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Review Round-up: 5 Books I Liked

Jeff Norton on "10 Inventions I'm Still Waiting For"

MetawarsScience Fiction makes a lot of promises, and while the genre has spawned some impressive innovations like mobile phones (remember Captain Kirk’s flip-phone style “communicator”?) and space travel (Jules Verne, Georges Lumiere), we’re still impatiently waiting for some of sci-fi’s boldest innovations:

Flying Cars.  "Blade Runner" wowed us with these roadless motors, "The Fifth Element" teased us with flying yellow cabs, and the new ‘Total Recall’ reboot keeps the flame alive, but alas, our four wheels are still stuck to the ground while our dreams of leaving the M25 far below are just that, dreams.

Transporter Beams. It’s not just airports that are a hassle, but the whole flying experience has become a bit of a chore. What we need is point-to-point transporter beams, Scotty. What we’ve got is scratch-card selling discount airlines.

Time Machine. First popularised by H.G. Wells in his 1895 book, "The Time Machine", this handy invention has had over a hundred years to get invented. We all know this would be handy, whether for going back in time to kill Hitler or simply to keep from locking yourself out of the flat, or perhaps travelling forward to tourist the future. But this stalwart of sci-fi seems destined to be confined to the fiction… unless of course we can hop the DeLorean and fetch it from the future.

Moon Bases. When James Bond went sci-fi in "Moonraker", to paraphrase President Kennedy, he chose to go to the moon. Why? The moon is cool. It hangs up there in the sky like a reliable, but uncommunicative old friend. Why can’t we have a base there; maybe even a lunar Centre Parcs? The weather can’t be any worse than Cornwall, and it’s a lot closer than Mars.

Transforming Robots. Sure, robots have automated many parts of our lives, but sadly they’re often stuck doing single-duty jobs. Not until we have cars and planes transforming into our own robotic bodyguards will we feel confident to tell the dodgy neighbours to keep it down.

Robotic Maids. Is there any of us who don’t believe that a flat could be cleaner? If "The Jetsons" can have Rosie the Maid, why can’t we have robot that’s not afraid to lift the loo seat? File under: just saying.

Digital Immortality. ‘MetaWars’ offers a digital solution to over-population; “Uploading” people into a virtual world, allowing them to live forever and be visited by loved ones. The catch? The process kills the physical body, so you have to die to live forever. Bummer. [Editor's note: my favourite scene in MetaWars is when the young protagonist has a long and awkward chat with his 'uploaded' grandmother. It is wonderfully stilted, like a chat with a ghost...]

Miniaturization. This has got to be next evolution of flat-pack furniture; a way to deal with small flats. If we could shrink our belongings – like that pile of CDs you can’t bare to part with – we could all open up a lot more living space. Plus, a la "Inner Space", if we achieve medical-miniaturization, we could send teams of tiny doctors into our body to patch us up from the inside. And just think of the possibilities when it comes to childcare. Kids getting on your nerves? Honey, I shrunk the kids.

“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.” Those nifty Nespresso machines are the coffee cousin to Captain Picard’s wall-based tea making wonder. Until a hot cuppa instantly materializes out of thin air, human progress will remain stuck in second gear.

Hoverboards. Supposedly manufactured by Mattel in the "Back to the Future" sequel, director Robert Zemeckis even joked that the toy company had the technology but wouldn’t release the floating boards over health and safety concerns. Until the regulations are relaxed, we’ll just have to wait to pluck a little girl off of her pink hoverboard and zoom through Hill Valley’s main street.


Jeff Norton is the author of MetaWars: Fight for the Future (Orchard Books), a filmmaker, and the founder of Awesome, a creative incubator. Poke him at his website, Facebook page or on Twitter

Mr. Norton has dropped by previously to discuss the need to ask "what if?".