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The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam) Paperback – May 24, 2011
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- 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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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...
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I finished it in one sitting... It is a wonderful, enthralling read, rich in suspense and feelings. And now I NEED the second book. I can only hope it lives up to the precedent.Published 9 months ago by ebeowulf
This one failed the 25% test - one quarter of the way through this wreck, and I knew that I could take no more. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Joe
Really wanted to like this more than I did. It was just completely uninteresting.Published 23 months ago by J Craw
Loved it! Really I'm too old to be liking a book of this nature, but wish I had 50 more years to become and live as a steampunker!Published on December 30, 2013 by NiceDenise pray
I just can't get into this novel. Possibly because the heroine obviously thinks the superheroes and supervillians (even her family) are a little stupid - I can't help but think... Read morePublished on August 18, 2013 by D. Cook
It took a long time for me to get into this book, despite a very good premise and promise of amazing characters. Read morePublished on October 2, 2012 by Kenneth B. Soward
In this steampunk novel, the City of New York has been protected for years by a group of superheroes called the Paragons. Read morePublished on April 27, 2012 by Michael S. Kraus
When I picked up this book, I was expecting a cheese-tastic steampunk romp through New York. That was exactly what I got with The Falling Machine. Read morePublished on April 23, 2012 by E. Ambrose
Book one of the Society of Steam series of Steampunk novels grabs you by throat right at the start with the death of a key figure one Sir Dennis Darby. Read morePublished on March 10, 2012 by fastreader