Ben Mezrich writes books by looking at things most of society didn’t notice. His book on how Facebook starter The Accidental Billionaires or his one on how MIT ruled poker tables at casinos Bring Down The House made us aware of the stories we’d missed. When I heard he was taking on unexplained phenomena in a new book I went looking. He’s never part of the world he writes about but he gets to know it as an outsider then explains it to us, the other outsiders. I’ll admit I’m not an outsider on reading about and pondering the unexplained. So the things in The 37th Parallel didn’t shock or surprise me. This time I wanted to see how he treated the topic. In the end it was how he treated his subject that intrigued me more as a reader.
Let me first air my bias on the subject matter. I feel that it is not wrong to look into the unexplained. Actually I think it’s great. I support asking questions, looking at oddities and not making the search from them off the table. Do I think time travel, aliens from other places, black government, Illuminati and such are real? Not necessarily, no I don’t. I do think things happen we don’t understand. I do think there is more to the world they we know. I do think there are things in the air and on the ground that are seen as well as experienced that we can’t explain. I don’t think when we report on them or see people looking into them we need to jump to playing the X-Files music and mockery. I think we need to listen and look with good research techniques. *WHEW*
So that’s what Brad Mezrich tried to do when he set about looking into this area of study. He found computer programmer and former volunteer sheriff deputy Chuck Zukowski. It is from the telling of Chuck’s interest in UFOs and cattle mutilations that we are drawn into the world of the unexplained. It’s an interesting journey from hobby to obsession to what appears now to be his industry. The looking for answers, the documenting of finds, the trying to investigate without falling down the rabbit hole.
As I read the book I remember John Keel once wrote ‘the longer you look into the void the more it looks back at you.’ No one personified it more than he, from interested investigator to paranoid recluse dying a grumpy alone man. I feel Keel fell into that void.
I think Chuck could go there if it wasn’t for his wife. Yes she’s met the unexplainable personally but she firmly sits on the prove to me side. Chuck become more enamored with conspiracy theories and paranoia. Yet each time his family grounds him bringing him back from the void. Then something happens and he has to investigate. His police training does him well in this. He’s made some discoveries but they don’t provide answers only raise more questions.
Many people in reviews have complained about the ending. The thing is in this topic, there is no satisfying ending in real life. It just goes on with more questions, more finds, more mockery, less actual study and no answers. There was no way to tie it up in a neat bow like Facebook – He became filthy rich. Or MIT poker – they were banned for life but oh what a story to tell. This just ends with Chuck still searching for answers. What drains the batteries at investigations – don’t know. What are the lights people see? Don’t know. What mutilates the cows in the predictable manner? Don’t know. What really happened at Roswell? Don’t know. What we do know is Mezrich is done looking at Zukowski but Zukowski isn’t done looking for the answers to the questions that plague him.
Mezrich’s treatment of Zukowski is understanding. How could anyone who has seen what he has seen not ask WTF is going on? We get why the pull calls and wonder why more academics don’t answer. Why more don’t more people see it as Mezrich does instead of how the media that got Zukowski fired does? I don’t know but I do know any answers we might stumble upon will be because of men like him as long as the public intimidates truly trained academics from looking. Read this for yourself and see if Mezrich is right – we need more like Zukowski supported by trained people to find the answers that elude us and discover more unexplained to investigate.