May 24, 2011

BOOKS: After the Golden Age, Carrie Vaughn (2011)

Chick-lit with a superhero twist.

Celia West is your typical young woman -- mildly boring job, family problems, still looking for the right guy. Of course, her family problems are a bit more complicated than most, since her parents are Captain Olympus and Spark, two of the dozen or so superhuman crime fighters who help to protect Commerce City from evil. And since Celia has no powers of her own, she's the most popular girl in town with the criminal element; she's been kidnapped five or six times already.

Finally, it looks as if her parents' archenemy, the Destructor, is going to get what's coming to him; he's about to be sent to jail for tax evasion (hey, it worked for Capone!). Celia's working on the case for the DA as a forensic accountant, trying to stay in the background, and hoping that her new relationship with a handsome cop (who happens to be the mayor's son) will go somewhere. But her family history, and her own complicated relationship with the Destructor, is bound to become public knowledge, and secrets may be revealed that a lot of powerful people (on both sides of the good vs. evil divide) would rather see stay hidden.

The idea of a powerless child of superheroes is an intriguing one, and Vaughn finds a lot of interesting ways to play with it; Celia's reactions to her unusual circumstances are convincing. There are some marvelous funny moments; the opening chapter, for instance, finds Celia being kidnapped again, which is such old news to her that her captors are frustrated at how non-bothered she is. Vaughn has found a way to put a novel spin on some standard superhero tropes, and those who enjoy that sort of thing should like this very much.

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