After the Golden Age – Carrie Vaughn

About the Book
Can an accountant defeat a supervillain? Celia West, only daughter of the heroic leaders of the superpowered Olympiad, has spent the past few years estranged from her parents and their high-powered lifestyle. She’s had enough of masks and heroics, and wants only to live her own quiet life out from under the shadow of West Plaza and her rich and famous parents.

Then she is called into her boss’ office and told that as the city’s top forensic accountant, Celia is the best chance the prosecution has to catch notorious supervillain the Destructor for tax fraud. In the course of the trial, Celia’s troubled past comes to light and family secrets are revealed as the rift between Celia and her parents grows deeper. Cut off from friends and family, Celia must come to terms with the fact that she might just be Commerce City’s only hope.
304 pages (hardcover)
Published on: April 12, 2011
Published by: Tor
Author’s webpage
Thanks to Tor for sending me a copy of this book to review
I’m not a big fan of superheroes, or comic book type storylines. It’s not that they aren’t good. Some of them are great, I’m sure. I just tend to find them a bit too campy for my taste. With superheroes, specifically, I find the pure good and evil lines that tend to be drawn between characters completely unbelievable. Thus, when I got After the Golden Age, I knew I was in for a challenge, but I embraced it. I was in the mood to give something out of my comfort zone a shot. That attitude probably saved the book for me.
After the Golden Age takes place in Commerce City, an appropriately named nonexistent comic book type city, which is also filled with masked and caped crusaders which remind me of a mixture between typical comic book vigilantes and the X-Men. The book opens with a slam-dunk chapter wherein the protagonist gets kidnapped and is being used to bribe her parents (Spark and Captain Olympus). Vaughn uses this chapter to really set the stage for important character development. Namely, how important sarcasm will be to the protagonist and the plot by and large. The sarcasm throughout this book saves it over and over again from being a surprisingly dull tale with some interesting caped crusaders thrown in here and there.
There is a problem, however, which arises after the first impressive chapter, which I briefly touched on in the previous paragraph. The book does turn a bit dull, almost relying on Celia’s sarcasm to redeem it. This is fairly shocking to me. I would expect a book filled with such campy characters and a comic book-type plot to be filled with excitement and action from one page to the next, but it just wasn’t.
The mysteries are fairly easy to unravel, and while there are some plot twists which keep things moving, there is a fairly dull gray sense about the book as a whole. Coupled with this is the fact that some characters remained underdeveloped throughout the book, giving many of the important, and secondary characters a detached feel throughout the book. One character I can use as an example of this is Celia’s father, Captain Olympus, who suffers from some developmental deficiencies.
However, despite this, at the bottom of it all, the plot of After the Golden Age is about a girl finding her identity in a world where she’s different than anything anyone expected. The search of Celia for herself is emotionally compelling and engrossing, which allows all the other plot and other details to be nothing more than a lacy fringe that accents the root of the book. Slowly Vaughn reveals aspects of Celia’s life, growth and development for the reader. Thus, readers aren’t hit over the head with the facts of her life, but can enjoy the mystery as it Vaughn slowly reveals it.
I should note that I have never read any of Vaughn’s other work, though I have read plenty about it. Thus, it can be assumed that relationships play a pivotal role in After the Golden Age, just as I am assuming they do in Vaughn’s other books. Vaughn spends quite a bit of time highlighting the rocky relationship between Celia and her parents, specifically her father. A frustrating issue regarding Celia and her father was the redundant points Vaughn kept raising regarding their relationship throughout the book. While I realize that Vaughn was trying to be deep regarding the points she was trying to make, it seemed to bog down the book more than lift it up. With a fun, campy story like this, her attempts at depth seemed very out of place.
Another relationship that needs to be highlighted is the romance, which was incredibly predictable and, in my humble opinion, poorly done. There are two romantic interests throughout the book. The first one was easy to pick from the point he entered the plot. The second was abrupt and somewhat uncomfortable. There really was no lead into the individual Celia ends up with. There is a sudden declaration of love and that’s that. On the whole, it seemed half thought out and the suddenness of it made it seem out of place.
The biggest problem I had, however, is a more personal issue than anything else. The line between “good” and “evil” characters is incredibly bold. The villain is amazingly easy to spot. The motivations behind the “evil” characters were just ridiculous, as they are all hell-bent on the complete destruction of everything (insert evil laughter here). While that type characterization is fitting with the overall feel of the book, the motivations and desires of the “evil” characters was absolutely ridiculous to me and completely unbelievable.
It should be fairly obvious that this book didn’t “wow” me by any stretch of the imagination. However, After the Golden Age is fun, though it is bogged down by heavy-handed style writing, and deeper themes, which didn’t really fit in with the overall plot, mixed with some amazingly awkward relationships. Despite the problems it faces, fans of superheroes and comic books will probably get quite a kick out of this book. It’s a short; quick read that could pack quite a punch. The world is well done, the plot is nicely paced, Celia is a great protagonist, and superheroes are quite fun. After the Golden Age is a book individuals will want to read if they are in the mood for a light distraction.
3/5 stars

One Responses

  • Libby

    I like the overall premise and camp the plot suggests, but can't say I'll be picking it up any time soon.

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