After the Golden Age
Strawberries are delicious – especially those you have picked yourself.
Also, I just finished reading After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn. It is a superhero novel, that I probably wouldn’t have chosen based on the ugly cover or the title. I in fact found it on someone elses recommended list. It was a good recommendation.
The story follows Celia West, the daughter of two prominent superhumans (superheros): Captain Olympus and Spark. Unlike her talented parents, Celia is not gifted with amazing powers. She is thoroughly normal. Unfortunately that makes her an easy target for all the villains of Commerce City. I think she has been kidnapped some half-dozen times before the story starts and she is kidnapped nearly another half-dozen times before the story ends. She is very good at being a victim.
Celia rebels against her famous family and strikes out on her own. She goes to college, studies hard and becomes an accountant. Yup, that is the excitement of her job. However, despite efforts to live her own life, Celia is drawn back into the world of superhumans when the super-villian Destructor is brought to trial. Celia is called in as a forensic accountant. All the things she thought she had left behind suddenly come back into play.
I thought the book was very well written. The moments of going back in time do a good job of showing, rather than just telling, some of the incidents bringing the characters to their present point. The motivations of the heroes and villains are compelling – always a good thing in a story.
The book has a lot of comic book superhero influences. Warren West, aka Captain Olympus, is the head of a massive corporation (like Batman). He has a generic superpower of strength and invincibility (like Captain America – I suppose, with a little of the Hulk’s anger thrown in). Suzanne West, aka Spark, has a fire ability. Together they formed the Olympiad vigilante group that came to include the Bullet (super speed) and Mentis (telepathy). Naturally they operate out of West Corp. huge skyscraper, complete with impressive penthouse, and secret operations room. The asylum, where Destructor is residing during the Trial of the Century is reminiscent of Arkam Asylum. Commerce City is a sufficiently generic city filled with people, gangs, cops and superhumans.
I do like the trial aspect of the book, which seemed to pull from Al Capone’s own history. Simon Sito, aka Destructor, is brought to trial for tax evasion and other accounting illegalities. Even Captain Olympus is incredulous that the evil super-villain will be tried, not for his heinous crimes of destruction, but for tax technicalities.
That the emotionally scarred and very normal Celia is the protagonist makes this book. It is an interesting dive into a world where superheroes exist. I like the way it protrays the rather obsessed vigilantes. I like the way it looks at the negatives of being a superhero or being related/involved with superheroes. The story feels real, rather than cartoonish in its portrayal of the world and characters. In the end, superheroes aren’t that spectacular and just like other people super-villains have to stand trial.
In a world saturated with the glory of masked men running around in skin-tight suits and claiming they act in the name of justice, this was more interesting and believable way of looking at that world. I would recommend this book. It was a good and compelling story, even if it was a little fluffy.