"Assuming the correctness of my perceptions, this book then becomes a chronicle not only of my discovery of a visitor's presence in the world but also one of how I have learned to fear them less." W. Strieber Communion

If there is one paradigm book in the vast literature of UFO or visitor abduction books, this could very well fit the bill. Written by Whitley Strieber, Communion is one very strange book, indeed. I'm pretty sure many of you are aware of the "visitor abduction" phenomenon: some unfortunate person is, as far as he or she can recollect, taken by "visitors" from somewhere other than here. This is what we have on our hands, and then some.

Communion deals with Strieber's accounts of his visitor experiences. It focuses primarily on the night of December 26, 1985. On that night, something odd happened to him, something so jarring that it can be said to have firmly pointed his life in one direction thereafter. He claims to have been subject to (object of?) a visitor experience on that night. Odd entities appeared before him while he was in bed, thus beginning his journey into the physical and psychological realm of a man vastly altered. We begin the journey toward the body and mind of Strieber, as he recollects events and reveals physical manifestations, e.g. strange triangular shaped marks on him, odd lights appearing at night, sightings of strange white entities seen by more than one person.

Now, when I say "visitor experience", this can be read as being taken by aliens in a UFO. However, Strieber isn't so sure what happened--and is happening--to him. It very well could be that aliens conducted experiments on him (the now usual physical examinations are present); it could be that he had some sort of psychological experience, made very real by his mind; it could be that he was simply losing his sanity (note that having an experience deemed "psychological" does not entail an easy slide into insanity). He does not rule out any of these hypotheses, which adds to the air of uncertainty and confusion you get when reading this book. But for his present purposes, he settles on using the word "visitor" as a guiding term, which suggests entities coming from somewhere for a purpose. What follows from using such a term turns out to be an age-old question examined throughout the book by various means: Who are we and what are we to become? However, that question is not easily answered, if at all, in this book. Communion struggles for an answer to a not so clear question.

In fact, upon reading this book you're almost as puzzled as Strieber was. This general confusion that the readers experience, I think, can be partially attributed to the book's content and its subsequent presentation. We're given Strieber's memories as he remembers them, and we're also given transcripts of his hypnotic regression sessions. Towards the end of the book, he gets downright philosophical, pondering the emergent properties of duality. The book then concludes with another session, but this time it's a polygraph test. What are we to make of all of this? That may very well be the question Strieber wants us to ask ourselves. And his method of prompting self-questioning seems to necessarily need this mass of ideas and styles. At first glance, it might seem like a hodge-podge of ideas and techniques, but upon further reflection it's an effective rhetorical device. He knows what he's doing and what ends the aims serve. We can almost understand the need for the jarring style in this book.

It should be noted, however, that Strieber does write fiction, so he knows how to structure a book to get its full worth. Throughout Communion, we can notice his literary talents at work. On one page, he's pondering the contents of him mind, as he sits by the fireplace a la' Descartes in his Meditations on First Philosophy; and on another page he's inducing claustrophobic feelings in the reader by recalling the details of his harrowing experiences. It all adds up to a feeling of subdued panic or anxiety slowly swirling in the backs of our minds. Is there something large looming on the horizon, a grand shift of sorts? "Postmodern" anxiety? Perhaps, since this book was published in 1987, when the cold fingers of potential nuclear annihilation could still be felt in certain parts of the world (which is something he was fully aware of, as he recounts apocalyptic images given to him by the visitors). Whatever the influences, he knew how to capture it and convey that blunted fear in his book. If his talents are to be counted for or against his case, that's up to the readers to decide.

Undoubtedly, my impressions have been given in my brief review. That said, I can't shake the idea that this is a true belief for Strieber, thus his need to write such a book. I first read this book many years ago, and now having reread it, those old feelings of unease and confusion reappeared once again. Except this time I could pin down some of the causes of those feelings of mine. Whitley Strieber is a smart man, no doubts about it. As such, he knew what his writings would require to fulfill his task. Nevertheless, once the method is understood and made secondary, there's still the question of the reality behind the book. As far as I can tell, whatever the status of that reality, his ultimate thought is for us to ponder what it would mean for humanity to stop thinking of everything in terms of "man"--even ourselves. When thought of that way, I find the book's larger aim to contain a substantial thought, beyond the usual alien abduction lore. Now, how serious one takes this on its own terms and contexts is something else (I now often find myself siding with scepticism or agnosticism on these matters). I've encountered forms of this idea (the "erasure of man") before in various philosophies, so I now approach the idea from a different background. I don't know what Strieber would think of my thought that I'm willing to seriously ponder the larger idea, but perhaps leave the rest of the book behind, since it has finished the job it was intended to do. Nevertheless, Communion does contain some food for further thought, even if the initial thought is now familiar enough to me and has been sparked by other means.