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TRANSFORMATION: The Breakthrough <i> by Whitley Strieber (Avon: $4.95) </i>

Reading the sequel to “Communion” requires a leap of faith that makes Carl Lewis’ long jump look like a baby step in a game of “Simon Says.” Anyone who accepts the notion that aliens are tinkering with human destiny will enjoy the story of one man’s fight to present his ideas in the face of entrenched opposition. Less credulous readers will find a sloppy amalgam of historical misinterpretations, Eastern and Western mysticism, New Age thought, psychobabble and shrill self-justification.

When “Transformation” was first released, The Times Book Review created a tempest in a teapot--or a ripple in a (flying) saucer--by relegating it to the fiction best-seller list. That evaluation seems charitable: Slogging through Whitley Strieber’s more portentous statements is, in Tom Stoppard’s phrase, “like being run over very slowly by a traveling freak show of favourite simpletons.”


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