Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis
By Bradley W. Schenck
It’s unfair when people complain that science fiction doesn’t get the future right, since SF authors aren’t trying to be prophets. Their vision of the future is a projection of contemporary anxieties and fascinations. So if you’re wondering where your jet-pack, flying car, and pneumatic-tube messaging system are, they’re back in the future that never was, a place Bradley W. Schenck has dubbed Retropolis.
Schenck’s Retropolis is a metafictional place constructed out of the dreams and visions of SF’s golden age. The amazing stories of the pulp era come to new life in familiar-but-different forms – like ubiquitous info-slates that are basically our tablets and cellphones only powered by human switchboard operators instead of the Internet.
The plot is pure pulp, as it should be. An authoritarian engineer wants to build a new perfect society using hijacked pieces of the old, with only a rag-tag bunch of Retropolitans being able to stop him. These include a dashing hero named, fittingly enough, Dash Kent, a helpful switchboard operator, a pair of delinquent kids, and various robots and mad scientists.
Fans of the comic novels of Jasper Fforde will feel right at home, and the wonderful illustrations by Schenck add to the fun. A real treat.