The Falling Machine by Andrew P Mayer (Society of Steam: Book 1)

In 1880 women aren’t allowed to vote, much less dress up in a costume and fight crime… But twenty-year-old socialite Sarah Stanton still dreams of becoming a hero. Her opportunity arrives in tragedy when the leader of the Society of Paragons, New York’s greatest team of gentlemen adventurers, is murdered right before her eyes. To uncover the truth behind the assassination, Sarah joins forces with the amazing mechanical man known as The Automaton. Together they unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the Paragons that reveals the world of heroes and high-society is built on a crumbling foundation of greed and lies. When Sarah comes face to face with the megalomaniacal villain behind the murder, she must discover if she has the courage to sacrifice her life of privilege and save her clockwork friend.

The Falling Machine is the debut book written by Andrew P. Mayer and the first book in the Society of Steam series. I have always found steampunk a very interesting genre and when I found out that The Falling Machine combines two of my favourite elements; steampunk AND superheroes, I just had to read this book.

The Falling Machine takes place in a Victorian-era New York. The rules in The Falling Machine are pretty strict regarding women - they should only be accessories to men and are hardly allowed to do the other cool stuff like fighting villains, to stop their diabolical plans. In the story you meet up with the main protagonist, Sarah Stanton, who is the daughter of a wealthy businessmen Alexander Stanton. Alexander Stanton is also a member of the crime fighting superhero team “The Paragons” and goes by the name “The Industrialist”. From the start you see a pretty strong and determined Sarah who wants to break out of New Yorks society rules and just wants to do the things she wants to do not what is forced on her. In the first chapter this was already quite noticeable in her reaction towards Dr. Dennis Darby, the professor and tech behind the nifty gadgets that the Paragons have. But her world changes as Dennis Darby is murdered.

With the death of Dennis the Paragons are now without a leader. In the advent of the death of Dennis a lot of interesting events occur. Now even the Paragons have trouble with keeping their team together.

The Paragon team exists of a few superheroes, some of them are: The Industrialist, The Submersible and The Turbine. Each of them have their own special gadgets. Yes, it is not the run of the mills "I got my super powers through a spiders bite" or getting hit by a substance. The Paragons are more or less self-made and self proclaimed heroes, playing directly into the building/industry that I get when thinking of steampunk. I really liked how the focus was on the story of the superheroes. They were shown in a interesting way, where they are not all glorious, but have their flaws as well. They were shown in some stereotypical manners, being big about their own powers and all. Another great thing about the superheroes is how they got their powers. In this part the steampunk element is evident and Andrew P. Mayer goes deep into the mechanical part of steampunk in The Falling Machine that was directly to my liking. Going as far as showing an telling a very vivid, rich and creative descriptions that you see the steam coming out of the back of the book! Very cool and neat. The description fall to its right in the gadgets of the Paragons but more in Tom, the Automaton. The last creation of Dennis Darby.

Tom is a pretty cool robot who is positioned between different members of the Paragons, but his characters fall just spot on how I like robots. He is able to think for himself and this is also what the Paragons fear. But on top of it he is able to self modify and self-repair, pretty neat, and in the end proves to be a great asset for the Paragons.

The plot moved along at a steady pace and Andrew P. Mayer took the time to tell The Falling Machine in his own way with enough description of the buildings, the backgrounds of the characters, and the whole technology. Even though it was a lot of information given, it did not at all feel like an information dump but for me the creativeness behind The Falling Machine really got me interested.

There are no superheroes needed when there are no nefarious villains… This brings me to the villain part. On some level I really wanted to see a face-off between the Paragons and the Children of Eschaton (the bad guys). In the ending of the book I saw a nice battle between Tom and Lord Eschaton which was again really cool, showing a great emphasis on the steampunk part. The Children of Eschaton have a similar air about them as the Paragons in terms of being stereotypical, and think of their names as Lord Eschaton, The Bomb Lance and Doc Dynamite. It was also good to see that the intentions of the Children of Eschaton were revealed and that they made a something different. Where the powers of The Paragons come from fortified steam that of the Children of Eschaton comes from something different more darker… and has its own consequences…

The ending of The Falling Machine left me on a cliff-hanger moment, and I am dying to find out what will happen in the coming books. I am very pleased with how Andrew P. Mayer combined the already popular steampunk theme with superheroes. Though some of the aspect seem basic of the Paragons and Tom, they were not boring at all but everything was connected and worked a certain magic in the setting that Andrew P. Mayer wanted to create. There was a emphasis on the technology of the steampunk genre showing how everything was put together. Another great aspect of the book was, with this being a starters of a trilogy, there was a good balance between moving the story along and creating a very rich and interesting world.

9/10 An exciting blend of steampunk with superheroes.

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