. Detailing its history, latter-day legends, and myriad colourful characters - from the pioneers of supersonic flight to the crackpot conspiracy freaks to the dogged investigators of government misconduct - he escorts us through the hall of mirrors that has hidden Area 51 from view. Both an evocative portrait of an American no-man's-land and a hugely entertaining detective story. The Dreamland Chronicles spins a tale of intrigue and obsession that speaks volumes about our attitudes at the century's end.