*Starred Review* Benford, an astrophysicist and noted science-fiction author, teams up with the editors of Popular Mechanics to take readers on a tour through a future that (mostly) never happened. If the various predictions seen here—all taken from the magazine’s archives—had come true, we’d be living today in cities with multiple underground levels for pedestrians and traffic (predicted in 1928); or cities made of glass (1936). We’d be living in homes with furniture you clean with a hose (1950) and wearing clothing made of aluminum (1929), or maybe asbestos (also 1929). Our cars would fly (1928, 1943), or maybe we’d be driving Rotavions, personal vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles that can operate as an airfoil or a helicopter (1961). Despite the fact that many of the predictions discussed in the book seem laughably silly today, they’re not played for laughs; they’re presented as historical curiosities, examples of how predictions based on cutting-edge research and extrapolated from social trends can seem sensible when they’re made but not so much later on. And it’s worth noting, as the editors do, that some predictions did come true, like pocket-size computers (predicted in 1962) and mass-produced, prepackaged frozen dinners (1947). Profusely illustrated (there’s something on nearly every page), the book is endlessly fascinating, a collage of snapshots of the present the way people saw it when it was still the distant future. --David Pitt
About the Author
Gregory Benford is a two-time winner of the Nebula Award, a professor of physics at the University of California and has served as an advisor to the Department of Energy, NASA and the White House Council on Space Policy. He is the author of more than 20 novels and has won the John W. Campbell Award, the Australian Ditmar Award, the 1995 Lord Foundation Award for achievement in the sciences and the 1990 United Nations Medal in Literature.