On The Beach With Babbage

bb‘The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage’ by Sydney Padua might seem a strange choice for a summer beach read; but this Graphic Novel of the Steam Punk genre is so inventive and humorous with its delightful, intricately woven plot line, it can only be called brilliant. Seemingly a long read for the cottage it can be broken up by absorbing the comic section first and then the detailed footnotes and endnotes later at your leisure.

The beginning of the book tells of the real life story of Charles Babbage (history’s first computer designer) and Lord Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace (history’s first computer programmer). Both their lives were rather sad as Ada died young at 36 and Babbage never built his Difference or Analytical machines.

However Padua has very cleverly invented an alternate world for the pair in which Ada lives a long life and Babbage builds his machines. In their rollicking, romp of an adventure many literary greats are introduced and Queen Victoria plays a part which involves the mad scientist pair in her ambitions to rule the world. Babbage and Ada fight crime to boot, but of a different sort. Babbage hates street musicians and Ada, poetry, having as a child been exposed only to mathematics in an attempt to not have her fall into madness like Lord Byron, her poetic father. Humour abounds here and the anecdotes are hysterically funny.

There is an enormous amount of educational content in the 317 pages which will satisfy the computer and mathematical nerds plus budding historians. To have combined the comic characters with some serious historical and primary documents is a mark of genius on the part of Padua. Footnotes and end notes abound with information, all of such interest involving so many prominent and famous people.

Padua is a graphic artist and has done well with an assortment of pleasing illustrations enhancing the interpretation of the characters.

1         2         3

The artwork suites the Victorian setting and there are darker brushstrokes when the tone of the literature is more serious. The slightly mad look on both Babbage and Lovelace’s faces lends emphasis to their genius characters. At the end of the book there are a series of accomplished drawings explaining the inward workings of the Analytical Engine, the Self Calculating Machine, data transfer, the punch card system and a calculating mill. All fascinating stuff!

Here is a clip of the author and a smidgen about the creation of her book.


For more Summer Read suggestions try the CBC Summer Reads list, most are here at the Caledon Public Library and a couple are still on order, the following link will take you to the list