The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua. ★★★★★
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is an absolutely delightful graphic novel that contains a wealth of historical information regarding Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and the history of computing while at the same time being relentlessly entertaining.
The book begins with a brief history of Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and their work on the invention of the computer and computer programming. However, both died before any of the machines Babbage planned were ever invented. And so Padua imagines an alternate ending – a world where their Analytical Engine reached completion and adventures ensue.
Padua’s art is wonderfully effective. Her black and white drawings are imbued with energy and life, and I’m completely jealous of her skill at creating such wonderfully expressive faces!
In the foreword, Sydney Padua describes how the book began as a brief comic she created at a friend’s request for Ada Lovelace Day. When the end of her comic suggested an alternate universe, various corners of the internet thought she was planning a webcomic about steampunk style adventures between the duo. Although Padua had no such plans in mind, she began researching Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, and she wound up becoming utterly fascinated with Lovelace, Babbage, and the Analytical Engine. And Padua’s passion for her subject matter shines through at every turn, and the book is so much greater for it.
Padua also found much potential humor lying in wait. For instance, Charles Babbage had a long lasting vendetta against street musicians. Even when Padua is departing on some flight of fantasy, she still provides extensive footnotes on historical information. I’m not kidding, there’s pages and pages of footnotes, and I highly suggest reading all of them. They’re both knowledgeable and engaging. I ended up learning a lot in the process of reading The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, and like all the best books that dabble in history, it left me with a desire to go out and learn more.
I can’t recommend this altogether charming collection enough.