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The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer (Pantheon Graphic Library) Hardcover – Illustrated, April 21, 2015
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“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
- Publisher : Pantheon; Illustrated edition (April 21, 2015)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0307908275
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307908278
- Lexile measure : 1130L
- Item Weight : 1.83 pounds
- Dimensions : 7.42 x 1.18 x 10.28 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #124,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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First off, and what I tend to lean very heavily on with my graphic reading, the art is gorgeous. Padua's lines and movement and layouts and character design and cats and and and... Everything in this book is worth noting when it comes to the artwork. Unless you simply hate her style outright, you will love the artwork.
As for the story itself, I really thought this was more of a graphic novel / complete arc story when I bought it. Yes, it has a sense of movement, but it doesn't act as one story. Instead, it's a compilation of different adventures. While I didn't mind this format, honestly, none of the tales ever fully took off for me. Again, I loved the art, but what story it told... I found it hard to care about.
This brings me to the best-worst part of the novel: the historical footnotes. I LOVED that her research informed every line and scene in this. Her research astounded me. The footnotes were quite interesting and added to the story in an awesome way. However, they were equally distracting, some taking so long to read that the flow of the original tale was not only up-ended but tossed out the window, too.
I tried reading the story without the footnotes, but it fell flat, not seeming as rich as before. When I read the footnotes first, then went back to the story, I couldn't always remember what fact went with what, and it lost the richness, too. And--for me--reading both jumbled both fact and fiction to where it was hard to follow the story.
In the end, this works as a much better non-fiction book about these two historical figures--even if the majority of it takes place in a fictional, pocket universe. And maybe it was simply me that had problems with this flip-flopping in the story. Regardless, the art is gorgeous and, for me, totally worth the price of admission.
There is actual history behind this book, so it might be a graphic history or bio. Except that most of the graphic content is made up or unattested to as portrayed. So maybe it is a fictionalized history, so Graphic Novel. The barrage of overly long footnotes are intended to document the basic events so maybe a history. But there is also a din of science and such so maybe a science book. Well actually the footnotes become such a drag that even Ms. Padua not only admits that they are too many and too long ,she even posts dialogue and illustrations over a few as a way of admitting she needed to be edited.
Critical to the purpose of this book is to honor the real mathematical contributions of Lady Lovelace. Except that she never seems to be much more than a side kick to the nerdy, classic Victorian English enthusiast and inventor Charles Babbage. We get pages of detailed explanations of how Babage's proto computer, whichever machine none where finished, was supposed to work and almost no examples of Lovelace's math or programing. So who is the star of this book? Does Lady Lovelace get her proper recognition?
Did I mention that the Thrilling Adventures all take place in an alternative time line pocket universe? Most of the stories are stories of things that never could have happened and the rest do not appear in the record of this universe.
Let’s try this another way:
If you can filter past the incredibly long and convoluted footnotes (Suggestion: if you footnote a letter you do not need to included entire letter just to prove you did your research.) there are some fun little made up stories about math and economics and stuff. None of it having much to do with the Babbage Analytical Engine, or was it the Difference engine? lt;, hardly matters, neither was ever finished.
Or if you can filter out the events that never happened there are some intelligent discussions of economics and various other technical or mechanical things, including a layout of how the Babbage engine, which ever one it was might have worked if it had been finished.
Lady Lovelace does appear and we do get her biography. Not much on her math or programming, but the general opinion was that she was good at both and never esp respected for it, er them.
If you have read this far and are unsure what he Amazing Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is about or what it is relating or basically: is it worth muddling through. My work here is done.
Some years ago a read a standard biography of Babbage. If you're really interested in a complete picture of Babbage, I would not say that "The Thrilling Adventures...." is a substitute for that, but it is a very useful adjunct to it. It does give a better feel for who these people actually were, and a much better emphasis on Ada Lovelace.
Top reviews from other countries
This starts off as a relatively straightforward account of Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and the never-to-be-completed Analytical Engine, the famous programmable mechanical computer, told in lovely graphic novel format. But that real life story ends unhappily, and too soon (Lovelace died at the age of 36, and Babbage never completed his masterpiece).
Rather than the book stopping at page 40, the fictional story begins, in an alternate universe, where the laws of time are a little more fluid, the engine is completed, and the super-geniuses Babbage and Lovelace, agents of The Crown, team up to fight crime, meet Wellington and Brunel, banter about computers, and have thrilling steampunk adventures, all gloriously illustrated, and copiously footnoted.
Those footnotes are there to point out the links (sometimes tenuous, often not) between what is happening in the tales, and what happened in reality. There is a lot of research behind these brief tales, with some footnotes having endnotes of their own, with more copious material; and some of those endnotes have further footnotes of their own. These tell of the (real life) events behind the (sadly so very fictional) scenes being illustrated.
Sometimes a page of research is captured by a quick joke, or a single panel. But one whole story depends on it: the visitor who distracts Coleridge when writing Kubla Khan is none other than that destroyer of poetry, Lovelace herself! The evidence is convincingly presented; only one tiny detail argues against it, scrupulously recorded by the author: “Some may object that she was born eighteen years after the composition of the poem, but this anomaly is easily explained”.
Overall, this is a delight, especially if you are interested in the Analytical Engine, and the history behind it. The individual stories probably do not stand on their own, but when supported by triply-nested footnotes, and superb illustrations, everything comes together brilliantly.
I've known about Ada for many years and her huge importance in the formation of my industry alongside Babbage as this was my area of study (in fact one of the languages I learned to code in was named after her).
This book is a little different though, starting with the history of Ada and Babbage and their relationship but moving in to a fictional world where Ada did not die young and their adventures continued. It's wonderful in the way it visualises what might have been had these two brilliant minds finished their work.
The book is presented nicely, the cartoon artwork is lovely and the copious footnotes add a lot of depth to the book. It has also has a nice steampunk vibe to it, seeing the inventions of these two realised in a Victorian world.
Overall I love this and reckon it's a great read for those who want to learn a bit more about them or who just want a fun read.
It’s also the first time I have thoroughly approved of the ending of a story being altered to make it less sad.
Buy this book, then buy it again for your friends.