Jetpack Dreams: One Man's Up and Down (But Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was

Overview

Jetpack Dreams Chronicles the colorful pop history and science of that most amazing and mysterious of machines: the jetpack. Fueled by his fascination and lifelong obsession with the power of flight, journalist Mac Montandon goes in search of the elusive invention, examining the jetpack's inspiration from the first shoulder-mounted wings to Bill Suitor's 1984 Olympic flight, and even uncovering a gruesome jetpack related murder. Along the way, Montandon explores the jetpack's enduring role in popular culture-from...

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Jetpack Dreams: One Man's Up and Down (But Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was

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Overview

Jetpack Dreams Chronicles the colorful pop history and science of that most amazing and mysterious of machines: the jetpack. Fueled by his fascination and lifelong obsession with the power of flight, journalist Mac Montandon goes in search of the elusive invention, examining the jetpack's inspiration from the first shoulder-mounted wings to Bill Suitor's 1984 Olympic flight, and even uncovering a gruesome jetpack related murder. Along the way, Montandon explores the jetpack's enduring role in popular culture-from Buck Rogers to James Bond to Boba Fett-and seeks out fellow jetpack enthusiasts who are readying their own personal flying machines for takeoff, all in an attempt to answer two simple questions: Where the jetpack that was promised to him, and to all of us, years ago? And if it's out there, can he catch a ride?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Generations of boys, inspired by characters from Buck Rogers to Boba Fett, have dreamed of flying with jetpacks strapped to their backs. Freelance writer Montandon, editor of Innocent When You Dream: The Tom Waits Reader, documents his search for the ultimate jetpack; along the way he encounters an offbeat bunch of middle-aged men with the same obsession. Montandon explains, for readers who don't attend the venues where jetpack jockeys rake in thousands of dollars from viewers who want to see a few seconds of flight, that the sticking point with jetpack technology is that you can't pack enough concentrated hydrogen peroxide on your back to fly for very long. Most jetpacks today are built from the original 1950s plans for the first working model, although many men have spent countless hours in the garage trying to improve on it. Along the way, there has been one unsolved murder and a gruesome torture and extortion case associated with a fabled lost jetpack that has taken on Holy Grail status. This snappily written, often funny book should attract dreamers of both sexes and all ages. Photos. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews

A breezy niche history of a staple of pulp adventures.

Mid-20th-century science-fiction fans took for granted that another 50 years would bring a cure for cancer, interplanetary travel, world government and practical jetpacks. Many of us regret the absence of the first three, but journalist Montandon discovered that the failure to develop the last intensely upsets a minority of technically savvy men (but almost no women). They take iPods, cell phones and wireless Internet for granted, but the absence of a useful jetpack provokes the yearning question: "Why aren't we living in the future?" The author delivers a quick history of the jetpack from its 1928 debut in a Buck Rogers story through the work of a passionate engineer at Bell Aircraft, Wendell Moore, whose rocket-powered backpack flew in 1961. Most readers will be surprised to learn that it worked, and similar devices still fly, though mostly in action films, air shows and special events such as the opening ceremony at the 1984 Olympics. Anyone with $250,000 can buy one, but flying today's jetpack requires great skill. The rocket fires for less than one minute, and no source of substantial money is interested in the massive research required to perfect it. Nonetheless, a surprising number of aficionados are building their own, holding conventions and communicating online. Montandon criss-crosses America with a sidetrip to Mexico, tracking down a surprising number of enthusiasts to observe their work and record their problems—technical, financial and personal.

Since nearly everyone agrees that we will not see a safe, useful jetpack during our lifetime, readers should not expect shocking revelations. Still, Montandan offersan amusing collection of stories about individuals of varying degrees of eccentricity who are devoting much of their lives and personal fortunes to a near-impossible dream.

Agent: Jonathan Lyons/McIntosh & Otis

From the Publisher

AmericanProfile.com, 1/31/10
“A wide-ranging odyssey…Fun, funny, fascinating, full of colorful characters and spiked with unexpected drama, Jetpack Dreams soars to places that might surprise you.”

San Francisco Book Review, March 2010
“[A] thorough, occasionally meandering, love letter to everyone’s favorite not-yet-realized from of transportation…Exhaustively explor[es] the rich history of personalized pyrotechnic-propelled portability…But perhaps the best part of the book is the ongoing examination of why we find them so fascinating, and why we even want jetpacks at all…A merry tribute to a quirky piece of aviation history.”

PopMatters.com, 3/23/10 “A book that is entertaining when it focuses on its proper subject: the jetpack and the people who invented it, its genesis in popular imagination and how its allure continues to lead people to try to build and perfect jetpacks…Great stories all and Montandon manages to tell them with the humor and wit and sympathetic eye they need.”

Midwest Book Review, April 2010
“Offers a lively search for a rocket-powered reality in a fun survey perfect for general lending libraries, science fiction and transportation collections alike.”
 

VicksburgPost, 10/10/10
“Chronicles the colorful pop history and science of that most amazing and mysterious of machines, the jetpack.”

The Barnes & Noble Review
For those of us still nursing disappointment that The Future made room for the earthbound Segway but not the rocket-powered jetpack, Mac Montandon's tragicomic Jetpack Dreams provides a tantalizing view of an invention that remains just out of reach. The author includes everything from a fanciful analysis of why we fantasize about flying to careful documentation of how the term ?jetpack? became popular (see: Philip Francis Nowlan's ?Armageddon 2419 A.D., Amazing Stories, 1928). Both the failures and successes that attempted to transform science fiction into science fact emphasize the dangers. The hapless "somewhat asinine young fellow" in 1930s Germany who "set off a few rockets while strapped to roller skates" reaches across time to join hands with 1960s Bell Aerospace engineer Wendell Moore, who actually built a functioning jetpack. Which is to say nothing of such hapless characters as Houston-based entrepreneur Bradley Wayne Barker, a partner in the absurd-sounding American Rocketbelt Corporation. His jetpack obsession ended in murder and kidnapping. At times sounding almost gleefully steampunkish, or steampuckish, Montandon also investigates such ungainly titled flops as the Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle. Despite a sometimes overly gee-whiz tone, the book does provide an undeniably entertaining look at the crackpots and experts who have pursued the dream of personalized flight. Always upbeat, Montandon still holds out hope that we may all someday enter the hallowed realm currently reserved for such famous fictional "jetpackers" as Star War's Boba Fett and James Bond. --Jeff Vandemeer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306815287
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 10/27/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Mac Montandon is the editor of Innocent When You Dream: The Tom Waits Reader. He has written for the New York Times, Radar, Salon.com, and Interview. He lives in Brooklyn.
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Table of Contents


1 The Voluptuous Panic, Part I 1
2 The Past Is Prologue? 15
3 Shuffling Off to Buffalo; or, The Cruel Truth about Lift over Drag 65
4 Out of This World 107
5 South of the Border, North of the Future 151
6 Houston, We Have Another Problem 185
7 The Voluptuous Panic, Part II 209
8 Epilogue 237 Acknowledgments 249 Index 251
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Nhy

    I was the first its terrible

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    Poop

    I told my mom to get it for me and when i got it I WANT MY FREAKING MONY BACK peace of junk

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