'Into the End' by Jeremy Vaeni

Jeremy Vaeni does not have a Wikipedia page, so I can’t do my usual introductory thing of pointing at it and summarising the more interesting bits. He’s an obscure figure, clearly, who does not merit a page on Wikipedia; he’s just not important enough. Who the fuck is this guy, and what am I doing reading his book?

It’s a long story, and it starts with UFOs. I’ve been interested in UFOs since I was pretty young, though my interest has been intermittent. I’ve never seen one or met anyone who claimed to have seen one, but for some reason I’ve read lots of books about them.

For a long time I thought it odd that the entire subject is viewed with ridicule by pretty much everyone, particularly by those who know almost nothing about it. From reading UFO books I had become convinced that the subject should be taken seriously. I had read of military encounters with UFOs, of jets scrambled to intercept, of radar traces and missile systems that jammed, of black budget aircraft and secret military bases. I had read about Roswell. There was plenty of evidence, I thought, that UFOs were real. We were probably being visited by extraterrestrials, I thought. I had read many books about UFOs.

Of course, I read lots of other books, too. I read a lot of SF, for example. At some point I got interested in writing SF, and after a while I wanted to write something that made use of all the UFO stuff, which I thought was interesting. But I noticed that SF writers (almost) never include UFOs in their stories, although they often involve spaceships and drama and adventures on other planets and all kinds of aliens - often sexy ones. Lots of crazy shit, but no UFOs - what the fuck is that about? Then I realised: these people want to be taken seriously. They write serious fiction, you see. They write about things that are plausible - like spaceships and time travel and shaggable alien chicks - but not UFOs. UFOs are just silly, and if they wrote about UFOs then people would accuse them of having overactive imaginations. And that’s the last thing any writer needs, at least if they want to be taken seriously.

Still, I wanted to include some UFO stuff. But it’s such a vast topic; how could I possibly read enough books to gain a sufficient understanding of UFOs to actually write about them? Also, I had grown bored of UFO books - apart from rampant speculation, all they said was that UFOs were probably extraterrestrial spacecraft (but maybe not) and the government is hiding ‘what it knows’. But other than the details of various cases, there seemed nothing new to learn. I wanted more - I wanted the big picture. I wanted explanations. So I turned to the internet - specifically, YouTube - and began to watch presentations recorded at UFO conferences. I watched lots of these. Most of them were bullshit, I thought. There was a lot of talk about giant reptiles, for example, and a coming ‘shift in consciousness’ and something called ‘the Galactic Council’ but as far as I could tell there was no evidence behind any of those ideas - they were just things people talked about.

A lot of people mentioned ‘abductions’ too, as though they were something real. I was not convinced because most of the abduction stories I’d heard of had come from ‘testimony’ taken from ‘abductees’ under hypnosis - what’s called ‘hypnotic regression’, a technique for retrieving suppressed memories. I’d read somewhere, years ago, about the problem of ‘confabulation’ - basically the retrieved memories get mixed up and embellished by the imagination and misinterpreted, so the ‘testimony’ is unreliable. The ‘witness’ may be telling the truth about their memories - but those memories have become hopelessly distorted by the process of ‘hypnotic regression’. Nevertheless, they are real memories. The ‘witness’ actually remembers them - to them it’s as though these things really happened. And maybe they did - sort of. Or not. There’s no way to tell.

On top of that is the logistical problem of abductions; so many people have (supposedly) been ‘abducted by aliens’ that there must be hundreds of spaceships going around all the time abducting people, and most of us simply don’t notice - presumably cos we’re too busy watching television or whatever, like all the other sheeple.

As I say, I was not convinced. But in these talks so many people mentioned abductions that I began to wonder if I’d missed something - maybe there was some truth to it after all? I watched a few talks that were specifically about abductions - everything came from hypnotically retrieved memories, as usual. I decided to check the latest info about hypnotic regression; I’d first read about ‘confabulation’ a long time ago and I thought it would be common knowledge among researchers, but these guys never mentioned it - perhaps I had misunderstood something? Perhaps the problem had been solved. I searched the web, and pretty soon I found this website.

I had unwittingly stumbled upon a huge controversy within ufology. Within the field of abduction research, a large turd had been uncovered, and a great debate was underway: should we remove this turd from the field? Or just leave it where it is - after all, what harm is it doing? It stinks, but let’s not talk about it. Let’s not think about it; let’s pretend it’s not there.

This turd is known as The ‘Emma Woods’ Controversy. It centres around a respected abduction researcher named Dr David Jacobs who had a disagreement with one of his research subjects, codenamed ‘Emma Woods’.

(Note: the following summary is necessarily brief, and somewhat satirical. For a more complete, more accurate account I urge the reader to visit the website above where ‘Emma’ (not her real name) presents her evidence along with links to a number of excellent articles written about the case. In the interests of balance you should also read Dr Jacobs’ response in which confusingly he refers to ‘Emma’ as 'Alice' (also not her real name). My summary is merely my own interpretation; it is certain to be flawed.)

In essence, Dr Jacobs had received a series of instant messages he believed were sent by evil hybrid aliens who disapproved of his work. (Naturally Jacobs' work makes extensive use of hypnotic regression techniques.)

Emma came to suspect that the threatening messages were sent not by evil hybrids, but by another of Jacobs' research subjects, a woman codenamed ‘Elizabeth’ - after all, it was clear that the messages had been sent from Elizabeth’s computer. Once Emma’s suspicions were aroused, she decided to make use of a technique known as ‘rational thought’, which allowed her to draw the obvious conclusion that the instant messages were a hoax perpetrated by Elizabeth. Initially, Emma had been taken in by this hoax; so had Dr Jacobs.

Emma decided to tell Dr Jacobs why she felt the instant messages were a hoax. But Jacobs did not believe in the hoax - he was convinced that evil hybrids really were after him. He reasoned that although the messages had come from Elizabeth’s computer, they could still have been written by evil hybrids. Jacobs believed that Elizabeth was an honest person, and it was not plausible that she would lie to him. It was more likely, felt Jacobs, that the evil hybrids had magically taken control of Elizabeth’s body and used her to write the messages, or maybe they had hacked into her computer using advanced alien technology! To Jacobs, the possibilities were endless. Still, Emma continued to believe in her hoax theory, and eventually decided to stop working with Dr Jacobs. She tried to work out with Jacobs the details of a statement which would explain why they were no longer working together, while not discrediting either of them. This proved difficult because Dr Jacobs kept threatening to issue his own statement saying that Emma was mentally ill.

The shit really hit the fan when Emma listened to the recordings of her many hypnosis sessions with Dr Jacobs, which were conducted over the phone (the two have never met in person). A number of audio clips can be found on her website; these strongly suggest that Dr Jacobs directed Emma (who was hypnotised) to ‘remember’ her experiences in such a way that they corroborated his pre-existing theories about the hybrid ‘threat’ to humanity. He directed her to ‘recall’ sexual encounters with alien beings. He planted a post-hypnotic suggestion asking her to send him her underwear so that he could perform some sort of ‘test’ on it. There is a recording of Jacobs offering to buy Emma a chastity belt to help protect her from the horny hybrids he had previously directed her to ‘remember’. Jacobs seems to like the idea of alien sex fiends having their way with Emma Woods; he breathes heavily on the recordings, and speaks in a pervy manner. Personally I suspect he’s masturbating a little, but I can’t prove that - it’s pure speculation.

After hearing the recordings of her hypnosis sessions with Jacobs, it seems that Emma was shocked by the behaviour of Dr Jacobs, a man she respected and in whom she had put her trust. She decided to expose what had happened. She put the evidence on her website.

Many people rushed to Dr Jacobs' defence; they labelled Emma Woods crazy and made up all sorts of stories about her motivations; they said the tapes had been doctored and so on and so forth. But that’s all bullshit - if you listen to the tapes it’s pretty clear that (at a minimum) Dr Jacobs let his imagination run away with him; he was taken in by a hoax, and ended up making a fool of himself.

I stumbled upon this controversy just as it was starting to receive serious attention within ufology; on Emma’s website I found links to a number of articles and podcasts that discussed the case. That’s how I found Paratopia, a podcast hosted by Jeff Ritzmann and Jeremy Vaeni.

The first episodes I heard were about the Emma Woods controversy, but soon I was hooked - unlike other paranormal podcasts I could mention, Paratopia was not shit. It didn’t feel like something put together just for entertainment value, or to make money, or as a mere exercise in vanity. It seemed like two people who were genuinely interested in the subject, but dubious. People like me, perhaps?

Well, no. It turns out that these two have had numerous paranormal experiences including encounters with UFOs and non-human entities much like those described by ‘abductees’. But they don’t call themselves ‘abductees’; rather, they are ‘experiencers of high strangeness’. To Ritzmann and Vaeni, this shit is real - it’s a regular part of their lives. What does it all mean? They don’t know. They talk about their experiences rather than their beliefs - they don’t know what to believe, but they’re dubious about extraterrestrials. They don’t know what the fuck is going on, but extraterrestrials? That doesn’t seem to fit. The phenomenon’s too weird for that.

Clearly two guys who experience this stuff were being far more rational and critical than the famous ‘pioneer’ in ‘abduction research’ with a reputation as a serious and objective scholar. That critical, cautious approach was a good reason for me to take Paratopia seriously.

In modern ufology (particularly within the so-called 'Exopolitics' movement) almost all critical thinking has disappeared. The modern approach is basically that everyone is welcome to talk shit, and as long as they say, ‘I’m just providing information, but you should do your own research’ then people will believe them, and won’t ask awkward questions. And so it goes - the ‘field’ moves forward into the realms of abject fantasy, in search of ‘the truth’ while seeking official ‘disclosure’ of ‘the facts about UFOs’ - which they think they already know thanks to ‘information’ received from ‘inside sources’ with ‘no reason to lie’. The whole thing has become a game.

For the Paratopia guys, it’s not a game - it’s not something you can talk shit about. For them, their high-strangeness experiences are real, and profound; for them, the experience holds some deep meaning, though what that meaning is remains elusive. It’s as though the experiences form a kind of puzzle, the solution to which lies at the outer limit of human cognitive capacities - if not beyond that limit. (For some reason I am reminded of Vygotsky’s idea of the Zone of Proximal Development.)

Suddenly ufology was interesting again; suddenly I felt like I was thinking new thoughts; I even began to imagine I was getting somewhere closer to understanding the UFO phenomenon. I began to think about Jacques Vallee’s Passport to Magonia, which attempts to draw a connection between the stories arising from the UFO phenomenon, and older stories about the faerie folk.

Vallee’s ideas are not popular within ufology because people nowadays would rather believe in alien spaceships than in faeries. Still, the connections seem to be there. What does that tell us? Is the whole thing just bullshit after all? Are UFOs imaginary? Could faerie folk be real? What’s the difference between ‘imaginary’ and ‘real’? Reports of paranormal phenomena appear to have both ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’ components. This is very strange - could they be both? Is there something in between? What the fuck is going on here? (For more headfuckery, and even a vague outline of some answers, I recommend George Hansen’s book The Trickster and the Paranormal. Thanks again, Paratopia. George Hansen is indeed a fucking genius.)

So that’s Paratopia, and that’s how I know who Jeremy Vaeni is, and that’s why I am reviewing this, his third book, and his first novel. In the Authors Note at the end of the book, Vaeni writes:

Into the End is the definition of “A labor of love.” I first wrote it when I was a junior in high school. It was a therapeutic means of working out what I thought were alien abductions happening to me at the time. (Now I try not to define them.) It was also something I simply could not put down. I compulsively wrote it during the school year and all through summer vacation.

Vaeni goes on to say how different the published version is from the original manuscript. But to me the important point is that it’s Vaeni’s first novel - really his first. This leads me to expect flaws.

The novel is self-published via Amazon, printed on demand. It’s the first Amazon POD book I’ve actually held in my hands, and the quality is not bad, apart from the material used for the cover, which is a bit flimsy and has a tendency to curl. Other than that it’s similar to a standard paperback. Not bad, really. Cover art for Into The End is provided by Jeff Ritzmann, of course, a graphic designer by trade. It’s good artwork, too; the front depicts a key location in the story (a treehouse near a haunted mansion), and on the back we have a flying saucer under attack by a humungous winged Godzilla-type entity - a scene from the climax of the ‘parallel universe’ thread of the story. And there’s a tagline, too, in large silvery capitals:

A MYSTERY OLDER THAN TIME. AN EPIC LARGER THAN IMAGINATION. A LOVE THAT BINDS IT ALL.

Below that is the blurb:

Hockomock Swamp. Home to small-town secrets— paranormal creatures, ghastly alien experiments, the things of the bump in the night.

Five teenage boys camp there. Five go in, one comes out: Corey Avon. Initially, he can’t recall what happened. But, when he regains his memory, he finds his friends and ends the world, for Corey has a secret of his own. One so shocking he keeps it from himself. One so wild no elite force can tame it. One so deep only his true love can bear it.

Into the End is a sweeping journey into the who and what of what we all are, how we got here, and where we’re going. Truth may set us free, but it is not for the faint of heart.

In fact… it is terrifying.

Pretty fucking cheesy, I thought. But then, blurb is always cheesy. It’s meant to catch the attention and make the (potential) reader think: ‘Dum Dum Dum DAH! Wow, I must read this book! It sounds so exciting!’ Blurb has turned me off many a book, and Into The End was no different. My heart sank; I worried that this was not the sort of book I’d normally read. Well, it’s not. Therefore the blurb had done its job, and I cannot complain - it is good blurb.

The blurb gives a certain expectation of the sort of story this is going to be - primarily plot-driven, with plenty of explosions. Well, maybe not actual explosions, but that sort of thing; exciting events, and lots of action. That expectation is largely fulfilled, and the action is handled well; car chases (sort of), fights, torture scenes, encounters with otherworldly creatures, interdimensional travel, experiments in mind control - it’s all there.

Vaeni writes well, with occasional flashes of brilliance. The plot moves along at a cracking pace, and the pages keep turning. It was not impossible to put down, but I often found I didn’t want to - there was that constant feeling of wanting to know what happens next. On that level, Into The End is great. The dialogue, also, is excellent, particularly among the teenagers. And there are hardly any typos!

And yet… there was something missing. Corey (the main character / hero) never quite came alive for me. I didn’t particularly care about him. It was as though he was doing these things, and having these feelings, not because he was a human being caught up in extraordinary events, but rather because he was a character in a story where lots of exciting things happen. I cared about the plot, sure, but I did not care about the characters - with one exception: I loved the character of Dr Metis, a computer-science professor who gets recruited by a clandestine CIA-like group to work on a high-tech mind control project which is probably evil. Dr Metis is given a fairly extensive back-story which brought him to life for me and gave his actions a meaning in terms of Dr Metis himself, the human being. Most of the other characters seemed to lack that.

In particular Corey’s true love, Lina, seems very short on characterisation despite being a central lynchpin of the plot; apparently she’s some sort of bridge between this reality and a parallel universe in which various otherdimensional entities are engaged in a mighty battle for the future of planet Earth; a battle whose outcome is intricately connected to Corey himself, and to the mind-control project now headed by Dr Metis.

Funnily enough, in the case of Lina, the lack of characterisation actually works, because the true love between Lina and Corey is mostly theoretical. The two scarcely have time to meet before being torn apart, though they manage to establish quite clearly that they share a deep spiritual connection which neither one understands, though both are able to acknowledge it. The situation between Corey and Lina really captures the feeling of unrequited love - of ‘knowing’ that another person is your ‘true love’ (though you can’t explain it) combined with a deep fear that no matter how wonderful it is to have found that connection, your love is doomed, has been doomed from the start. I’ve felt that way; it’s beautiful, and it’s agonising. I happen to think it’s largely bullshit, but that’s doesn’t matter; when you feel that way, you know that it’s real. The scenes between Cory and Lina capture that feeling very well - and the lack of characterisation of Lina strongly suggests that the whole ‘true love’ thing is nothing more than wishful thinking on Corey’s part. In the story it’s not bullshit, of course; it truly is real. But Lina’s chimera-like nature suggests a deeper meaning.

There are other flaws, too; for me, most of the scenes in the ‘alternate universe’ thread didn’t work as bits of writing. That thread is where most of the alien stuff takes place - there are Reptillians and Insectoids and space ships and time travel and all kinds of other crap of the kind you might hear about at a UFO conference. The various denizens of the alternate universe have various plans and adventures, but none of it was convincing to me. That’s a shame because those bits are very important to the plot; they make the story whole. But the way that stuff’s handled makes it hard to take seriously. It just seems silly to me. (Possibly that entire thread is a satirical take on ideas commonly found within the ‘Exopolitics’ movement, but in that case I feel it needs more bite to it.)

Into the End is no masterpiece, but that’s fine - it’s not claiming to be. I enjoyed it anyway. It kept me turning the pages, and that’s the main thing.

Vaeni’s first novel is a lot better than mine, I can tell you that. I look forward to his next.

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