I very much enjoyed the previous book, this one not nearly so much. Why the difference? Primarily because pretty much everything in the book in one form or other came to pass. The possible futures painted in this book are recognisably similar to how things actually turned out, unlike the futures of The Wonderful Future That Never Was.
Certainly all manner of details have turned out different, with balloons and nuclear power playing much less of a role than predicted. But the basic themes of vehicles that travel through the air, on land, over the sea, under the sea and in space all getting quicker, more reliable and packing a bigger military punch have all happened. Even when changes were missed by the military prophets – such as the role for computers and microchips – the net effect is not to have made the future that different. It’s just we have military equipment now reliant on computerised controls rather than on robots.
Only a few ideas have an entertainingly bizarre look to us now, such as the idea of low-slung metal push cars which soldiers would crawl along in to provide protection against hostile fire. The occasional real blunder in predictions – such as that planes would never pose a serious threat to battleships – are also ones that are famous and so most likely already familiar to readers of the book.
As with the previous volume, the production qualities are generally high (save for the cover that turns into a poster; its design does not do a good job of taking into account where the folds in the paper are), there is a wide range of different forecasts crammed into the book and it is liberally illustrated with contemporary pictures and diagrams.
Pretty good, if not quite up to the standards of its predecessor.
Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.