The Justice Society of Steam, Part III

Power under PressureNineteen-year-old Sarah Stanton has spent her entire life surrounded by costumed adventurers and their equally colorful adversaries. And now that her father and his superhero club have been smashed to smithereens, it’s her job to inaugurate the next generation of heroes. Say goodbye to the Paragons, and say hello to the Society of Steam.

But it’s a complicated world that Sarah lives in. It’s 1880 and she is a proper lady who feels the tug of society’s restrictive expectations. Before she can assemble her steampunk avengers, she must invent feminism and prove to herself that she’s capable of rising to her full potential.

Thankfully, Sarah is up to the task. For starters, she’s surrounded herself with a bunch of supportive and like-minded super friends. In addition, she is a headstrong young woman with a great deal of rage simmering below the surface. “Perhaps that’s all it takes to be a superhero,” muses her boyfriend, Emilio.

Power Under Pressure is the third (and last?) volume in Andrew P. Mayer’s steampunk/superhero series. In all three books, a mad scientist by the name of Lord Eschaton (later, King Omega) has been tirelessly pushing his agenda to “purify” the human race. He’s basically writing his own version of the Bible and calling it The Gospel According to Eschaton. The first book, he says, will be called “Regenesis.”

But Sarah cannot stand on the sidelines and idly watch this steam-powered wingnut destroy the world. Despite losing her parents and benefactors to the “terrible curse of heroism,” she decides to reinvent herself as a superhero and rally her friends for one final showdown with the Children of Eschaton.

Unfortunately, the promise of the two previous novels (The Falling Machine and Hearts of Smoke and Steam) is not fully realized in this last volume. Yes, Sarah’s journey from sheltered rich girl to empowered super girl is finally completed. And, yes, there’s a slam-bam final resolution. But the author comes to these matters in the most roundabout way. Among other things, the novel suffers from pacing problems, ill-advised narrative decisions, and a whole lot of navel gazing. After three volumes (and nearly 1,000 pages), we weren’t in the mood for more set decoration and character motivation. By the time we reached the endgame, we were nodding our heads in agreement to the stuttering words of Tom, the Automaton: “It is…time for all this to…end.”

[The Society of Steam, Book Three: Power Under Pressure / By Andrew P. Mayer / First Printing: January 2013 / ISBN: 9781616146962]

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