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The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam) Paperback – May 24, 2011

3.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Society of Steam Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Falling Machine is quite simply the coolest steampunk superhero book I've ever read. . . . Imagine if Gangs of New York had been directed by Jules Verne, instead of Martin Scorsese, [and] you're probably not too far off."
- Portland Book Review

"If Stan Lee had lived in the 1880s, [The Falling Machine] is the book he would have written- steampunk superheroes. Filled with larger-than-life characters, cliff-hanger action, and ingenious gadgets so richly realized you'll feel the steam hissing from them, at its heart, it's a two-fisted meditation on the mythic glories of heroism and the tragic frailties of the heroes themselves."
-Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith, authors of the Vampire Empire trilogy

"[A] glorious conceit. . . steampunk superheroes in Gilded Age New York City. [The Falling Machine] offers cocked-eyed adventure and the high camp of steampunk wrapped around a story of moral choice, family loyalty, and the ultimate question of who gets to be counted as a person. A ripping yarn that strikes all the right notes, [it] will delight and entertain you."
-Jay Lake, Campbell Award-winning author of Mainspring and Green

About the Author

Andrew P. Mayer is the author of a short comic story titled "Om Nom Nom" published by Dark Horse Comics. The story was anthologized in Myspace Dark Horse Presents Anthology #3 and in New Creepy Anthology. He currently works as a game designer, workin with a number of different companies developing games for Facebook.
Previously he worked as a game designer and creative director for Sony Psygnosis, the Cartoon Network, and PlayFirst Games. Visit Andrew at andrewpmayer.com.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Society of Steam (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Pyr; First Edition edition (May 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616143754
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616143756
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #735,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Several reviewers have already commented on THE FALLING MACHINE's slow pace, and I agree in particular with someone's statement that it reads too much like an intended comic book. That might sound strange considering the appeal for most readers will be the Victorian superhero scenario. I, too, was drawn in by that concept. That said, it was Justin Gerard's cover art that caught my attention, with the book itself falling short of its expectation. This may speak to the need for the visual side of the superhero genre. However, with or without the illustrations, many superhero stories succeed by merit of their complex characters, whereas THE FALLING MACHINE resorts too comfortably to stereotypes. None of the old men are any better than the sum of their steampunk costumes, and the villains--crucial to any superhero story--are all but invisible throughout.

What I haven't seen mentioned yet is something that proved highly distracting, which was the book's large amount of typos--usually missing words or spelling errors. Whether or not these were the author's original errors, the fact that so many exist in the published book (I'd say one every two pages or so) isn't a great advertisement for the publisher. Though a minor consideration in a stronger, more established work, something like this can be a death sentence for a debut novel, especially when combined with its other weaknesses. For me, these included a lack of perspective (never seeing or understanding the things that seemed most interesting), a plot that progressed far too slowly, and untapped potential in a setting and era that should have provided as much historical, atmospheric, and psychological context as some reviewers have claimed they did.

While I may have read the sequel if it had belonged to this volume, I don't care enough about the story now to go out and get the rest of it.
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Format: Paperback
I'll be honest. I didn't research this book before I bought it. I knew nothing of the author, or the plot, or any other significant details. I picked it up on a whim on my last visit to the bookstore. And somehow, it turned out to be one of the better novels I've read this year.

The story goes like this (spoiler free!): Sarah Stanton, daughter of one of the leaders of the Paragons, a group of heroes that protect New York City, witnesses the murder of one of the founders of the same group, and becomes embroiled in a large scale plot that deals with themes of betrayal, aging, and the advent of technology, and the dangers and wonders that come with it. Also, last but not least, it muses on what really makes a hero, beyond a mask and fancy leather costume. The story manages to be easy to follow and fun, while addressing topics that can get pretty heavy.

This is one of the best concepts for a steampunk novel I've ever seen. I've always wanted to like this genre more than the novels I've read in it have allowed me to. But too many of them get caught up in reveling in their own creativity, wanting to put their ideas for cool, weird technology in the forefront and putting character development and story into the proverbial caboose.

But this novel never falls into that trap. It's tight, consistent, and uses the setting and genre as frosting on the cake. The focus is always on the story, which never really has a slow point that made me want to stop reading. That's when you know you have a good novel on your hands.

Seriously. If you've wanted to like Steampunk, enjoy the idea of superheroes in the 1880s, or just love a novel with vivid characters and a beautiful, creative world, get this book.

You'll be glad you did. Now to wait until November to read the second one...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a fun read, but I felt it could have been a lot better.

Strengths: the book doesn't waste a lot of time on "origin stories." It's not afraid to make its characters ridiculous at times. (The Industrialist is a half-step away from the Flaming Carrot, in my opinion.) Sarah, for all of her pretensions as strong and defiant, is a hothouse flower that wilts in adversity; I expect she'll learn real strength, in time. And, best of all, Tom (the Automaton) is well done. Tom never attempts to be human. The author shows us what Tom does, but never tells us what Tom thinks, if Tom thinks at all.

Weaknesses: as others have mentioned, the book's pacing is off. He spent an entire chapter having Sarah struggle to escape from a closet, for Pete's sake! Tom's "self-repair" ability comes across as lazy writing, to me; yes, it's steampunk and we smile at the notion of "fortified steam," but Tom eating a bag of gears and wires and just "getting better" crosses over into magic. And, in this volume at least, we never really understand the "why" of the Paragons. Stanton, the Industrialist, mentions serving in the Civil War and refers to battles against mad inventors, but none of this is explored. We are expected to just accept that conservative 19th century America, that doesn't allow women the vote, is suspicious of Catholics and Jews, and scarcely recognizes people of color as human, will idolize some guys in weird get-ups who... do what? Fight other guys in weird get-ups?

I liked this book. But I feel that the author missed a chance to produce something great.
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