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Jetpack Dreams: One Man's Up and Down (But Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was Hardcover – October 28, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press Ed edition (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306815281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306815287
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,444,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on February 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What assumptions have we made about the future? It is a good question, and one that will be answered differently by each person, but there seems to be a similarity to those assumptions when talking to American males born in the 1950s and 1960s. I am one of them, and we all seem to want to be able to vacation on the Moon and fly to work. For a lot of us, that flying to work would be on a personal jetpack that would free us from the doldrums of terrestrial life. "Where's my jetpack?" seems to be the rallying cry of these individuals, and author Mac Montandon tries to answer it in this enjoyable tour of the inventors trying to make the dream a reality.

Of course, Montandon relates the history of the jetpack; how brilliant engineers at Bell Aerospace led by Wendell Moore in the 1950s came up the concept and made it work, but only for about 30 second before it ran out of fuel. The jetpack, initially thought to be a boon to American G.I.s crossing rivers and the like and therefore receiving Defense Department funding, never proved out and eventually became a stunt valued for all manner of entertainment events. It found its way into Hollywood in such films as James Bond's "Thunderball," the television series "Lost in Space," and by Boba Fett in the original "Star Wars" trilogy. It was also viewed by millions worldwide at the dramatic opening of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

While abandoned as an official project by the military, or anyone else such as NASA, the jetpack lives on in the dreams of hundreds of garage inventors who seek to build their own versions. It is those inventors that Montandon seeks out, literally worldwide, to ascertain the status of "Jetpack Dreams.
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An interesting book, but it would probably be better as a pop-culture book on jetpacks than a technical study. There are some great pics but little in the way of illustrations as to how this technology works. Plus, many of the descriptions of the oddball people and oddball places get to be kind of annoying as you try to sort out the core of the subject: the jetpack. Still, if this is a subject you're interested in you'll have to get this book. It's the most thorough one I've see thus far and it is certainly up to date.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Montandon really wants a jetpack. He really really wants a jetpack.

Or at least he wants one bad enough to contact lots of people who have done something about it, and writes about the results. He spends a bit too much of the book, for my taste, describing personal aspects of his life and describing the people he's contacted (usually in not-very-flattering terms), but then again, what else would you use to fill a book about an almost totally nonexistent pipe dream?

An entertaining summer read, if somewhat vaporous in the end.
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I hate to sound like a one-note song (see my other reviews), but "Jetpack Dreams: One Man's Up and Down (But Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was" is yet another in a seemingly endless series of books about engineering or scientific subjects written by authors who have no technical knowledge whatsoever. While not nearly as astonishingly bad as "Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon," the pathetic book about the Apollo moon-landing program that sets exceptionally high, and probably never again attainable, standards for technical inaccuracy, "Jetpack Dreams" nevertheless has many annoying errors that are sure to distract the knowledgeable reader. It is unfortunate that such books never seem to benefit from a careful review by someone with technical training who could easily point out and correct the errors.

With that said, however, the premise of "Jetpack Dreams" is interesting, and the treatment of the subject is well-done. The technical errors play a minor role in the story and do not spoil the whole thing as they do in some other books. I have to give author Mac Montandan a lot of credit for doggedly pursuing the convoluted saga of "personal jetpacks" wherever the story took him--across the U.S. and to Mexico, England and Ireland--in a years-long odyssey to try to find the answer to the question, "Duuude, where's my jetpack?" "Jetpack Dreams" is mostly a chronicle of Mr. Montandan's contacts with entrepreneurs still trying to realize the dream of practical, personal wingless flight dating back to the Golden Age of science fiction in the 1930s.
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Previous centuries didn't have science fiction as we have had science fiction. We have had descriptions and depictions of the future, from _Metropolis_ to _Flash Gordon_ to _2001_; none of the predictions comes close to what the future actually brought. No one fifty years ago could have expected the scientific and electronic marvels we have now at our fingertips. We have zipped into the future, and it is really quite wonderful, except for one very basic deficiency: "Where's my jetpack?" That's the question that is asked over and over (sometimes with a bit of profanity inserted) by freelance writer Mac Montandon in _Jetpack Dreams: One Man's Up and Down (But Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was_ (Da Capo Press). Montandon isn't the only one asking. When Bill Gates was a guest on _The Daily Show_, Jon Stewart did an abrupt change of subject and asked, "When are we going to get jetpacks?" (Gates's answer: "We're not working on that one.") Montandon came of age in the _Star Wars_ era, and "thus was very certain that by no later than the year 2000 we would most definitely be living _in the future_." The future included commuting by jetpack rather than Kias. What happened?

What happened is that imagination betrayed us. Montandon gives one example after another of jetpacks in comics or movies, but points out that the power of each has to do with a fantasy people have had for as long as they have had imaginations: wouldn't it be wonderful if we could fly? A guy with a jetpack is far closer to the fantasy ideal of flight than anyone enclosed within a plane. We got serious about jetpacks in the fifties, when Tom Moore, one of Dr.
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