When I picked up this book, I was expecting a cheese-tastic steampunk romp through New York. That was exactly what I got with The Falling Machine.
It centers around Sarah, daughter of the superhero known as the Tycoon. He happens to be the leader of a steam-age Justice League. The League has a bit of a corruption and a vision problem. Unfortunately, the only ones who see this problem are Sarah, the Automaton, the Sleuth and Professor Darby.
First of all, It does get bonus points for mentioning the suffragettes right from the start. In addition, it mentions men who are all for women getting the vote as well (which happens to be period accurate) and there is veiled mention on successful ladies in fields other than badassery.
Overall, I thought that the book was terrifically cheesy. The prose seems overblown and more than a little melodramatic in places. More than a few characters are obviously taking their cues from other sources. There's some potential for more regarding what it means to be a person (via Tome the Automaton), sexism (Sarah of course), and general social discrimination (from both) but there's a lot of running around and these things got somewhat run over by the main mystery of the book. Needless to say, the prose didn't wow me overmuch. However, I kept wishing that the story had been given illustration or illuminated panels. Actually, I wanted a comic book. Preferably with art from whoever did the cover.
Sarah is okay as the protagonist and while some part of me went into face palm overdrive with regards to the Sleuth (on multiple fronts) I did like most of the open minded good guys. Also, given the time period WHY HAVE NONE OF THESE NUTS ROLLED TO THE LEFT SIDE OF THE CONTINENT WITH THE REST OF THEM? Sigh.
I did enjoy the book, but I wouldn't call it particularly thoughtful. And I still want illustrations.