From 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.)
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In far-flung garages from California to Northern Ireland, do-it-yourself futurists hold the torch for the vision of Wendell Moore, inventor of the backpack-mounted human rocket. Introducing himself to this community and catching some of its fever, Montandon merrily chronicles its activities and its existential dilemma. Rocket-pack technology has not advanced beyond the 20-second flights Moore’s test pilots attained at his demise in 1969. That limitation ended the military’s interest, but, Montandon recounts, show biz filled the applications void by casting rocket packs in action movies and as the opening act in the 1984 Olympics. At a convention, Montandon discusses the finer obsessions of enthusiasts, finesses their semi-developed social skills to snag invitations to their workshops, and embarks on road trips in a spirit of satirical commiseration with what people do after becoming obsessed with rocket packs. Most tinker with the flight-duration problem; another group, seeking to tap the public-performance market for rocket packs, went to jail after a violent disagreement about their business plan. Montandon’s entertaining adventures highlight a strange footnote of the space age. --Gilbert Taylor