Times change and so does the world of publishing. Haynes, for years best-known for publishing automobile manuals full of cutaway diagrams explaining in intricate detail exactly how motor cars go vroom vroom, are now branching out into a slightly geekier arena. This colourful soft-cover volume, originally published in 2012 and now reissued with new illustrations, belatedly celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds by taking it all terribly seriously, presenting eye-bogglingly intricate details of International Rescue’s mechanical paraphernalia with supporting text chronicling the history of the organisation and its key personnel.
As a piece of imaginative research it’s hard to fault writer Sam Denham’s text, the first few pages of which paint the picture of the future-world of 2065 and all the technical marvels and socio-political machinations which enable the International Rescue organisation to come into being thanks to the genius (and incredibly deep pockets) of former astronaut and magnificently-successful businessman Jeff Tracy. Beautifully-presented colour photographs illustrate not only the Thunderbird craft and their ancillary rescue machines such as The Mole, the Monobrake and the Thunderizer, but also the famous Tracy brothers, International Rescue’s London Agent Lady Penelope and many of the improbable and impractical-looking machines whose catastrophic exploits would inevitably lead to Thunderbirds becoming, in a very real sense, go. For example, the Sidewinder (pages 144-5) is a lovely design but with its wonky gyroscopic metal legs it’s a wonder it ever made its way off the drawing board.
The bulk of the Manual is made up of mind-bending cutaway diagrams of the Thunderbirds themselves and all the other assorted vehicles which turned up in the TV show’s 21st century world – and impressive as they are as illustrations, it’s hard to imagine anyone sitting down and painstakingly poring over the diagrams and matching the annotated descriptions of exposed circuitry, sensors and thrusters with the cutaways themselves. Page after page rolls by in a dizzying rush of imaginary spaceships and vehicles with their innards exposed and explained as if they really existed in such extraordinary detail. The overriding effect is of a project which is incredibly-impressive and quite clearly the work of enormously-talented and dedicated people – and yet, a bit like a model of Buckingham Palace made out of ice cream, it seems a bit pointless. But perhaps we’re being a bit churlish; we love Thunderbirds here at STARBURST and it’s a mark of the show’s enduring popularity that over half-a–decade after it first aired, it’s still able to generate merchandise which is clearly an absolute labour or love for the people who’ve gone way beyond the extra mile to make it happen.
Ultimately the Agents’ Technical Manual is one you’re likely to pick up, flick through and gasp at before slipping it onto your bookshelf, although if you’re so inclined, have enough spare cash and come from the future, at least this book will tell you exactly what you need and how you go about building your own fleet of space-age faster-than-sound rescue vessels. Well, what are you waiting for? Get yer soldering iron out…
THUNDERBIRDS AGENTS’ TECHNICAL MANUAL – 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION / AUTHOR: SAM DENHAM / ILLUSTRATOR: GRAHAM BLEATHMAN / PUBLISHER: HAYNES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW