The Machine, by E.C. Jarvis
I don’t read a lot of books by indie authors, and I definitely don’t read a lot of self-published writers’ work. I’m a slow reader, and most of my spare time is filled by writing (as well as my other hobbies), but E.C. Jarvis was on my must-read list ever since I heard about The Machine. I’d also made the new year’s resolution of reading more indie authors in 2016, so I was particularly keen to read The Machine. That said, I was also a bit apprehensive. I can be a very impatient reader, and I have a low tolerance for grammar errors and typos, which self-published books are somewhat notorious for.
In the case of The Machine, my fears were entirely unfounded. In fact, I’ll be adding The Machine to my list of Best Steampunk Novels (ok, so I don’t have an actual list – just a mental list in my head). Gripping, fast-paced, The Machine is an airship adventure with a tough female protagonist and a collection of likable side characters and truly despicable villains.
It’s a classic damsel in distress story, except that the damsel is a man and the rescuer is a woman.
Larissa Markus’ life is turned upside down when a romantic date ends in an explosion and a burning building. Her lover – the Professor – is kidnapped, and she is left for dead.
Though she escapes she faces the blame for the destruction, leaving her no choice but to try and save the Professor and clear her name. However, the naive sales clerk is ill-prepared for such an adventure.
The great thing about The Machine – well, there are many great things, but for now I’ll stick to just one – is the pace. It’s an adventure story, and it reads like one. There is never a dull moment, and my attention was hooked right from the first chapter. From then on, The Machine continued to gather steam, right until the last page. Jarvis’s second in the series, The Pirate, was released recently, and I’m assured it’s “even better than The Machine.” Honestly, that’s setting the bar high.
The book is at times graphic and never apologetic; if you’re squeamish, this might not be the book for you. I’ll admit there was one scene in particular that was difficult to read, but the protagonist’s growth from naive sales clerk to (spoiler alert) more than just a sales clerk, was spurred on by that traumatic scene.
I love a book with a tough female protagonist, and I love seeing the damsel in distress formula flipped upside down, with the man being rescued by the woman. Larissa Markus is constantly being underestimated, and it’s nothing short of awesome to see her growth as a character from beginning to end.
And let’s not forget the curmudgeonly Cid, the handsome but deadly Holt, or the fucking cat, Imago. Cid’s words.