I remember seeing Strieber on Larry King Live in 1990 or '91. He was promoting a new, non-UFO book. Every caller asked him about the Visitors. Why shouldn't they? Did he really think he could escape the madness whe n ever he wanted to? He told King the visits had stopped and would never resume. He swore he would never write about them again. All he wanted to discuss was his new book, the one with no aliens in it.
I read the interview in UFO last year. A shorter version appeared in the MUFON Journal. The Visitors were back, had never left. Strieber told an urban legend about him and his son's friend getting lost in a strange part of town which they've never been able to find again. The same story is in Aleister Crowley's Confessions, written fifty years earlier. I think Crowley mentions Eliphas Levi having the same experience in the 1800s. It's a good story. I've always enjoyed it.
Breakthrough should have been the UFO publishing event of 1995. I haven't heard yet how it's selling. Strieber almost single-handedly brought the abduction archetype into the public eye. We should examine what he says for that reason alone. It's too soon to tell if his millennial prophecies will come true. I doubt they will.
Apparently nobody figured out the meaning of the nine mysterious knocks in Communion. Strieber explains it to us in Breakthrough. They are the same as the three knocks used in Freemasonry to indicate initiation to the next grade. The knocks mean that Strieber is ready to evolve to the next level of humanity. Will he make it? I can hardly wait to find out.
He has a St. Elmo's Fire experience in a cave near his cabin. He can't resist pointing out an event recorded in Jim Brandon's Weird America, one of my favorites. The event is the spontaneous levitation of stones in Stone Ridge, NewYork in 1803. Let's see, I have Weird America right here on the shelf. Hey! That's not in there. Where'd it come from?
Bugs figure big in Breakthrough, like they did in the other books. The Visitors are constantly compared to bugs. Huge spiders invade Strieber's bedroom at night. Fate? Mantises are often mentioned. "Mantis" means "prophet." I don't know about you, but I don't want to be part of the "hive mind."
Athena gets her share of the credit too. Goddess worship and matrilineal society are mentioned favorably more than once. Strieber supports the theory that society started out this way, then changed to a patriarchal family and government later. It's never been proven. Orthodox science says no.
Maybe he was tired of being lumped in with the New Agers. He constantly refers to Christianity and the Bible. Ironically, this will only distance him from serious Christians, while endearing the more syncretistic New Agers even more. Nice try.
Unforgivable are Strieber's use of "me and so-and-so" as the subject of a sentence, and his misspelling of "vegetative" (he used "vegitative").
Occasionally Strieber mentions something in passing that grabs my attention more than all the Visitor experiences. For instance, one night he flies to Colorado in a saucer and visits a sleeping friend. When they land, he picks up some gravel and puts it into his mouth. Why?! He never says. This is so bizarre, and he mentions it so casually you almost miss it. One of the book's biggest faults is Strieber's constant apologizing for every crazy detail of his accounts. Doesn't he know his readers already believe him? So when he obliquely refers to something like the gravel, I have to wonder.
Curiously, he compares the Visitors' skin to that of a shark. He doesn't mention sharks by name, but he says their skin is smooth if you rub it one way, and rough if you rub it the other. I wish he would have elaborated.
Another credit I have to give him is when he wakes up in a strange state of mind which precedes the Visitors and says, "Oh, I'm like this again." That one hit home, because I've had it before. Memories are state-specific, and this is the best I've seen anyone capture that feeling.
Strieber leaves a few clues to the real origin of the Visitors. He mentions meeting a friend while she was working with a Gurdjieff group. The implication is that Strieber was working with the group as well. Ed Conroy confirms this in his Report On Communion. So why no discussion of Gurdjieff in Strieber's book? I don't know.
He also drops Margot Adler's name. He calls her a writer, and nothing more. Sure, she's a writer. She wrote Drawing Down the Moon, an excellent study of the neo-pagan movement in America. She's a modern witch, but Strieber neglects to discuss his relationship with her.
The climax of the book comes early, when Strieber spends nearly a year befriending a shy dwarf in his New York cabin. The dwarf is a Visitor. Strieber wants to get to know him, but he's afraid of him. His fear keeps the dwarf away. The dwarf is an obvious symbol of the subconscious. It brings to mind Bes, the popular Egyptian god. I am also reminded of The Little Man From Another Place in Twin Peaks.
The last third of the book is spent denouncing government cover-up of UFOs. No new ground is covered. Strieber takes credit for the Roswell story, sides with Richard Hoaglund and his Mars Face, and generally exhibits the kind of paranoia which gives ufology a bad name. This detracts from his earlier message of facing one's fear embodied in the dwarf story.
That's the whole message of the book. The Visitors are our "parents," are what our future looks like. They have the right to do whatever they want because they are all-good and all-wise. Humanity needs to be scared into evolving, because we won't do it on our own. Confronting this fear is what the experience is all about. Why can't Strieber do it after eight years? You'll have to wait for The Secret School to find out.
Postscript: A couple days after writing this review, I had my own Visitor experience. Strieber's dwarf came to see me one night. He looked like someone from my seventh-grade science class named Earl Dybdahl. He was short, stocky, and blonde. Like his namesake, he was a mischief-maker. He and a tall man who hid behind a trench-coat were going up an escalator in a mall to rob a Nations Bank. To rob the nation? I ran up behind the dwarf and grabbed his gun, then forced him back downstairs where I handcuffed him. He smiled the whole time, didn't struggle, but the cuffs kept coming undone. I finally pinned him down long enough where I could hold him until the police came. After I awoke I realized that my dwarf was a decoy. While I struggled with him and the handcuffs, his tall unseen partner was robbing the bank, robbing the nation. This means Strieber's dwarf was also a decoy. He spent a year taming the little fellow, while the real Visitors continued doing whatever it is that they do. I also checked the etymology of "Earl Dybdahl." "Earl" and "dahl" are easy enough. "Earl" means "nobleman" and "dahl" means "valley." I had to look up "dyb." It turned out to be Hebrew. It's the root from which "dybbuk" is derived. In Jewish folklore a dybbuk is an evil spirit who possesses a human so it can have a body. And that is my breakthrough.