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The Paragons are a team of pulp heroes in the late 19th century. They are steampunk superheroes with powerful gadgets that make them more powerful than near mortals.
They aren’t the stars of Society of Steam Book One: The Falling Machine by Andrew Mayer.
Instead the book focuses around two players in their circle. Sarah Stanton is the daughter of the Industrialist and confidant of the Professor (a.k.a. Sir Dennis Darby). Her costar is the Automaton, Tom for short, a powerful robotic man and Darby’s greatest creation.
When Darby dies, it quickly falls to them to solve the crime.
The Falling Machine is filled with characters torn right out of a fevered pulp dream. The villains and heroes all carry crazy gadget weapons, rather it’s the Industrialist’s automatic pistols or the murderous Bomb Lance’s spear launchers.
The cast quickly allows Mayer to design a world of pulp superheroes while never breaking away from a rather traditional Victorian era New York. It makes the setting truly unique while leaving it grounded in reality.
Ultimately, the story comes down to Automaton and Sarah’s quest to find their place as heroes in the aftermath of their mentor’s death. While the book completes their quest, it leaves many more answers left open. Mayer embraces the series aesthetic far too tightly and leaves far too much undone by book’s end. This leaves The Falling Machine to feel like only the first third of a much larger novel instead of a standalone novel.
That aside, Mayer’s prose moves along at a fever pitch, always driving the story forward and keeping the reader hooked in. I found myself covering hundreds of pages without ever wandering from the compelling narrative.
Anyone that loves pulp concepts in a Victorian era setting should take a look at The Society of Steam series. The Falling Machine comes Highly Recommended.