Jon Ronson is a journalist who spends his time writing about unorthodox and unusual people. His first book, Them, dealt with extremists. This time he's looking at the bizarre ideas that swept through American military intelligence in the 1970s. In the aftermath of Vietnam, several traumatised soldiers began looking for a new way to fight wars. Their techniques sometimes tended towards the light side - hugging your enemy after laying a lamb at his feet - and sometimes to the dark side - attempting to kill goats simply by staring at them.
If these tactics aren't bizarre enough, there's also the general who repeatedly tries to run through his office wall, succeeding only in banging his nose, and a group of men charged with making psychic trips into enemy territory.
The stories are so peculiar that it's hard not to wonder whether these men aren't simply mad but Ronson uncovers evidence and witnesses that seem to back up their claims.
However, books such as this one need a narrative and it's here that Ronson falls down. He attempts to draw a link between the unorthodox experiments of the intelligence community in the 1970s and the torture carried out by Americans in Iraq, particularly at Abu Ghraib.
Unfortunately none of Ronson's sources can back up his theory. Though they suspect that their techniques are being used in Iraq, nobody seems to have any proof.
Late in the book Ronson turns to MK Ultra, a series of mind control experiments carried out by the CIA in the 1950s. He talks to Eric Olsen who suspects that his father, a scientist involved in the project, was murdered by the CIA. It's a shocking and all-too-plausible story but it's unclear how it relates to what the army were up to in the Seventies.
In the end, the argument may be muddled but it's well worth reading for the collection of weird anecdotes that make up the bulk of the book.