by Andrew Mayer

Pyr Books, $16.00, 286 pages

The Falling Machine is quite simply, the coolest Steampunk Superhero book I’ve ever read.  Set in 1880 New York, our heroine, Sarah Stanton, is a closeted Adventuress, and the privileged daughter of a world famous superhero called The Industrialist (imagine a cross between Andrew Carnegie and Captain America). The Industrialist leads an Avengers-like group of extraordinary gentlemen called The Paragons of Justice. The members of The Paragons are The Sleuth, The Iron Clad, Turbine, The Submersible, and the self-aware, clockwork robot, called The Automaton. The indefatigable Ms. Stanton, imprisoned by the expectations of her gender in Robber Baron-era society, takes it upon herself to investigate the murder of the scientist who formed The Paragons. Her only friend, The Automaton, is blamed for the murder, and all the mayhem that follows. The resolute Ms. Stanton, stops at nothing to prove its innocence.

For every group of heroes, there must be a group of villains. The Sons of Eschaton, super villain anarchists, seek to bring down The Paragons, and steal the secrets behind their superpowers, the power of Fortified Steam. Every fiber of my inner nerd screams out in unmitigated JOY, with every single page. There is sleuthing and moustache-twirling bad guys up to no good, as well as wholesale destruction across the whole of Manhattan, betrayal and even a mention of the Turing test for artificial intelligence. There’s even property damage to the yet-to-be-assembled Statue of Liberty. Imagine if Gangs of New York had been directed by Jules Verne, instead of Martin Scorsese,  you’re probably not too far off. If your inner-nerd is quivering with anticipation then this book is definitely for you.

Reviewed by Bradley Wright