February 2016 | Barbara Basbanes Richter

Alan Turing Decoded in New Graphic Novel

turing.jpgThe Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded, by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Leland Purvis; Abrams ComicArts, $24.99, 240 pages. (March 22, 2016)


English mathematician and scientist Alan Turing (1912-1954) has been featured here on the Fine Books Blog before, notably when his wartime personal journal sold last year at Bonhams for over $1 million to an anonymous bidder. The 56-page handwritten manuscript is believed to be the only such item in existence, and reveals Turing's thought processes as he wrestled with complex equations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Following on the heels of that sale comes a new biography in graphic-novel format. Bestselling author Jim Ottaviani and Eisner award winning illustrator Leland Purvis present a full, historically accurate portrait of the man who helped crack the German Enigma and pioneered groundbreaking work in the field of computer science, only to see much of that laid aside when he was indicted in 1952 on charges of gross indecency. (At the time of his indictment the public had no idea of Turing's achievements during the war, and his contributions weren't declassified until the 1970s.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Narrated by characters appearing to give court testimony--referring, no doubt, to Turing's trial--the book weaves together a thorough examination of Turing's life, covering his early, awkward school days, his brilliant work at Bletchley Park, and the final humiliating years when Turing underwent estrogen therapy as part of a court-ordered punishment. Purvis' illustrations belie the complexity of the story at hand, but fascinating details abound. Scenes of Turing spitting out complex mathematical computations cover the pages like numeric snowflakes, impressive and dizzying at the same time. Decoded is an accessible and engaging biography of an underappreciated man of secrets whose legacy is finally coming into full focus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Visit http://literarykids.tumblr.com/tagged/Alan-Turing-Decoded to see the amazing book art!