Picks and Pans Review: Transformation

updated 10/17/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Whitley Strieber

He's baaaaaa-aaaaack. And he has his friends with him. Strieber is the sci fi-fantasy novelist (The Wolfen, Warday) who in 1987 published Communion, in which he wrote about beings he called "visitors" who carried him off to an otherworldly place one night in 1985. Then they began just dropping in. Being the stars of a No. 1 best-seller has obviously not dissuaded them from continuing to hang out with Strieber. As he describes them and as they are drawn on his book covers, the creatures seem a cross between the Close Encounters guys, lightbulbs and Li'l Abner's Schmoos. But that's guesswork. According to Strieber, the visitors appear and disappear at will, fly at amazing speeds, make him levitate and generally display cosmic wisdom. They are, however, flops in the public relations department. After almost two years, they haven't been on Nightline, The Tonight Show or Donahue. They haven't given out press kits with 8x10 glossies. In fact nobody has photographed or recorded them. When Strieber tried, gosh darn it, his hand wouldn't pick up the camera. Strieber repeats that he has no idea where the visitors come from. Though, all things considered, we can probably rule out places like Des Moines, Chattanooga or Santa Monica. Well, maybe not Santa Monica. Anyway, in this sequel Strieber recalls similar apparitions he has been seeing since he was 2 that might have been sightings, now that he thinks of it. He mulls over the notions of sin, demons, channeling, reincarnation, astral projection and telepathy: "I saw mind sailing free, and thought perhaps that the human brain has not generated its mind-stuff at all, but captured it as Prometheus did the fire from some higher source." (Sorry, Shirley, he's happily married.) He reports on letters from readers who have seen things resembling his sightings, dredges up '50s UFO tales, calls the moon a "planet" and recalls driving on a New York highway one day and seeing a cat with a three-foot-wide head in a nearby car. (Cats and owls often appear; the visitors also turn into wolves, like the folks in The Wolfen.) Strieber offers details of tests he has taken to prove he is not crazy or lying. And he insists that while most sightings come at night when he is suddenly awakened, he is not dreaming. It's alarming that Strieber has involved his son Andrew, 9, in a potentially troubling fantasy and that he would risk hurting his wife and son by writing, "It feels as if the best of my life has been lived in secret, and is lost somewhere down a labyrinth." Otherwise, this whole business is innocuous, even if Strieber's idea of an objective source to verify his impressions is his editor, Bruce Lee, who is said to have overheard two visitors in a bookstore as they chatted about errors in Communion. Finally, Strieber purports to be uncertain over what to do about the visitors. Thus the thought arises that—while this might put a dent in the future sequels business—they smell like just the sorts who would fall for a nice piece of cheese and a well-placed trap. (Beech Tree, $18.95)

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