Thursday, 12 August 2010

Project Saucer (Projekt Saucer) - W. A. Harbinson

Project Saucer (Projekt Saucer)
-W. A. Harbinson

#1 - Inception
#2 - Phoenix
#3 – Genesis
#4 - Millennium
#5 – Resurrection
Fact – Projekt UFO

The Projekt Saucer series has become a cult favourite, rather like the Illuminati books; there is something about them that won’t die. Curiously enough, while the books have become somewhat worn over the years – I first read them in my teens, nearly ten years ago – they still hold up very well, apart from the final book. Resurrection. Resurrection was published around 1999, but it fails to live up to the first four; in effect, the first four were all that were intended to be written.

The core idea of Projekt Saucer, which were not written in the order presented above, revolves around an Earth-based source for flying saucers, or UFOs. Rather than blaming them on aliens, the flying saucers are created by an awesome conspiracy, created by a Doctor Wilson. (Someone called Wilson, BTW, featured in some of the first reports of unknown airships in America.) Through the first book, Wilson takes his ideas to Nazi Germany – incidentally creating the Foo Fighters along the way – and then into a colony in the frozen continent – Antarctica. In the years that follow, Wilson’s flying saucers give rise to the entire UFO phenomenon – apart from much more primitive saucers flown by the US and the USSR - including alien abductions, UFO bases, UFO theories, UFO encounters, UFO dangers…

Noticing a through line here?

Harbinson ties in every known UFO rumour, attributing it to Wilson or to one of the American saucers. Quite apart from Roswell, or any of a dozen other encounters that were widely reported at the time, the books include political dirty-dealing between the world powers on one hand and Wilson’s colony on the other. There have always been rumours that elements in the global powers have made deals with aliens – Harbinson has them trading with people who make Himmler and co look like amateurs. This is actually overdone in places, to the degree that logical inconsistencies start to appear. In particular, the USAF seems to have a split-personality; why encourage UFO investigations if you also want to discourage them? If they’re so determined to keep Wilson a secret, why not just ask the officers to help?

But I digress. The second and third book, incidentally the third and first to be written, include investigations into UFOs by researchers, discouraged, threatened…all of which eventually end badly. The fourth book tends to have thematic similarities to the second and third book, but in the end it seems much more hopeful – and ends fairly well. As much as I hate to admit it, the fifth book feels far too much like it was tacked on to the end, but never mind; it has its moments.

Harbinson has a blocky, clunky, way of writing from time to time. Although his action scenes are superb, with alien-like saucers floating through the clouds, some of his writing takes on the same repetitiveness as Turtledove’s endless reminders that “My name’s Sam Carsten. I have very pale skin and I sunburn very easily. Zinc oxide ointment doesn’t help at all, because I sunburn very easily as my skin’s very pale. Did I mention that I sunburn very easily because my skin’s very pale and zinc oxide doesn’t help…?” His research is massive and very well detailed, but there is no need to pad the books with endless recitals of weapons, encounters and details. At least twice in the final book, a character recites a list of advanced weapons that Wilson has developed; perhaps he didn’t take a breath… In almost all of his books, Harbinson discusses the success the Nazis had in building vast underground complexes; we picked that up from the first book.

Harbinson describes vast concepts of technology, some of them seemingly far advanced – and this leads to one of the logical inconsistencies in the series. Wilson’s success, he claims, is caused by his own total ruthlessness; Doctor Mengle could hardly have done better. HOWEVER, the US has thousands of possible scientists working on any given science – do they have no chance of producing a breakthrough? One could argue, at the end of Millennium, that that is exactly what they have done; even so, it seems odd that we don’t get to see much of the official opposition.

But those are minor problems. Part of the problems come from the odd publishing order and history. The first book to be written, Genesis, actually became the third book in the series, Inception and Phoenix ended up taking their lead from the story. In some ways, Millennium suffers from far fewer problems – and, in the end, provides a genuinely fitting ending to the series. We shall say little about Resurrection, save only that some of the plot strands from Millennium would have been much simpler to follow than what actually happened. Oddly enough – and something simulating to the conspiracy-minded mind – Phoenix and Millennium were never published in the US, at least as far as 1999. One of Resurrection’s less clever features is much reference to this – somehow adding Harbinson himself, the previous books in the series and much else into the plot. One might as well have Travis Taylor writing about a warp-drive researcher called Travis Taylor! It kills the suspension of disbelief.

Harbinson also published Projekt UFO, which was supposed to be a compendium of the background information to the series. Although it makes interesting reading, some of the concepts it discusses make little sense – except in their relation to the series. Harbinson warns of some of the dangers of science, but, in the end, all science has its dangers. (So does living in a cave, so yar boo sucks to the luddites). Harbinson might not have a political agenda, but he is scathing when it comes to the USAF’s research programs into UFOs; throughout the books, they are branded as little more than obvious cover-ups. Admittedly, the ‘snigger-factor’ makes it hard to do any form of serious study, but…

Still, the books are very interesting and well worth a read. They have aged very well.

(The series has an overview page at and a complete free PDF of Phoenix can be found online at

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