Journal of a UFO Investigator is a coming-of-age story, with much of the critical action of the plot happening in the main character’s head. It follows a young boy named Danny Shapiro as he concocts an elaborate fantasy world in his head to deal with his mother’s illness, his father’s abuse, and the alienation of being the only Jewish kid at his high school.

The author, David Halperin has a PhD in religious studies, focusing on Judaism. He has previously written nonfiction works on various biblical topics. He really brings this religion/mythology background to bear. The “imaginary” parts of the story weave together the Big Three Abrahamic religions with a potent thread of UFO mythos. The UFO bits draw from the flakiest, Fortean corners of UFO lore, including the Shaver Mystery, and the Hollow Earth milieus.

The novel itself drags at times. It uses a literary technique called the unreliable narrator. In keeping with this technique, you know that the narrator’s point of view is not quite 100% accurate. It’s very obvious (by design most likely) that most of the narrative is happening in Danny’s head. This makes it hard to be moved by the events. That’s not to say that a story shouldn’t have internal conflict, and the action of the plot can’t be abstract. But in this case, the abstract action is an elaborate action-based science fiction fantasy. Since it often hinges on physical peril, but since it’s ultimately all in the character’s head, there is nothing truly at risk.

It’s certainly an interesting read, but you can tell this is the author’s first real novel. The meat of the story has no stakes, no consequences. But it’s not a complete write-off. The writer has a really interesting interpretation of the UFO mythos, and explains it through the lens of his religious studies background. It’s more of a coming of age story with a lot of UFO-themed window-dressing than a true science fiction story. If that’s what you’re looking for, you should seek it out.

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