Sekret Machines: DeLonge and Hartley’s UFO Novel Takes Us Beyond ‘Deep Black’
For nearly as long as the idea of UFOs have been a part of our culture, an idea has also persisted that some of our world governments may be withholding information about the subject from the general populace. Thus, the broader notion of a “UFO Reality” may be one partly based on information we find in books, media, and through the testimony of those claiming to be witnesses, and another part based on the presumption — or the hope, even — that more information might eventually be obtained through appealing to proper authorities.
Because of this, not only has the idea of “UFO disclosure” risen amidst the true hot-button issues in the field today, but also the questions over how much the government might know, and even whether the role they do play could be more integral to the heart of the UFO mystery than many realize.
Much of the cloak and dagger speculation about UFOs and their relationship to world superpowers forms the basis for Tom DeLonge and A.J. Hartley’s new book Sekret Machines Book 1: Chasing Shadows. The book, described by its authors as “a novel based on actual events,” is a thriller about UFOs and government secrecy that manages to tie together a number of threads from various speculative literature about UFOs and their origins, ranging from Nazi UFO conspiracies, to “what’s really going on” at Area 51, a timely debate which has even managed to become central to the 2016 campaign of U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
I hadn’t been quite sure what to expect from Chasing Shadows before it arrived, though upon completion I would recommend it to anyone interested in the UFO subject, as well as those hoping to glean a bit of new perspective on the possible connections UFOs may have to government secrecy. Admittedly though, part of my anticipation had involved the way that the book’s reputation appeared to precede it: for weeks prior to being contacted about receiving a review copy of the novel, I had been getting messages from eager individuals wanting to know whether I thought there was more to the book than merely fiction. In fact, many were taking it to be a possible form of “soft disclosure” in itself, if not something more tantalizing and, perhaps, even a bit sinister (I don’t think that’s really the case, by the way… but putting our paranoia aside for now, I’ll explain more about why some people think Tom’s Sekret Machines is actually just part of a bigger conspiracy of misinformation later on).
To understand how this all fits together, a bit of background is required first. Tom DeLonge, better known as the former guitarist and singer of Blink 182, has long been fascinated with UFOs. In 1999 on the band’s album Enema of the State, DeLonge sang a song titled “Aliens Exist,” although at that time, few might have presumed that the guitarist’s views went much deeper than merely passing interest. However, over the last several years DeLonge has become more outspoken about UFOs, and in 2012, my friends Jason McClellan and Maureen Elsberry, who at that time had been working for UFO media company OpenMinds, managed to arrange an interview with him about his passion for the subject.
DeLonge’s knowledge is quite broad, and at times even impressively so, citing a number of obscure details about UFO history, and speculative threads about secret innovations in the world of science that may very well figure into the bigger mystery. As he discusses such things, one can see many of the underpinnings of what became Chasing Shadows in the interview linked above.
Some time later, my brother Caleb (a long time Blink 182 fan) was contacted by DeLonge, at the suggestion of McClellan and Elsberry, about providing some artwork for original articles they would be featuring at the newly formed To The Stars Media, DeLonge’s multimedia company. The three of them worked remotely for the company for a number of months before it was announced that there would be a change of direction with the company’s media presence. Shortly afterward, news about Sekret Machines began to get around, and after fielding a number of queries from intrigued listeners of my podcast about the book and what it claimed to represent — a novelization based on the “truth” behind UFO secrecy — McClellan contacted me to see whether I might be interested in reviewing the book, if he could arrange for me to be sent a copy.
Around the time the book was on its way to me in the mail, Rolling Stone ran an interesting feature on DeLonge’s UFO interests, which at times seemed more like thinly-veiled mockery, while catering to the attention of fans who wanted to hear “Tom’s side” of the current Blink 182 breakup. Consider the following passage from the Rolling Stone piece, which read,
Online, DeLonge has been called batshit insane, delusional and a possible paranoid schizophrenic. “It’s very hard to think, ‘How did this guy in a band get access like that?'” [DeLonge] says. “It sounds crazy. But it’s because I can speak to a very specific audience. I earned their trust. I knew my material.”
Sure it’s hard to believe, for many, that someone like DeLonge would have gained apparent access to information from individuals in areas that include government sources, and the dark underbelly of the aerospace industry. “Though fictional, it’s written with information DeLonge says he gleaned from ‘sources within the aerospace industry and the Department of Defense and NASA,’ Rolling Stone reported back in April. “Then he adds, ‘That sentence, specifically, was approved for me to say’.”
Chasing Shadows kicks off with Alan, a military pilot in a Harrier jet, and his unbelievable encounter with an exotic aerial phenomenon over Afghanistan in 2014. Meanwhile, a social worker named Jennifer learns she has just become heiress to her late father’s fortune, along with a strange company and its connections to investments in the aerospace industry; halfway across the world, a skeptical blogger in New York named Timika is being pursued by a group of men masquerading as cops, after she receives a strange diary from a deceased Polish man. The story slowly spins the narratives of the aforementioned characters together over the course of the book’s nearly 700 pages, culminating in an exciting and well-executed tale of espionage and mystery that reads much like a mixup between James Bond novels and The X Files, with a touch Timo Vuorensola’s Iron Sky added in for added flavor. The result is a very entertaining and absorbing novel, pairing DeLonge’s technical meanderings with Hartley’s elegant, but readable prose, maintaining enough historical accuracy throughout to present a retelling of events that sounds like it very well could have happened.
In fact, some of the events in the book did happen, as a matter of historical accuracy. Throughout the novel, short chapters appearing as vignettes offer retellings of famous UFO incidents and cases, in which the break from the primary narrative and its fantastic portrayal of “sekret machines” is complimented by the stories of actual individuals, some of them perennial staples of UFO lore, and the odd aerial phenomena and other weirdness these people experienced.
But apart from the book’s style and appeal, there are the deeper questions, too. In his foreword, DeLonge recounts how he came into possession of knowledge that involved the so-called “Sekret Machines” in the first place. In the summer of 2015, he says he was invited to an open house event for “one of the largest and most elite defense contractors in the United States.” DeLonge was asked if he would introduce their lead executive for the event, to which DeLonge agreed, on the condition that he was allowed to have a few minutes to speak with this individual privately. “I wasn’t sure why I said that,” DeLonge remembers. “I just knew that was an opportunity I needed to take advantage of.”
The result of that meeting had been numerous new connections and subsequent meetings, in which DeLonge says he was introduced to scientists, high ranking officials, and government employees that believed in his vision of creating a project that might slowly “educate” the public about some of the biggest secrets humankind has ever kept. While expressing sympathies for the motives of those who have helped conceal the information (other reviewers and interviewers have noted DeLonge’s stated support for government agencies, and the secrecy they have worked to uphold in the name of national security), DeLonge’s broader pitch was to build a media and entertainment franchise based on this notion of secret technologies, long kept out of view (well, mostly, at least) by government.
“I have done it,” he proclaims in his foreword. “I have assembled a team of men and women ‘in the know.’ And they all believe I am doing something of value, something worth their time and yours.”
The question remains, of course: what, precisely, is it that he’s doing?
Some interpret all this to mean that Tom is doing just what he says he is: building “a massive entertainment franchise that [involves] novels, feature films, nonfiction books, documentaries, and everything else that goes along with a story that’s been told over decades and teaches people the truth about something that is almost too big to handle.” So yes, in that sense, we might even take this to be a form of “disclosure” then, albeit in a roundabout way. That is, of course, if the information being presented is indeed valid, and representative of elements to our modern world of which most remain unaware.
Which brings us to the alternative, and to phrase this with a question, just how does Tom know whether or not he’s been lied to, and whether the projects he pitched might have been been viewed as a convenient avenue for exploitation, with hope for gain in other areas by those involved? Sure, by asking this it sounds like we’re careening off into the realm of conspiracy theories… but there is indeed some historical precedent for this sort of thing. Consider episodes like the Paul Bennewitz story, as well as the entire affair surrounding the MJ-12 documents and their dubious origins, and other instances that seem to suggest, apart from any real observation of exotic aircraft technologies, that a big part of modern UFO research has become assessment and analysis of the hoaxes and misinformation that have been knowingly released into the field… by government agencies keen on steering public interest and perception in such purported phenomenon.
Could it be that Tom DeLonge, though innocently on his own part, is presenting misinformation with the help of an unnamed group of shadowy “advisors”? Even if that were to be the case, again, I certainly don’t think Tom would be aiming to do so intentionally. If anything, DeLonge has gained my respect in many ways, particularly after reading Chasing Shadows cover-to-cover (yes, it’s nearly 700 pages, but it’s also a well-paced, easy read; I finished it in about four sittings). The knowledge DeLonge is able to present in relation to this subject, apart from its portrayal in fiction, is admirable; so much so that, if the opportunity ever were to arise, I would like very much to be able to talk with DeLonge, and compare notes about some of his private investigation a bit more deeply… but more on that at another time.
Finally, his commitment to the subject does appear to be genuine, even while the tabloids continue to make light of all this by poking fun at his UFO interests, and tossing up smart-assed, click-bait headlines that really appear to be more focused on gloating in the wake of his former band releasing a new album, and hiring Matt Skiba (guitarist of Alkaline Trio) as his replacement. It’s refreshing that DeLonge has chosen to stay the course, pursuing his passion in unique ways, and despite the derision so many are willing to toss in the direction of dedicated UFO advocates and researchers that are capable of looking beyond the most base questions presented in this field of study.
If anything, Sekret Machines is off to a blistering start with Chasing Shadows (in addition to garnering some additional credibility by having Peter Levenda’s name associated with the project, as he is mentioned by the authors in their forewords, and in other parts of the book). It will be interesting to see where the story goes with future installments, and after all is said and done, maybe Sekret Machines and its related projects will end up being just the kind of UFO series many of us have long wanted.
Or just maybe, it will be the one we needed.