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
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
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 naïve 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
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 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.