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The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer (Pantheon Graphic Novels) Hardcover – April 21, 2015
This month's Book With Buzz: "Stranger in the House" by Shari Lapena
In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A thriller packed full of secrets and a twisty story that never stops - from the bestselling author of "The Couple Next Door." See more
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James Gleick, author of The Information
“Don’t be fooled by the word ‘comic.’ Sydney Padua tells a story that is tender, passionate, and true.”
Charles Petzold, author of Code and The Annotated Turing
"So there. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is learned, clever, funny, and above all very silly in the best sense of the word."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The immensity of Padua’s research and the wit and allusions of her prose are striking, saying as much about what drove her to explore the possibilities of her protagonists’ relationship as about the protagonists themselves. Permeated by delightful illustrations, obsessive foot- and endnotes, and a spirit of genuine inventiveness, it’s an early candidate for the year’s best.”
Martha Cornog, Library Journal
“Padua’s extravaganza is very much for the whimsical intelligentsia and will speak to those interested in computers or math who will delight in the abundant background materials.”
“Sydney Padua’s impeccably researched, yet playfully imagined graphic biography is a treat for history buffs and graphic novel lovers alike…With fantastically detailed art, footnotes and diagrams…, this is a whimsical graphic account like no other.”
Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch
“Reading The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is like auditing a dozen high-level, inventively taught college classes simultaneously: more than a little overwhelming yet fascinating.”
Etelka Lehoczky, NPR.org
“Sydney Padua’s new book is definitely ‘Yowza!’ material.”
“An outlandish, enlightening tale.”
Nancy Szokan, Washington Post
“Informative and entertaining . . . . It’s a book that makes you a lot smarter as it makes you laugh.”
“Novelist Sydney Padua has found quite a pair: the girl with the unstoppable brain; the male inventor 24 years her senior, part-poet, part-genius; this Victorian odd couple, dedicated to crime foiling and cleverness, is easily worthy of Holmes and Watson with a title to match.”
Maria Popova, BrainPickings.org
“Immensely delightful and illuminating …a masterwork of combinatorial genius and a poetic analog to its subject matter.”
About the Author
SYDNEY PADUA is an animator and visual effects artist, usually employed in making giant monsters appear to be attacking people for the movies. She started drawing comics by accident and is still trying to figure out how to stop. Originally from the Canadian prairie, she now lives in London with her husband and far too many books. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is her first book.
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Top customer reviews
Well, as a woman in software engineering, I'm painfully aware of what a controversial figure Ada Lovelace is. She's been hailed as the inventor of computer programming -- which has led to some incredibly virulent backlash, accusing her of having been some sort of hack who merely copied down other people's ideas without even really understanding them herself.
Now, let's not kid ourselves. If a man had written the article Lovelace wrote, There's no way we'd see the same sorts of ferocious efforts to prove him incompetent. OTOH, if it had been a man, we hardly would have heard about him at all. He'd probably be accepted by some as the "father of computer programming"... in kind of a footnotey, nobody-cares kinda way. But in my line of work, it's dangerous to talk about sexism unless you want a ton of it to rain down on your head, so I wasn't terribly interested in miring myself in this controversy. Thus a book that looked like it was probably a sunny-and-dry retelling of team Lovelace's side of the story didn't jump out at me as something that would be appealing.
Boy was I wrong!!
Surprisingly, the author used the oldest trick in the book for dealing with an acrimonious controversy: present the evidence. The primary sources. And then even-handedly discuss the controversy in light of the evidence.
Now, if that sounds more boring to you than "a sunny-and-dry retelling of team Lovelace's side of the story," here's the genius of it -- it's not boring at all -- it's wildly fun and entertaining!! Quite sincerely, I think the author of this book has invented a new genre, and a brilliant one at that. Here's how it works:
Padua took various primary sources (contemporaneous writings by or about Babbage and/or Lovelace and/or other famous people they met) and wrote fictional scenes around them (including some set in the author's invented alternate universe for them). Then Padua wrote footnotes that interact with the story by giving the rest of the (real) story.
This is an absolutely brilliant way of synergising the best parts of history and historical fiction. Plain history has a difficult relationship with objectivity, and is at its driest when striving to be objective. Historical fiction is fun and can leave objectivity aside -- but constantly leaves me curious about which bits are historical and which bits are fiction. The author of this work found the magic formula to combine them!
This work is at once great and truly pioneering. If there's a canon of graphic novels, this one deserves a top slot.
You're reading this in the way you are because of the careers of the title characters: Babbage designed, but was never able to build, not the first computer*, but the first general-purpose computer. Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer programs, even though there were no computers upon which they could run. She was a genius, too and her story is pretty sad.
The drawing is quite nice, rather whimsical. If you like good cartooning and a nice fantasy with some history of the devices we all know and (mostly) love, you'll like this book.
* Arguably the first working modern computer was the Jacquard loom.
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