The X-Files is on Netflix right now, leading up to the airing of new episodes early next year. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been eagerly rewatching the show from the beginning, transported back into a middle schooler, motionless and wide-eyed in front of the screen. The show holds up, though its early-’90s brand of anti-government paranoia dates it somewhat. Which isn’t to say that we should’ve outgrown our skepticism towards the nefariousness of America’s military-industrial complex. Anyone paying attention the past half-century knows that reality has been just as dark, if not moreso, than anything Chris Carter dreamed up for his show.
Enter Annie Jacobsen, a journalist with the inquisitiveness of Fox Mulder and methodical mind of Dana Scully. Jacobsen wrote the book on Area 51 (literally, with 2011’s Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base) and last year dropped Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America. She returned quickly this September with The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency. If anyone is an expert on the strange dealings of U.S. defense science it’s Jacobsen, and for readers who WANT TO BELIEVE her histories make excellent companions to the more sinister conspiracy episodes of The X-Files.
There may not be anything supernatural in The Pentagon’s Brain, but one will find plenty about weapons development and testing, the rationale and strategy that underpins much defense science, and key figures in this shadowy world. If UFO seekers might be a bit disappointed by what they find here, readers more intrigued by the Cigarette Smoking Man will see that the truth really is out there.