Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Intriguing, But Also Slightly Weird

Journal of a UFO Investigator by David Halperin (Viking, 2011, 304pp.)

Danny, a Jewish teenager growing up during the sixties, is set apart from other kids at high school due to his nerdy fascination of UFOs. Things at home aren’t much better. His chronically ill mother is needy and close to expiring, and his father is bitter and quickly moved to anger over small disappointments. Using his imagination as a shelter from the oppression of his parent’s household, Danny decides to keep a journal chronicling his “adventures” among the aliens, which sometimes border on the downright weird: after his fictional self is inducted into a secret society that studies UFOs, he is targeted by a sadistic trio of otherworldly villains who threaten him with torture. His attempts at escape land him in the hands of bug-eyed monstrosities who use him as a guinea pig for their experiments. Danny’s cathartic act of keeping this journal divides the novel into two parallel storylines, causing Danny’s fictional world to act as a dark mirror that replicates the anguish of the real one. While the author’s exploration of Danny’s psychological state puts this novel a step above others in the “extraterrestrial” genre, Halperin’s extensive concentration on the “alien” plotline leaves the characters underdeveloped and distant, and detracts from any emotional investment the reader might have for them. This novel has some adult content, but may be appropriate for Ages 16-18. Recommended for lovers of psychological fiction.

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