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Andrew P. Mayer
The Society of Steam Trilolgy
Pyr Bpooks / Prometheus
US First Edition Trade Paperback

The Falling Machine
ISBN 978-1616143756
Publication Date:05-24-2011
285 Pages; $16

Hearts of Smoke and Steam
ISBN 978-1616145330
Publication Date:11-22-2011
370 Pages; $25.95

Power Under Pressure
ISBN 978-1616146962
Publication Date:01-08-2013
390 Pages; $17.95

Date Reviewed: 11-14-2012
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2012

Index:  Science Fiction  Fantasy  Horror  

There's good reason to be cautious when you see a book emblazoned with "First Book in the *.* Series," especially if it is indicated that the series is a single story leading towards some sort of grand conclusion, rather than a continuum of standalone adventures. I'm of the mind to buy first editions (hardcover or paperback, whatever they may be) and then squirrel them away until the day the final volume arrives. That's the time to start reading; and, with Andrew P. Mayer's 'Power Under Pressure,' (Pyr / Prometheus ; January 8, 2013 ; $17.95), that welcome day has arrived for "The Society of Steam" trilogy.

Mayer's world is a well-realized alternate New York of the 1880's built on the foundation of "Fortified Steam." The series begins with 'The Falling Machine,' when, with a few smart waves of his prose hands, Mayer plunges us into a world of superheroes and heroines, of glitz-covered moral rot and Sarah Stanton, our guide to this entertaining externalization of our fears and desires. There's a mechanical man (Tom, "The Automaton"), a vile villain, and enough gadgets and clockwork to move things along briskly to a conclusion that manages to be satisfying while obviously not the end.

Mayer cranks up the terror a notch in 'Hearts of Smoke and Steam,' as we see more of the villain and his unfolding plans, not just for the immediate future, but for all futures. Mayer adds new characters to the mix and new layers to the characters we already know. What we see here as well is Myer's ability to flesh out his world with devices and desires that derive from his entertaining premise in a thoroughly logical and enjoyable manner. It's nice to see an author who pumps up the relationships as well as the intricacy of the gadgets.

And finally, things come to a head in 'Power Under Pressure,' as the world goes from bad to worse and Sarah finds herself literally at the heart of the matter. Here again, we see Mayer's nicely understated world-building skills unfolding in a very deliberately overblown world. If that sounds like a bit of a contradiction in terms it is, but though Mayer is working in a genre that demands hyperbole, he still manages to offer the nice details that reward the attention-paying reader. 'Power Under Pressure' is an excellent example of less being more, since Mayer manages to finish his story in less than 400 pages.

What Mayer has managed in a quite tightly-written trilogy is to reset the superhero story in a steampunk world. These are both genres that feed on fun, that require adventure and reward the reader with a light-hearted look at the darkest of times. Mayer's prose has the feel of the time it is set in, but not so much as to be annoying; it's like a British actor doing a perfect American accent. His New York setting is a nice change up from the usual London (not that I mind London!), and his plotting and pacing keep things lively but not frantic.

Andrew P. Mayer's "Society of Steam" Trilogy has finally arrived, so readers can immerse themselves in the story from beginning to end. Mayer hits all the right notes; a touch of horror, some high-adventure, heroes and villains who deserve the elaborate contraptions that carry them across a Rube-Goldberg machine landscape, all at a pace that suggests a handcart on the way to hell. That pacing and direction are important, as we look around at our own vehicle and wonder just what we are in and where it is headed. We have some nice contraptions, it must be allowed. I do believe that for all the fun that Sarah Stanton has in her zeppelins, she'd really get a kick out of a 747. Our villains, alas, are not nearly so colorful.

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