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Daniel H. Wilson, Ph.D.
Where's My Jetpack?
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2007

Illustrated by Richard Horne
Bloomsbury
US First Edition Illustrated Paperback
ISBN 978-1-59691-136-9
192 Pages; $14.95
Publication Date: 04-19-2007
Date Reviewed: 05-28-2007

Index: Non-Fiction  Science Fiction

Well into the twenty-first century, science fiction readers find themselves in a peculiar position. We live a world that was described by authors we loved — incorrectly. Philip K. Dick set Martian Time Slip, with its bored Mars colonists submerging themselves in a Barbie-inspired virtual reality in 1999. We're bored all right, but we're not bored on Mars. There's a fascinating relationship between science fiction, the present in which it is written, the fictional futures it presents and the actual scientists who are creating the "future" we currently inhabit and the tomorrows we all hope to see. Daniel H. Wilson approaches the whole shebang with an odd combination of childlike wonder, technical expertise, almost na├»ve curiosity and an undercurrent of actual anger. We've been cheated, he tells us, of our promised inheritance. 'Where's My Jetpack?' answers that question and quite a few more, with a winning combination of goofy geek jokes, hard science and high style.

Style is an issue, from the shiny front cover to the super-heavy paper used to print the stark, simplistic images of Illustrator Richard Horne. They look like 1960's realizations of the artifacts they portray. The deliberately arch retro design is a significant factor in making the book the perfect bit of summer reading for your inner and outer "sci fi geek". See, I can write that phrase and only moderately grind my teeth.

The great looks are complimented by an unusual combination of funny, goofy, jokey prose and fascinating technical histories. The setup of the book is simple. After a "Where the hell is my jetpack?" intro, the book is divided into five sections; Advanced Transportation, Future-Tainment, Superhuman Abilities, The Home of the Future, and Humans ... In Space! Each section is divided into bits about tech created for science fiction that Wilson (and many others of us) hoped would have been made real by this day. It reads fast, and is perfect for a one-day gulp on the beach.

Wilson has a great vibe going here. His jokes are usually quite funny, his outrage palpable and shared. On the science and fiction side, he brings us lots of great history about the devices he discusses. For example, in the portion on the flying car, he digs up Ford's 1938 Sky Flivver. He tells you the true history of the jetpack and fills up every section that offers the potential for history or science with history or science. 'Where's My Jetpack?' is a lot of fun, and a very original take on the science fiction genre. Measuring up the fiction against the science is not uncommon, but Wilson's approach is refreshingly straight-forward. We read science fiction to be entertained, and though 'Where's My Jetpack?' is not exactly science fiction, it most certainly is entertaining in the manner of science fiction. It's just that it makes you think about the science fiction present, not the science fiction future.

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