Reality Ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact

Smithsonian. Oct. 2019. 224p. illus. index. ISBN 9781588346704. $29.95. SCI
Levy (A Curious History of Mathematics) profiles the connections between creative works and scientific innovation. Cutting-edge developments in technology and medicine are paired with historical examples, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s armored carriages and Archimedes’s burning mirror designs that preceded military weapons realized in the 20th century. Masters of sf, such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, are covered in depth. Levy also gives voice to more obscure contributions, such as Primo Levi’s conception of the 3–D printer in a 1964 short story. Levy’s use of thematic chapters (e.g., “Military,” “Communications,” “Medicine & Biology”) provides a helpful structure as he moves back and forth in time intertwining a range of authors and scientists. Book covers, promotional posters, movie stills, and historical photographs add supporting visual evidence.
VERDICT An entertaining pop cultural history that will also prove to be an inspiring reading list for sf fans.

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