Book Review: Power Under Pressure

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Power Under Pressure Power Under Pressure in 2013
Pages: 390

Steampunk superheroes in Victorian-era New York! The Society of Paragons is gonedestroyed from within by traitors and enemies. With the death of The Industrialist and the rebirth the Iron-Clad as a monstrous half-human creature known as The Shell, Lord Eschaton now has almost everything he needs to cover the world in fortified smoke and rebuild it in his imageeverything except for the mechanical heart of the Automaton.

My Review:

Have you ever read a series that you thought was so clever and original when you started, but realized by the end that once the brilliance of the idea has worn off the rest just isn’t that great? That was this series for me, and Power Under Pressure was just the last straw.

When I first started the Society of Steam series, I thought the idea was SO COOL! I love steampunk, I love superheroes, a mash-up of the two ought to be the best thing since sliced bread, right? The first book certainly seemed like it. I loved the Batman-esque steam-powered costumed crusaders and their Automaton sidekick. I identified with Sarah’s need to escape her father’s shadow and create her own identity, and I felt for her when she went through all of those losses.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way that inspiring story got lost. The narrative began to meander when there wasn’t much going on, vacillating between “life sucks” and “people suck” – sometimes it even began to sound like a morality play, preaching a certain kind of “right” over wrong. By the time I finished book three, everything seemed so depressing! No matter what the good guys did, the bad guys won, and the final outcome definitely wasn’t a “happy ending” (not that all books have to have a happy ending, but I want the depressing endings to have a reason, besides “life sucks, happy endings are unrealistic,” at least!)

I hate to say all bad things, though. I mean, I did finish it, so it can’t have been that bad right? And it wasn’t, I guess. Thinking back I can see some pretty interesting moral themes – for example, the main conflict is between the forces of smoke and the forces of steam. Smoke is portrayed as the “bad” substance, but honestly it isn’t so much the substance as the person wielding it. Lord Eschaton forces his test subjects to undergo transformation by tying them down and forcing them to inhale the smoke, while the society of steam takes only those who choose to put together their own steam-powered costumes. I’m sure there’s plenty of issues for psychological analysis there.

But the truth is, this was a really depressing ending to a series that had such promise. I’m glad I read it, and I’m glad I finished it – but I’ll always be on the lookout for a better version of this idea.

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One Response to “Book Review: Power Under Pressure”

  1. Aww … I hate it when a series ends poorly. After so much build and then the balloon deflates. Sorry to hear you didn’t like it!

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