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After the Golden Age Hardcover – April 12, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Vaughn (Discord's Apple) delivers a loving homage to classic superheroes, throwing in layers of darkness and realism while avoiding the cynical satire and deconstruction common in contemporary comics. Forensic accountant Celia West is the powerless and estranged daughter of two of Commerce City's great heroes, Captain Olympus and Spark. When the city prosecutes the evil Destructor for tax evasion, Celia gets pulled in to track down evidence. As a new crime spree creates tension between the city's heroes and the police force, Celia's investigation uncovers long-buried secrets about her family and the city. Vaughn throws in elements of romance and humor, but the drama between Celia and her father really drives the story. The story is very accessible to readers who have never picked up a comic book while boasting plenty of clever in-jokes for fans of golden age superheroics. (Apr.)
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“Brilliantly structured, beautifully written…. Vaughn brings together mythology, fairy tales, and very human lives, immersing readers in the stories these complex characters tell themselves to make sense of their war-torn worlds.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review, on Discord’s Apple
“Carrie Vaughn weaves a gorgeous tapestry of the human condition in a post-apocalyptic world filled with mystery, magic, and immortals. Her world-building is masterful!”
—L.A. Banks, New York Times bestselling author of The Thirteenth, on Discord’s Apple
“Carrie Vaughn masterfully weaves together comic books, Greek gods, King Arthur, and a world on the brink of nuclear war. Discord’s Apple is phenomenal!” —Jackie Kessler, co-author of Shades of Gray, on Discord’s Apple
“Enough excitement, astonishment, pathos, and victory to satisfy any reader.”
—Charlaine Harris on Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Top customer reviews
Other characters in the novel were well done as well and the love interest arc for once surprised me as I did not expect the storyline to develop the way it did. Still the characters there developed very nicely indeed and I quite enjoyed the burgeoning relationships as they felt natural and not overly ham-fisted. Still the second relationship Celia developed did feel slightly rushed and likely would've been better explored had this been a prolonged series. In fact most of the novels shortcomings seem to stem from this same 'not a series' issue. Throughout the first three quarters of the book I truly expected the book to end on a cliffhanger and to expect a resolution and further adventures later. Seemingly the author expected this as well, or was quite bad at pacing, and then rushed through what likely could have been the first half to another novel. Then the Epilogue killed all hopes of further stories in this universe, or at least not necessarily with these characters. Quite sad really as there were quite a few places I could have seen Vaughn taking these characters over a few more novels. Perhaps this is just Vaughn's experience with writing the Norville novels shining through but if this is just a one shot I would've liked to see the Epilogue expanded a bit further.
Overall regardless of its shortcomings this was a great book. I couldn't put it down for more than a few minutes and read it through pretty much continuously. It's definitely worth a purchase and a read, I just wish more in this universe was coming and that does not seem to be the case.
Celia West would seem to have won the life lottery, having been born into the richest and most powerful family in Commerce City. Even better, her parents, Warren and Suzanne West, are also the beloved superheroes Captain Olympus and Scorch, leaders of a superhero team known as The Olympiad. Unfortunately, being the non-powered daughter of the city’s most famous couple (their secret identities were revealed several years earlier) turns out to be less than idyllic. Combine that with her father’s temper and the typical teenage angst, and Celia’s early life was a bit of a nightmare as far as she was concerned. Like most teens she rebelled. Unlike most teens, her method rebellion involved joining up with a super-villain. Her flirtation (literally) with evil was short-lived, though, and after The Olympiad took down The Destructor and prevented him from destroying the city, Celia got her life mostly together. She went away to college, graduated, and now works as a forensic accountant, eschewing her parents’ wealth and fame, living quietly by herself in a non-descript apartment working a non-descript job, and dealing with the more-than-occasional kidnapping (she’s lost count) as criminals try to get at her parents through her.
All of this changes when The Destructor, a la Al Capone is put on trial not for his outlandish plots but for tax evasion, and Celia becomes part of the prosecuting team. Meanwhile, Commerce City is facing a new wave of crime, Commerce City’s mayor begins to wonder if the superheroes are more bane than boon, and Celia’s investigations begin to reveal surprising questions about just where Commerce City’s superheroes came from.
After the Golden Age’s best moments occur when the comic book world overlaps with the domestic world, as when Celia’s mother, whose superpower is generating heat, cooks her sauce by holding the pot because she has more control that way rather than by using the stove’s burners. Or when, thanks to an emergency, her parents have to suddenly abandon Celia mid-dinner in their huge penthouse/command center atop the West Corps building (think the Baxter Building in The Fantastic Four): “The penthouse trembled for a moment as the jumpjet launched from its rooftop hangar . . . The Tupperware was still in the cupboard next to dishwasher. Celia packaged the leftovers and found room for them in the fridge [and] ran the dishwasher.” This juxtaposition of the mundane and the fantastic is sharply wonderful, and I found myself wishing for many more such scenes.
The other strength, though not without its issues, is Vaughn’s portrayal of Celia’s emotional turmoil: her sense of being lost, both in her youth and now in her mid-20s as her life threatens to once again become subservient to her parents’, and her sense that she will never escape the consequence of her youthful choices. These moments can often be quite moving, though sometimes they lack a desired richness or are presented a bit too easily via Celia’s internal monologues, where Vaughn occasionally overwrites the material, telling the reader what we’d rather come to learn on our own, less directly. This last one is an issue that rises several times, as in the earlier penthouse scene when Celia looks out the window and thinks how those with such a view (her parents) might think themselves “gods”—a realization the reader would better arrive at via the description than Celia’s pronouncement.
The larger problem with After the Golden Age is that the flaws slightly outweigh the above strengths. Beyond Celia and Dr. Mentis, the telepathic member of the Olympiad, the characters are pretty one-note and shallowly drawn, especially Celia’s father. Granted, Celia has a pretty one-note view of her dad, but it would have greatly enriched the storyline between them had we as readers seen other sides of him more fully than we do. A potential romance suffers from the same shallow characterization, as well as from a very abrupt shutdown of that plotline even as another romance blooms too abruptly.
The plotting, meanwhile, can be at times far too predictable or too implausible. The villain was simple to spot; several scenes, including the finale, end exactly as one expects them to, and the ending felt both a bit contrived and overly rushed.
After the Golden Age has a lot of potential, but the problems in basic components such as characterization and plotting made it fall short of what it could have been. Thanks to being a sucker for superheroes, I ended up moderately enjoying some of it, while often being annoyed by its issues. However, because it is a very quick read (pacing is a strength), and I enjoyed the sequel, Dreams of the Golden Age, I’m giving it a tepid recommendation.
The conflict between Celia and her dad, which is the main point of conflict for Celia's character development, is handled clumsily--it's difficult to empathize with an adult protagonist striving for independence when every conversation she has with her father sounds like a fight between a petulant teenager and a generic grump. There's a cardboard authenticity to some of the characters and their motivations, and in particular the "love triangle" seems a bit forced.
Still, it's a fresh take on the superhero genre, and while the plot itself is a little lackluster, the writing is sharp and the ideas fresh enough that I went ahead and purchased the sequel. My guess is that Vaughn felt a little too beholden to the superhero genre; when she breaks away from that, the story and characters noticeably improve.
Most recent customer reviews
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