A rather peculiar mode of transportation from the Hyperion series, written by Dan Simmons. The hawking mat was invented by Vladimir Sholokov as a gift to his niece, with whom he was quite enamored. It is, for all intents and purposes, a flying carpet. Unlike the traditional flying carpet, however, Sholokov's functions by riding on a planet's latent electromagnetic field. It was surrounded by a weak energy cocoon to help hold the rider on the carpet and provide a windscreen.
sssh, it's from a book. It doesn't have to make perfect sense.
The hawking mat eventually became illegal on most civilized planets; turns out it was a tad dangerous. Fortunately, the technology was adapted to larger, safer vehicles capable of transporting an entire family or more.
Still, the hawking mat plays a rather important role in the Hyperion novels, both symbolic and practical. I'll let Simmons explain the symbolic meanings of the mat, but the practical benefits are pretty simple. A hawking mat has three main advantages over a full-sized ship:
- Its small size (and radar profile) allows it to sneak into much trickier situations - possibly involving flying through miles of mysterious underground labyrinth.
- It can operate on planets with far weaker EM fields than large ships require. (Most notably Hyperion itself.)
- How many other modes of transportation travel upwards of a hundred kilometers an hour and can be rolled up to fit inside a backpack?
Sources:The Hyperion Cantos Series
Dan Simmons. Hyperion Spectra, 1990
Dan Simmons. The Fall of Hyperion Spectra, 1991
Dan Simmons. Endymion Spectra, 1996
Dan Simmons. The Rise of Endymion Spectra, 1998