Carrie Vaughn’s new superhero novel is the epitome of teen appeal — just plain fun. If you want to give it a try, the first chapter is available on the author’s website.
I expect teens will enjoy the game of picking out references to genre titles and characters. It reminds me of John Connolly’s Alex Award-winning The Book of Lost Things (Atria, 2006). I was amazed by how many horror movie and fairytale references my students found that I had missed.
After the Golden Age is one of Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Science Fiction and Fantasy reads for Spring 2011, and made “The Books We Can’t Wait for this Spring” on io9. There is a terrific interview with Carrie Vaughn on the Bookyurt site.
Adult/High School–Having already established herself as an accomplished interpreter of the supernatural with her “Kitty Norville” werewolf series (Grand Central), Vaughn succeeds fantastically at a superhero novel. Centered on Celia West, the super-powerless daughter of two of Commerce City’s most famous superheroes, the novel deftly balances more mundane concerns of family strife and personal identity with superheroic derring-do (such as Celia’s almost constant kidnapping and rescuing by the city’s superheroes). This balance is most humorously achieved in the central plot: the prosecution for tax evasion of the city’s greatest Supervillain, in which Celia, an accountant, plays a central role. It’s closer in tone to the lighthearted revisionism of dir Brad Bird’s The Incredibles (Pixar, 2004) than the dark deconstruction of Alan Moore’s Watchmen (DC Comics, 1987). After the Golden Age offers a number of quite barbed insights into the genre; the revelation of the source of the heroes’ powers gives a particularly sharp cut at the psychological (ir)realism of the genre’s stock characters. But rather than dwell on such genre-bending, Vaughn keeps her focus on sharp, well-crafted dialogue and realistic characters, giving her novel an excellent foundation on which to build a fast-paced, mystery-inflected plot. An incredibly easy read that nevertheless repays (and in fact invites) critical analysis, this is a perfect pick for fans of superheroes, and could easily have been marketed as a YA novel.–Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Solano County, CA