The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam #1) by Andrew P. Mayer
Thoughts Before Reading:
So I was recommended this book by a friend. She loved it as it was steam punk, historical fiction, and involved superheroes.
Yes, superheroes. It seemed like a sure winner…yet I…oops! Getting ahead of myself.
The time is 1880. The place, New York City. The girl? Nineteen-year-old socialite, Sarah Stanton.
Sarah is the only child of Alexander Stanton, a leading industrialist (and his superhero name) and founding member of Paragon, the steam punk version of the Avengers or the Justice League.
Also in the Paragon is Sir Dennis Darby, the leader of the Paragons and inventor who builds and improves the costumes of each. He is Sarah’s favorite person and mentor.
The Submersible, a German officer who was disgraced and came to America. He is named for his aquatic equipment.
Sleuth; a tall, Brit and highly intelligent in solving mysteries.
Iron-Clad, once able to destroy things with his iron fists and armor, but now stuck in a wheelchair.
And the newest member being Nathaniel as Turbine, a Rocketeer type guy, and Sarah’s old childhood friend.
There is one other member, a robot built by Sir Darby; Automaton or Tom for short. The other members don’t particularly like him, but put up with him for Darby.
Sarah, unfortunateky, will never be able to join Paragon because of her sex. She has wanted to be like her father, but their relationship has gone incredibly downhill since the death of her mother.
When Sarah was a child she was snooping in places she shouldn’t have been and revealed her father’s secret identity to the wrong person. She and her mother were kidnapped, her father only being able to save her. Since the death of her mother her father has been more closed and concentrated on stopping evil, not open to any new ideas like Sarah joining their ranks.
This day Sarah was out with Sir Darby, Tom, and Nathaniel to check out the new Brooklyn Bridge. They are at the top, when the foreman reveals that he is no such thing. He is Bomb Lance.
Haha, Bomb Lance. That makes me think of Bomb Voyage from The Incredibles.
Anyways, he turns out to be a member of the Brotherhood…whoops I mean the Children of Eschaton. He was hired to kill Sir Darby, of which he accomplishes; along with wounding Nathaniel.
Before he can finish him and Tom off, he is stopped by Tom and the warning shot he had fired. Bomb Lance steals a key from Sir Darby that he was after and takes off in a getaway hot air balloon.
The Paragons and Sarah find themselves at a loss and uproar over Sir Darby’s death. Sarah and Sleuth are both heartbroken at the loss of their friend and eager to find out who tried to kill him and why.
Meanwhile, the others are saddened by his death but also at odds over what he left behind. In his will he left the leadership of Paragon to Tom!
All argue over it: Sleuth wants to honor Sir Darby’s wishes while Nathaniel, Alexander, and the rest agree that having a machine be in charge is not the best idea. Yes he will be logical, but he isn’t human and doesn’t have the same heart. Alexander gets voted in instead.
Meanwhile, the Paragons don’t want Tom repairing himself after the Bridge incident as they want him to not gain any power or fall under the wrong control, as Darby is no longer leading him. They have all meet horrible machines who tried to destroy innocent people.
However, the Sleuth needs his help to investigate, especially as the Sleuth believes that someone in Paragon is either the leader of the Children of Eschaton or working with them. He confides in Sarah, who then takes it upon herself to aid in the investigation; believing it might be her father.
The Sleuth goes undercover to try and discover more about the Children of Eschaton but ends up having his cover blown by the inside man. He is almost killed, but is aided by a member of the CoE, Anubis, and he manages to get away.
Who killed Sir Darby? Who is the leader of the Children of Eschaton? Who is this mysterious Anubis? With every page the Sleuth and Sarah encounter more and more questions as they hunt for the truth.
Thoughts After Reading:
Usually the books my friend recommends I love but I actually couldn’t stand this one.
It had a lot of plot holes, its characters weren’t all that endearing, and I thought it was just bad.
My first problem was Sarah Stanton. Our main character that we are supposed to love because she wants to be a superhero and do more than marry and pick out clothes; she should be relatable but is just annoying.
For the first two thirds of the book she goes on and on about how horrible her father is. He won’t support her dreams. He never spends time with her. He hardly talks to her or looks at her, etc. We start thinking that her father is a horrible guy until she reveals what happened with her mother. All I can think is well Duh! Sarah. Your mistake cost your mother’s life! He probably can’t stand being with your because you look like your mother and it hurts him to se you knowing he didn’t protect her. Or maybe he blames himself for the whole situation as he just had to be a superhero. or maybe he blames Sarah. He’s not an ogre, he’s just grieving; after all he lost the love if his life.
And that explains why he never wants you involved. Part of it is the society views of where women should be but also he already lost one important woman in his life, I’m sure he doesn’t want to lose a second.
The Sarah-Tom relationship was weird too. Tom was just his plain old robotic self, but Sarah had the hots for him. She kept going on about describing his body’s six-pack or naked form. She tried to protect him and believed in him more than her “real human” friends. I don’t know if the author will continue that but a human and a cyborg getting together is just weird.
The Nathaniel relationship was weird too. Nathaniel goes on and on about how Sarah’s views of women’s roles is wrong, making them constantly at odds. But then the author is trying to plan a romance between them?
And then they suddenly reveal that they are step siblings!
Yeah, when did that happen? They talk of Sarah’s mother as being only Sarah’s mother. And Alexander never mentions being married before and says that after her death he could never remarry. Sarah and Nathaniel are close in age and said they grew up together. How could he have been a stepbrother? It doesn’t fit at all and was just weird.
I hated how Sarah thought everyone was crazy because they were unsure about Tom. Tom would never hurt anyone, Tom is our friend, blah, blah, blah…uh Sarah Tom is a machine. And a machine does what it is programmed to. It has no heart or soul. I agreed whole0heartedly with Nathaniel, the opposite of the author’s intention I’m sure.
I also thought the storyline was BORING. Sarah kept talking about when her dad was younger and the first superhero, and all the villains they fought at the beginning of Paragon and I thought that would be a much more interesting story. I would love to read that more than the sequel to this book. Please make a prequel!
And the thing I hated the most about this book? They leave you hanging at the end.
Yes, the Sleuth figures out who the leader is but is killed. At the very end Sarah finds his book of notes, running away, leaving you to have to read the next book to figure out the ending. I hate when authors do that. I think it is a cheap ploy to ensure that you will sell more copies as people are willing to plunk down their money to answer question. Bad move.
I actually don’t care about finding out who the leader is as I didn’t even care for this book that much. But as I started, I promise to finish the series, the same way I am doing it for everything else. It’s a hard job, but I will try.
For more steam punk books, go to Ticker
For more books recommended by friend, go to Emilie & the Hollow World
For more historical fiction, go to Whistling in the Dark
For more book reviews, go to The Madwoman Upstairs