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Experiencing the historical through the fictional
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.