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Little Green Men by Christopher Buckley

Little Green Men (original 1999; edition 2012)

by Christopher Buckley

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6811314,027 (3.6)19
Title:Little Green Men
Authors:Christopher Buckley
Info:Corsair (2012), Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, Read, Humor, American Author/s, 2012

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Little Green Men by Christopher Buckley (1999)

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(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Up to this summer, I had read exactly two novels by the master political satirist Christopher Buckley -- his first, Thank You for Smoking, and his latest, The Relic Master -- and they both ended up being so brilliant that I decided that I should probably take the time to read the six other novels he wrote between these two. I just finished the first of that series, which I'm taking on in chronological order, Little Green Men which in this case came out in 1999, three years after Thank You for Smoking; but it unfortunately turned out to be a disappointment compared to the other two. See, while his first novel had such an outrageous concept that it made it easy to picture it actually coming to life (a lobbyist for the tobacco industry has a nervous breakdown, decides his industry should actively embrace the most demonic aspects of their trade, and ends up becoming hugely successful because of it), always the sign of a truly great political satire, in Little Green Men the central concept is only outrageous enough to have inspired a lot of eye-rolling while I was reading it, which made it not nearly as enjoyable an experience. (The idea basically is that the CIA has been the cause of every single UFO sighting since Roswell, originally done as a dirty-trick psych-op to make Stalin paranoid, then continued as a way of assuring big budgets for the military and NASA; after a low-level agent in this shadow department gets passed for a promotion, he drunkenly one night targets a George-Will-type intellectual conservative talk-show host as the newest victim of an "abduction," and his credentials-backed story inspires millions of "millennial-anxious" fellow believers to follow him as the leader of a new cult.)

It's a funny book, make no mistake, with great little moments of pitch-black hilarity and intelligence sprinkled throughout; but it takes a whole lot more suspension of disbelief to picture the ultra-zany plotline actually happening, features weaker characters than in the other two books of his I've read (the love interest invented for our hero is an especially wincing one, in this "white-male political-satirist nerds should never write romantic subplots" kind of way), plus is just a subject that feels like a lot of deliberate machinations went into Buckley choosing it to write about in the first place. (He keeps quoting a statistic throughout the book that showed, as of the late 1990s, supposedly a whopping 80 percent of Americans believed that alien life exists, and this entire novel many times feels like that Buckley randomly came across that poll one day and thought, "Now, how do I build a 300-page story around that fact?") And this of course is always a big danger with satirists as well; that after an accidentally great first novel, their attempts at catching lightning in a bottle again always result in more and more diminishing returns, as the labor they put into finding a good subject for satirizing becomes plainer and plainer to see. I've got a bit of a happy spoiler going for me in this case -- I know that his latest novel from 2016 is truly great, so I can rest assured that the books before that at least aren't going to bottom out into unreadability -- but certainly when I take on his next novel in this series, 2002's No Way to Treat a First Lady (in which a Hillary-Clinton-like character catches her President husband cheating on her, and accidentally kills him inside the White House while whipping an antique spittoon at his head in anger), I'll be going into it with my expectations not set as high this time. ( )
  jasonpettus | Aug 14, 2016 |
Not Buckley's best. Definitely has that snark and commentary (both subtle and not-so-subtle) that I know and love from him, but not nearly as strong as his other works. The end got a little silly as well. Overall, not bad, but not great. ( )
  Alliebadger | Jun 16, 2016 |
Funny book...maybe it helps to be a Washington insider? Maybe not. I enjoy books that unsentimentally make fun of people. ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
What a diabolical mind Christopher Buckley must have! When he's not making pro-smoking lobbyists sympathetic characters, he's imagining a First Lady on trial for assassinating her husband or young people advocating compensated euthanasia of the elderly as a way to save Social Security. But I doubt that his devious mind has composed a more delicious plot than in "Little Green Men."

Combining bloviating pundits, obscure government bureaucracies, and ecstatic UFO believers, this brilliant novel focuses on the increasingly farcical consequences of the purported alien abduction of John Oliver Banion. An inside-the-Beltway talk show host with an ego to match his three name persona, Banion has enough popularity to demand displays of obeisance from even the President himself.

When the media power player is abducted by aliens while playing golf at an exclusive country club, however, his focus drifts from politics to the larger issue of possible alien invasion. This exploration leads him into the subculture of extraterrestrial enthusiasts. As the highest profile abductee ever, Banion becomes a leading voice alongside the kooks and pseudo-scientists, and eventually refocuses his career to use his celebrity to bring attention and credibility to what had been a fringe group.

At times laugh-out-loud funny, this novel is a delight from start to end. The cross-group story allows Buckley to satirize certain self-righteous types, from political talking heads to conspiracy theorists, while spinning a tale that is a breezy page-turner. ( )
  ALincolnNut | Nov 7, 2012 |
I enjoyed this tale of dodgy extraterrestrials and conspiracy at the heart of Government. It sort of reminded me of the David Icke business that so entertained us in the UK twenty years ago, cranked up a few notches on the publicity scale and shipped across the Atlantic.

The best thing about it was the humour. A brisk, bracing sort of satire that surprised me, I didn’t expect to find it as funny as I did given that it’s satirising the Establishment of a foreign country. But – a bit like The Simpsons – it’s humour that crosses international borders.

Some of the character names suggested it might lean towards slapstick...Colonel Murfletit. The Dr Seuss-esque Speaker Meaker. And the frankly startling Karl Cuntmore (“Techno novelist supreme...and yet for all his tens of millions, he still looked like a man who had just been told there was a dead porcupine in his water tank”). Yet for all its daftness, there was nothing in this book I couldn’t at a stretch imagine actually happening. At times a vaguely preachy, messagey idea - to do with how shallow the protagonist’s life was when he was wealthy and admired – threatened to break out like a Boggart from a wardrobe, but it was mercifully kept in check.

Calamity struck for me personally when I left the book behind in a local park when I was only twenty pages from the end. It was gone, totally disappeared. With some books I’d just shrug and move on. Others I would have guessed the end already. But in this case I had to buy another copy, just to find out what happened. So that’s got to be a point in its favour. And I genuinely hope that whoever stumbled upon my lost copy read it and enjoyed it as much as I did. ( )
  jayne_charles | Jun 26, 2012 |
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The exercise took place in the early 1960s . . . and involved launching fictional UFO sighting reports from many different areas. The project was headed by Desmond Fitzgerald of the CIA's Special Affairs Staff (who made a name for himself by inventing harebrained schemes for assassinating Fidel Castro). The UFO exercise was "just to keep the Chinese off-balance and make them think we were doing things we weren't. . . . The project got the desired results, as I remember, except that it somehow got picked up by a lot of religious nuts in Iowa and Nebraska or somewhere who took it seriously enough to add an extra chapter to their version of the New Testament."
-- Former CIA officer Miles Copeland, quoted in "Above Top Secret: The Worldwide UFO Cover-UP"
[President Clinton] said, "Hubb, there are two things I want you to find out for me: One, who killed JFK? And two, are there UFOs?"

I actually did go to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) when I was in Colorado Springs and asked them about UFOs. Of course, they denied it.
-- Former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell, in USA Today
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060955570, Paperback)

In Christopher Buckley's hilarious fourth novel, Washington, D.C., is naturally enough a place of sex, lies, and videotape. Unfortunately for Little Green Men's pundit protagonist, John Oliver Banion, it is also the HQ of Majestic Twelve, a very, very covert government project. Since "that golden Cold War summer of 1947," MJ-12 has had a single mission--to convince taxpayers that space invaders are constantly lurking below what's left of the ozone layer. "A country convinced that little green men were hovering over the rooftops was inclined to vote yea for big weapons and space programs," the author thoughtfully explains.

But one disgruntled operative wants out. Nathan Scrubbs is fed up to the back teeth with the art of alien abduction--not to mention his cover as a Social Security flunky--so when his request for a transfer is quashed, he drunkenly decides to take it out on ubiquitous ultra-prig Banion, who happens to be on TV at the time. The ensuing high-tech kidnap, at Maryland's Burning Bush Country Club, is only one of the thousands of convulsively funny scenes in Little Green Men. Not that the novel isn't a skewed morality play of some sort: as Banion comes to believe in Tall Nordics and Short Ugly Grays, he is quickly removed from every A-list in town. But oddly enough, social and political disaster turns out to be as liberating as the finest alien probe. Let's just say that long before Banion and Scrubbs have a close encounter at the Millennium Man March on Washington, this Beltway barrel of monkeys attains a truly extraplanetary level of amusement. --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:08 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A comedy on a Washington TV pundit who is abducted by aliens and becomes a crusading UFO believer. In reality, the abduction was staged by the government to gain support for space research. By the author of Thank You for Smoking.

(summary from another edition)

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