Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua

Did you know the basis of the first computer program was invented back in 1842? When I think of the beginnings of the computer, the newish scene in Spaceship Earth featuring a lady in 70s go-go boots surrounded by enormous beeping white machines comes to mind. So when I happened upon this book in a library exploration trip I was very intrigued to find out more about the very beginning of the computer, which apparently happened way earlier than I thought it did. The beginnings of the computer involved the collaboration of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage working on an invention called the Difference Engine. Sadly, Countess Lovelace died young and the Difference Engine was never actually built.

But in the grand way that fiction allows us, this book explores the idea of “what if”. What if Lovelace and Babbage had actually completed the Difference Engine, and then used its marvelous computing abilities to go on strange adventures? This book not only gives an accurate historical biography of Lovelace and Babbage and their collaboration, but also features a section where in an alternate universe the duo complete their engine and use it’s awesome power to have all sorts of adventures and mishaps (mostly mishaps).

Those who are particularly interested in the history behind Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and the Difference Engine will be delighted by the sheer amount of research that must have gone into this book. There are extensive footnotes explaining and expounding on the historical events and people featured, as well as a very large appendix containing a vast amount of primary resources. But it’s not just about the history. The adventurous side of the book is quite fun too, and has a very steampunk-esque feel to it. This is where the author’s characterization of Lovelace and Babbage really has the chance to shine, such as when both receive Queen Victoria for a demonstration of the Difference Engine.

I have to say I quite enjoyed the art style of this one. It has a very whimsical feel to it, especially in the “adventures” section of the book, but it is also right at home in the very historical part one as well. The expressions and emotions I thought were particularly well done. Overall, this is a great recommendation for both the historical and alternate reality sections, which lends itself to the graphic novel format quite well. This one is definitely recommended.

Shady Glade Rating: 4 leaves

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1 comment:

Mystica said...

Sounds very interesting.