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After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
Cover Artist: Colin Anderson / JupiterImages
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765325556
Date: 12 April 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Celia West is a junior accountant in one of Commerce City's better firms. She just wants to do her job and go home to her apartment at night. But no, nothing is ever that easy for the daughter of two superheroes...

In After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn, Celia has to come to terms with her past in an unexpected way: she's been chosen to lead a forensic accounting expedition into the affairs of Simon Sito (aka the Destructor, Commerce City's foremost supervillain). Brought to justice at last, Sito's trial is only the start of this engaging, fast-paced tale of superheroics, knotty family dynamics and legacy.

Not to mention how heroic an accountant can be.

Captain Olympus and Spark are the cornerstones of the Olympiad, Commerce City's resident superteam. As Warren and Suzanne West, however, they're the parents of a child who rebelled a long time ago and now lives a quiet and unassuming life as...an accountant. Celia has been independent for a long while now, but when she's kidnapped (as seems to happen periodically), the Olympiad wastes no time finding and rescuing her. It's become so routine for Celia that she can barely work up new witticisms for her captors. Only Dr. Arthur Mentis, the team's British-born telepath, seems to understand what she's going through.

What she's going through isn't just the echoes of her misguided teenage rebellion--wherein she made some catastrophically bad decisions--but also the wreckage of her relationship with her parents. Suzanne breaks down in tears, Warren gets blindly furious, but nothing is ever solved. And now that she's prying into the Destructor's finances, things are only going to get worse.

Det. Mark Paulson, son of the mayor, is a ray of sunshine in Celia's life. A hard-working and honest cop, he knows what it's like to be saddled with parental expectations: his dad wanted him to take his law degree and go into politics. Now his dad has an ambitious plan to surround Commerce City with a freeway--but things are starting not to add up. And soon Celia and Mike are in deadly danger, as a villainous plot surfaces all around them, and their best weapon is...a ledger sheet?

Carrie Vaughn is no stranger to superhero fiction, having become a contributor to George R.R. Martin's long-running Wild Cards series. In this novel, however, she creates an entirely new setting with a pantheon of heroes and villains, rich with history and as solidly grounded as Metropolis or Gotham City. The Olympiad in particular has its public face and then their private side, which Celia explores with a mixture of admiration and cynicism; it's hard to hero-worship guys like Breezeway, the air elementalist, who nearly pushed her off a rooftop by accident and yet still flirts with her.

The off duty side of heroes like Typhoon (who is Celia's best friend Analise when not in costume) is revealed with the same kind of "humans in a weird situation" that Vaughn has so successfully developed in her Kitty Norville series. Granted, we're talking about superheroes and not werewolves, but the same wry storytelling approach applies just as fittingly.

Celia is a young woman who's made serious mistakes, but now wants only to be apart from the world of her parents, both as superheroes and as wealthy corporate types. Unfortunately, much like being a Mafia princess, that world can't be denied or rejected; it's in the DNA as much as superstrength or the power to fly.

Det. Paulson offers Celia a friendly ear, as does Dr. Mentis. The path she takes, navigating between these two men and her need for understanding, is an intricate one but Vaughn pulls it off very nicely.

The climax arrives with a shattering finish, overturning the status quo. As never happens in comics, Celia's world will never be the same afterward--and maybe it's better that this "Golden Age" does in truth come to an end.

Highly recommended.

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