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Frank Reade
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2012
Where the previous book "Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel" fooled people into believing that a Victorian-era robot was real, "Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention" has readers believing that the Frank Reade Library was a fictional magazine.

Once the most popular dime novel in the country, Frank Reade Weekly and the Frank Reade Library have faded into obscurity. Guinan and co-author Anina Bennett have spun the original concept out into a family of intrepid inventors who participated in some of America's greatest (and most regrettable) events.

Combining the coffee-table history book with the adventure story, "Frank Reade" entertains and slyly educates. From the Indian Wars of the 1860s to the run-up to WWII, the Reades and their amazing vehicles were constantly on the move, for causes both noble and greedy. It's quite revealing to see how much American history is left out of our textbooks.

Guinan's skillful Photoshop use creates realistic photos of the vehicles in use, and the original engravings from the Frank Reade dime novels are incredibly crisp.

In all, another rollicking good book from this Portland couple!

Reade Jr's aid to the government which, at the time, was a positive and exciting adventure for contemporary readers, is shown in a more modern light. As a result, Reade's bringing of "civilization" to uneducated savages is less of a holy mission and more of a pragmatic land-grab. Real Reade stories are set against the actual historical events, allowing the reader to learn more of the country's involvement in Central and South America.

Readers who are expecting a scholarly analysis of the dime novels will be disappointed. Just as with Boilerplate, Frank Reade creates a fictional protagonist who can be our focus through the time period. In Boilerplate's case, it was a wholly invented robot (and its inventor), and in Frank Reade it's the fictional hero of long-forgotten adventure stories. Reading Boilerplate first would definitely give you a good introduction into the world and style of Guinan and Bennett.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2012
An amazing follow up to Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel in which illustrator Paul Guinan and writer Anina Bennett portray actual history with a fictional element running through it. With their newest book, Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention they add a twist; introducing us to a once popular dime novel that hasn't seen print in more than 100 years.

Frank Reade Jr. was the main character of several popular dime novels in the late 1800s. Bennett and Guinan take the characters from the dime novels and depict them as though they were real people taking part in the historical events from when the novels were published (a bit like Forrest Gump, they're present but don't greatly shape history). Illustrations and text excerpts from the actual dime novels are included throughout the book in sections with yellowed pages.
Within the narrative of the book the Frank Reade Jr. dime novels are said to have been based on the "real" Reade family.

The story of the "real" Reade family (as depicted by Guinan and Bennett) is set against the history of the mid-late 1800s. The (primarily) American history of the period is obviously painstakingly researched and well presented. Including photoshopped historical photos with airships and other fantastic vehicles along with the fictional Reade family makes for an engaging and fun story. Showing the historical setting in which the dime novels were written and enjoyed helps set the context for their often racist, violent, and imperialistic content. The Guinan/Bennett team show us popular culture in the context of history in a way that is seldom done. All the while we're dazzled by the beautifully restored illustrations from these forgotten dime novels along with masterfully photoshopped historical photographs that tell the fantastical story of the fictional Reade family.

The layout of the book is like a history text book. And the authors treat it all as actual history, which could be pretty confusing if you don't know what you're getting into. There are sections of the book that show actual reprinted illustrations and text from the Frank Reade dime novels from the 1800s. The American and world historical events depicted in the book are real (and well researched) but the story of the Reade family is entirely fictional. If you don't know that, this book may be a frustrating read for you. This book is a historical fantasy and an introduction to the forgotten dime novel that the fantasy is based on. Very meta.

This book may not satisfy the hard core fans of the Frank Reade dime novels or exacting history buffs but this book introduces the rest of us to both of those things expertly. You will never see a book quite like this. I'm of the opinion that Guinan and Bennett have done a great service by giving us a very entertaining reminder of the history of our world and of early popular science fiction. It's hundreds of reprinted illustrations along with the photographs are beautiful and exciting to look at. The story has a solid grounding in history as well as a flight of fancy in the clouds.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Frank Reade stories go back to the dime novels of the late 19th Century. This book takes those stories and asserts that they really happened, talking about the "history" of the Reade family and their inventions, all of which were ahead of their time and some of which can't be duplicated today (like Boilerplate!). Well-written for the most part and lavishly illustrated with contemporary artwork and some modern graphics. It includes some excerpts from the original Reade stories.

When putting forth photos of the Reade family, why did the author select the Booths to be stand-ins? And in discussing "environmentally-safe" electric vehicles invented by Frank Reade Jr., why do we never discover the source of electricity for them? Electric cars don't simply go, they have to have their batteries charged. What external or internal combustion engine provided the charge? How environmentally safe was THAT?

On page 102 it talks about mercenaries... "or private contractors, as they're called today." The authors really should have gotten out a dictionary. A mercenary is a hired soldier. A private contractor is some one hired to do a job for the military or the government, whether it is building roads, acting as an interpreter or fixing the power grid. An obvious dig at Blackwater, it shows the danger of using Moveon.org as a literary resource.

Of course it uses other, contemporary sources such as War is a Racket, by Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler (USMC). Butler made his disenchantment with U.S. foreign policy very obvious. So obvious, in fact, that even FDR couldn't afford to return the man to active duty while the United States was fighting for its life during WWII.

Maybe I just worry too much about these things.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2012
Just finished Frank Reade and enjoyed the heck out of it. Great graphics and wonderful adventure. If I wasn't secretly in love with Boilerplate it would be my favorite.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2013
If someone were to combine a sixth grade history book with an adventure story from the 1880's, Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention would be the result. The book chronicles the life of Frank Reade and Frank Jr., fictional inventors, and their exploits in technology during the turn of the 20th century. From the early development of warships for the U.S. to creating steam-powered helicopters years before anyone else conceived of the idea.

From the very first page, this book astounds readers with the visuals and layout. Authors Guinan and Bennett have painstakingly recreated and collected hundreds of images from the original Frank Reade novels, and supplemented them with images from the same period. The images alone tell a phenomenal story, not just of Frank Reade, but of the history of the United States.

Even without the pictures, Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention would tell an incredible story. The authors create believable history of two beloved characters from America's forgotten past. By combining actual excerpts from Frank Reade stories from a hundred years ago, and historical biographies and events, every page reveals a new piece of interesting history, whether about the Reade family or America. Although this book felt slightly encyclopedic, the fun combination of Americana and American history, and painstakingly collected, Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention is both highly entertaining and educational.
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on May 2, 2015
So wonderful, so much fun!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2013
A weird concepot that works basically a fictional biography of the characters i noen fo the original steampunk dime novels of the late 1800s- compelte with delightfully (and often very realistic) fake pictures! Did they really buid that crazy steam car?
For the serious (like me) among us they reproduce a lot of Reade real steampunk Dime novel covers among the fun and those babies are scarce and can run hundreds of bucks each. If yo uare into stema punk or oddbal victorian dime novels yo uwil lenjoy this book
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2013
Love this book and its illustrations. A fascinating concept with a perfectly believable alternative history mixed in with a genuine feel for the time period. Rather like an Americanized version of the writings of Jules Verne with characters similar to those in Around the World in 80 Days, Robur The Conquerer, or From Earth to the Moon.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2012
I first encountered Frank Reade's name and work by stumbling through the Boilerplate website several years ago. Great storyline and a fun read. Also, if you area bit into Steampunk then this is right up your alley.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2012
Guess what, I got mine signed by the authors and a hand sketched unicorn steamer. Visit the authors website to find out more. They are very friendly people.
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