Max McCannor and his friends all suffer under the cruelty of their orphanage headmaster. Finally reaching a breaking point and spurred on by the hope of finding his long-lost father, Max convinces the others to flee their captors and head west. But the headmaster has much to lose, and hires one of his former orphans to track the children down and return them to the orphanage before they ESCAPE for good.
After Max McCannor’s father departs for California to seek new markets for his inventions, leaving Max in the care of his grandparents, a tragic accident lands Max in the New York Charitable Orphanage for Wayward Boys and Girls. This institution is even less hospitable than it sounds, and after several years of cruel abuse from its caretakers, Max plots an escape, planning to make his way to Chicago and the home of his Aunt Maggie, his only remaining relative, whom he hopes will provide safe haven and some clues to his father’s whereabouts.
Max and his friends break out of the orphanage and begin their desperate journey to find his long-lost father, dodging the local authorities and running afoul of a thug in the pay of the orphanage keepers along the way. A few narrow escapes later, they find themselves in an explosive showdown aboard a dirigible bound for Chicago. Will they make it to safety? Even if they survive, will they be captured and sent back to the orphanage? Is there any hope Max’s father is still alive?
Escape, by T.M. Hunter and Lyndon Perry, is the first book in their series, The Adventures of Max McCannor, where we meet Max, his friends, and his enemies, and are drawn into his quest. The story quickly sets the stage and drops a few hints that this isn’t quite the history of Victorian-era America we know. It moves at a brisk clip without minimizing the hardships Max and his friends endure at the orphanage, nor the greater dangers they face after their escape. Max quickly steps into the leadership role for his group, though not without a few challenges along the way—and his adventure has only just begun.
Some details of the technology are a little hazy—the orphans manage to accidentally start up a disused steam-powered generator without stoking a coal-fired boiler or other visible heat source, and there are some lift-to-weight problems inherent in using a steam engine to power an airship (not to mention the hazard of igniting the lifting gas). There have been small steam-driven airships in our world, so a larger one’s not unreasonable given some differences in physics or technology in this alternate Earth, and I expect more information will emerge in later episodes. Anyhow, part of a steampunk story’s fun is the plethora of rococo steam- and clockwork-powered gadgetry spawned by mad science somehow gone right, and paying too much attention to how it all might or might not work in real life isn’t really the point.
Escape is an exciting adventure written for young-adult / middle school readers, but anyone who enjoys a perilous romp through the Age of Steam will find it a fun read. Some parental guidance may be appropriate for younger readers—there are some potentially disturbing descriptions of abuse at the orphanage and a few other situations where children are threatened or injured.
Escape, by T.M. Hunter and Lyndon Perry, is an engaging steampunk tale. It begins the story of Max McCannor, a fifteen-year-old boy who decides that no matter what, he is going to find his missing father, and who ends up taking several of his friends along for the ride.
The book lives up to its premise well, and the storytelling is also quite good. I found it quite easy to follow, and the pace is decent also. I couldn't skim for even a page, because every detail and line of dialogue is important to the plot. The characters, though not overly-developed, are realistic and believable, and the same can be said for the dangerous situations they find themselves in.
The book is written on a level that seems to appeal primarily to preteen or teenage audiences, probably about ten to sixteen years of age, and contains no material which parents would find inappropriate for children in the aforementioned age bracket. There is slight violence, but the worst of it occurs when one character is shot in the shoulder, and there is only minimal blood in that scene.
Escape is a rather short book, at only 85 pages, but I find its length disappointing for one reason only: the story isn't finished! This is only episode one of Max's adventures, and leaves the reader eager to know what happens next.
Escape is a fast-paced, action-packed story set in a nineteenth-century America with a steampunk flavor. Stuck in a horrible orphanage run by a sadistic couple, Max is convinced that his father is still alive and waiting for Max to join him out West. A couple old letters seem to prove Max's conviction. Max and his friends exhibit spirit and resourcefulness as they escape from the orphanage only to fall into the clutches of an even worse villain. Perry and Hunter explore themes of betrayal and friendship. Be warned, Max's story does not end with Escape. I'm looking forward to the next installment. Highly recommended.
Update - May 1, 2020 - I recently re-read our book (first episode) in anticipation of starting on book 2 - writing it, that is, with my friend T. M. Hunter. We are about a third of the way through the second episode, "Runaway." Look for our FB page - The Adventures of Max McCannor.