Only eight days left until the first book in the new The Society of Steam duology will hit the book stores. Thanks to Jill Maxick from PYR for sending me an ARC of The Falling Machine (278 p. ! May 2011)[ISBN-13: 978-1616143756] by Andrew P. Mayer.
Why did I read the book? Because I received an ARC? No, in this case I asked for an ARC based on the blurb I read:
"In 1880 women aren’t allowed to vote, much less dress up in a costume and fight crime...It seems there is a kind of trend to use New York instead of London as setting for steampunk novels. I just remember Gods of Manhattan (2011) [ISBN-13: 978-1906735395] by Al Ewing and Ghosts of Manhattan (2010) by George Mann (my review).
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 (The Society of Steam, Book One) takes place in a Victorian New York powered by the discovery of Fortified Steam, a substance that allows ordinary men to wield extraordinary abilities and grants powers that can corrupt gentlemen of great moral strength. The secret behind this amazing substance is something that wicked brutes will gladly kill for and one that Sarah must try and protect, no matter what the cost. " [Source]
All three novels have more in common than one think at first sight. Superheroes, a lot of action, New York and steam. They are all most entertaining.
The specific of The Falling Machine is the development of a female heroine in a misogynistic society and Tom the extraordinary automaton. You find both of them in the center of the cover.
The Falling Machine is the first part of a duology and with 278 pages it is as short as Gods of Manhattan.
Conclusion: I expected a short prelude ending with a cliffhanger which has to lay the foundation to a hopefully grand final. What does this mean for the author? Nothing less than a tour de force.
And that is what Andrew P. Mayer delivered with The Falling Machine. He chose the setting and the ingredients well.
New York 1880. At first sight it looks like the New York we know from history. Did you know that the torch-bearing arm of the Statue of Liberty was displayed in Madison Square Park from 1876 to 1882? You will visit the arm within The Falling Machine. Even the Brooklyn Bridge is under construction. It is the location of the splendid opening sequence which contains everything - obvious and adumbrate - what you will harvest until the end of The Falling Machine. When I read the opening sequence I remembered immediately the scene on the Tower Bridge in Sherlock Holmes movie. But compared to The Falling Machine opening the movie scene is just a weak reverberation. The opening is full of humor, information, action, mystery, dialogue, gadgets, airships, automatons, superheroes and super villains in different dosing. The introduction is far beyond to be like a slow blossoming flower. It is the precision landing into the heartbeat of The Falling Machine.
A heartbeat which will push you through the 25 named and numbered chapters. A heartbeat which is not always regular because of some unexpected twists and turns in the story and in the development of the characters. Some of them appear like blanked out tin toy soldier but that is definitely a wrong impression. Andrew P. Mayer knows well to inhale his characters distinctive personality. And two of them we get to know better than the rest. On the one side is Sarah who is like a snake at the beginning of molting. She wants to change but is often hostage of society rules and her sometimes unconditional obedience against her father. That leads sometimes to unreproducible decisions. I promise you that the Sarah from chapter one is clearly different from Sarah in chapter 25. On the other side is My favorite character is Tom the automaton who sometimes act more human as humans in way of humanity and stupidity. I don't want to give away too much about Tom. Do you know the Turing test? It is of importance for Tom.
And to my surprise there is not an obvious cliffhanger. It is more like to be on tenterhooks and nail-biting waiting how the story will continue and the question of questions will there be more books with Tom and Sarah?????
Of course there is something to bellyache about The Falling Machine. It is tooooooooooooo short.
I want more and I want it now. And I want a movie too.
The Falling Machine is THE mystery superhero steampunk novel which will hinder you to fall asleep.
VIVA LA STEAMPUNK!!