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

Sydney Padua. Pantheon, $28.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-307-90827-8
This print edition of Padua’s webcomic is a must-have for anyone who enjoys getting lost in a story as brilliant in execution as conception. Padua's debut graphic novel transforms the collaboration between Ada Lovelace (the daughter of Lord Byron) and Charles Babbage (a noted polymath) into an inspired, “What If?” story. Lovelace was a talented mathematician and helped translate a paper on Babbage’s ideas for an Analytical Engine, the world’s first computer. The notes she added to the translation were so cleverly detailed that experts today recognize them as the first example of computer programming. Although Lovelace died a few years later and Babbage was left to tinker with his Analytical Engine until his death, Padua imagines an alternate reality where they build the engine and use it to “have thrilling adventures and fight crime!” 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. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/26/2015
Release date: 04/21/2015
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