The subtitle to Mat Irvine's long awaited Creating Space is quite apt. I can recall my time in high school when, as the resident space geek, I hauled boxes of models around to various classrooms talking about the race to the moon using my collection of glue-smeared Revell and Monogram models as visual aids. The book indeed chronicles the history of the conquest of space, from the ideas of Leonardo Da Vinci to the International Space Station and beyond, through model kits. A quick look at the table of contents shows the layout of the book:
In each chapter, Mat gives a brief historical overview of the subject and chronicles the model kits that cover the period. And I mean all kits are covered, from the releases of the major modeling companies such as Revell, Monogram, Strombecker, et. al., to the one-man operations: RealSpace Models, Anderson Models, Rho Models, EVA Models, etc. Not only is the text informative and entertaining to read (remember the Aurora molds train wreck story?), there are hundreds of photos (many of them in color) accompanying it. The photos are not only of boxart from rare vintage to current kits, but of built-up models, catalog and advertising pages, and in-store displays. Remember those? I don't and I'm not a youngster. The last chapter deals with what would normally be considered sci-fi subjects, mainly UFOs, the Roswell Incident, and a few movies such as Destination Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sorry, no Star Trek or Star Wars: they're a bit too much on the fantasy side.
The appendices contain a ton of reference information for model historians, collectors, and anyone who is trying to find out if a kit of a particular subject was ever made. Kits are listed in two formats: by manufacturer, and by subject. The manufacturer lists also include a bit of information about the company, such as the address (if known), when the company was in operation, etc. The kits are then listed with the scale, kit number, and date of first issue. It even includes kits that were announced, but never released (*sigh*).
The subject listing includes everything from the A series of German rockets to the Russian Zenit booster. A short paragraph describes the subject, followed by a table listing the models, their manufacturers and scales for each subject. For specific kit information (number and date of issue), you'll have to refer back to the manufacturer listing. The subject listing is also peppered with black & white photos of the Real Deals, some of which you've probably seen, but some that you probably haven't, such as the UFO Museum in Roswell...
The final appendix lists some kit collecting organizations (many of the kits discussed in the book are long out of production), kit dealers, web sites and other books pertaining to the subject of space modeling.
There are a few minor errors in the book: a couple of the models depicted (Lunar Prospector and Viking) were noted as from Lunar Models kits, when they were actually from RealSpace Models kits. However, the appendix listings for the kits are correct. There's a miscaption on the last page of the Project Apollo chapter: I believe it's actually an Airfix Saturn V model that's shown, whereas the caption is for the photo next to it: the AMT ProShop reissue of the Man in Space set. The caption for the Man in Space set is actually for the original release that's shown several pages earlier (with the proper caption). But these errors don't really detract from the book at all. It's a wonderful trip back to a time when I built models in about an hour, then blew them up up with firecrackers the next day. Now, of course, they're much too valuable for that.
Thanx to Ric Connors of CG Publishing for the review copy.