Well, ok, I read Night Church and it was one of the books that was even written up here in this column. I also recall Wolfen and The Hunger, the former of which was one of only three movies that ever gave me nightmares as a kid (the others being Poltergeist and the original Amityville Horror). I ended the Night Church review with this:
"The coincidences combined with the undermined believability of the whole thing makes it a below-average cult horror brimming with cultish clichés, cheesy imagery and re-used ideas that will leave you wondering if you just read a book or are experiencing a bad bout of deja-vu."
But nonetheless I thought I'd try out his science fiction side. No wait, I keep forgetting - Communion is a true story. Mustn't forget that - fiction writer goes non-fiction. And badly. L. Ron Hubbard ain't got shit on this guy.
Now I know I shouldn't go ragging on this guy time and again. I mean how much abuse can one man take? What I don't get, though, is how he can stop being any semblance of good after only two novels and then suddenly go from good horror writer to half-assed horror hack and thereafter to raving loon. Why the fuck is someone still publishing this guy? Seriously now, Communion made it on the NY Times bestseller list and, other than morbid curiosity on the part of his thoroughly-reamed fanbase, I can't figure out why. After such works like Night Church you figure he wouldn't have much of a fanbase left. But like I should talk - I read Communion along with all the rest. The only difference - I went in knowing it was probably going to be pretty bad. As a result I prepared. After reading drivel, I have to go on to read something intellectual, because I'm always afraid that my brain will fizzle away. So I went extra strength and printed out some Stephen Hawking cosmology and quantum papers. No, I'm not kidding.
So on to the story - no wait, autobiography. Whitley Strieber it seems is an abductee. He was taken by visitors, and I'm not talking your mother-in-law or annoying great aunt. I mean full-on, saucer flyin' big-eyed freaks with bald heads (that reminds me, I gotta shave). During the reading of this book (and sometimes I actually had to force myself to continue - hence in answer to Mr. Bosworth's questioning, that is what took so long) I wasn't quite sure I was Pan reading a book or Mulder reading a case file.
Now let me stop for a moment. I'm not saying there's nothing out there. Probability being what it is, if you take an infinite sized universe (at least to the best of our measured knowledge) that contains an infinite bunch of planets and bodies of matter you're going to have at least a finite number of populated worlds. However, other than co(s)mic amusement, what the hell would they be bothering with us for? Anyway, on to the book review.
It seems, during the course of hypnosis sessions, that Whitley has been taking cosmic joyrides all his life. All of a sudden it becomes apparent that he has been running from these things all his life, only he didn't know it. Turns out that when he was a kid he was taught by them how to build an anti-gravity machine. It crops up that his father, sister and other members of his family are also unwilling abductees as well. So obviously it's a gene thing (so are some forms of insanity). It just happens to have become apparent NOW. Poof - oh look, memories I didn't have before.
Ok, let's even downplay the whole off-the-wall story and sudden bursts of memories from out of nowhere, and we'll even disregard the fact that most good hypnotists could make you bark like a dog and shit in the fridge if they wanted to much less make you tell the world you were rectally reamed by a heebajube (tm South Park), and we'll go in at a different angle. When confronted with these memories, Strieber finds himself wandering along paths of mythology, theology, philosophy - and sure why not. If I got picked up by something passing by in a saucer and raped I'd probably start questioning a whole lot of shit too. And he writes about all this subject matter during the course of Communion. He talks about the possibilities available. Maybe he's insane. Maybe these are visitors from the future. Maybe these beings were nothing more than collective consciousness beliefs brought to life. Maybe they really are visitors from half across the infinite galaxies. Maybe they're from another dimension or alternate universe even. I was digging it to some extent, even when he started to repeat, contradict and stumble over his own thoughts to an amazing degree (a good editor, removing repetitive chapters and areas so that it reads more fluidly, would find himself with a napkin when he was done). I still plumbed along. Until he got to the "maybe they are the old gods" part and named one of his friendly visitors Ishtar. That's about the time I couldn't read more than 20 pages a sitting without wanting to spit.
Some highlights from the book are the transcribed hypnosis sessions. They're damn funny. He even includes the full transcript of his polygraph test and, only pages after he has a chapter about a support group meeting for abductees he attended where he states he has a number of anxiety disorders, a statement from an MD stating: "I also see no evidence of an anxiety state " It's contradictions like these that make my open mind snap shut like a Venus fly trap (Hah! There's some cosmic humor for 'ya!) And he does it constantly. This no wait this. That no wait that.
So in short? Whitley Strieber has gone on from his horror days to mature into a lovely horrorful hack writer. And from there he took the LRH cosmic/religious non-fiction route and turned out his own version of Dianetics (which I'm also going to read purely for comic value) only with a more autobiographical flair. Even if his claims are true, his contradictions, stumbling statements and ludicrous ideas (Ishtar's an alien?) completely douse it. It was a chore to read, written with juvenile vocabulary and is fraught with obvious theorem holes that a flying saucer could fly through (Hah! I'm on a roll!). Strieber provides reams of reports, statements and even a polygraph to prove that he is not insane. And then gives us this story. Meanwhile, myself, I have reams of reports, statements and more to prove that I am insane. And I still don't believe this story.
"Communion" by Whitley
Published by Beech Tree Books
Copyright © 1987 by Wilson & Neff, Inc.