MacLeod on The Secret Return of the British Boffin

Ken MacLeod, the Scottish Trotskyist sf author who wins libertarian sf prizes, has briefly reviewed a fascinating-sounding book called Backroom Boys: the Secret Return of the British Boffin. I've just ordered mine.

Even many SF fans, I suspect, will be as surprised – and gripped – as I was by the tale of the British space programme. I honestly didn't know that … (no spoilers from me). Likewise, I didn't know the backroom stories of Concorde, computer games (pioneered by libertarian SF fans), mobile phones, the human genome project, and Beagle 2 (the barbecue-shaped British-built space probe, due to land on Mars on Christmas Day this year).

Spufford does more than tell engaging tales. He painlessly puts across a wealth of information about science and engineering. To cover six very different areas of technology and science in such an intriguing way, and to catch the distinctive style of each field's native geek, is a rare achievement. Above all, he tells a coherent story, of industrial decline countered – in part at least – by ingenious adaptation to the 'post-industrial' world. It sharply evokes a lost world of Dan Dare, Look and Learn, and Meccano, and goes on to show us how that world was never lost: that it is, in fact, part of the secret history of today.


(via Electrolite)