When I reviewed Carrie Vaughn’s After the Golden Age back in 2011 (and listed it among our Best Books of the Year So Far), I had to be somewhat coy about my favorite aspect of the novel, because it was revealed in the final pages. But now, I think the time for spoilers has passed: Vaughn’s great contribution to the super hero genre was a brilliant explanation for why everyone with superpowers seems so devoted to, as Superman puts it “truth, justice, and the American way.” In Vaughn’s version, the scientific experiments which lead to the characters’ powers are actually intended to inculcate loyalty. Thus, the superheroes’ sense of justice is directly intertwined with their powers.
Vaughn doesn’t have anything quite so groundbreaking to say in this sequel to After the Golden Age, but she certainly probes the question further–getting much more nuanced about what it means to be loyal, and especially to whom one should be loyal. The sections of the novel focused on After the Golden Age’s heroine, now a middle-aged corporate executive, may be less than thrilling, especially for those coming to the series for the first time. But fans of the first book will be interested to see what has become of Celia, and all teen superhero fans should be excited about the main plot of teen superheroes learning to use their powers for the first time.
VAUGHN, Carrie. Dreams of the Golden Age. 320p. (After the Golden Age Series). Tor. Jan. 2014. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780765334817; ebk. ISBN 9781466815452.
Adult/High School–In this sequel to After the Golden Age (Tor, 2012), Vaughn follows the parallel stories of that novel’s heroine, Celia West, now the most powerful businesswoman in Commerce City, and her daughter, Anna, who has begun to develop a superpower: a preternatural ability to geolocate anyone whom she knows enough about. Celia has been using the vast resources of West Corp. to track and influence the lives of the children and grandchildren of Commerce City’s original generation of superheroes, bringing this young generation together in the same private school, and asking her friend, Police Captain Mark Paulson, to keep a loose leash on these budding superheroes. Meanwhile, Anna and her superpowered friends, having no idea that they are being watched, believe they are clandestinely setting up a new Olympiad—the name of her grandfather’s super team–although petty high school infighting quickly splits the group into two supergroups. It wouldn’t be a superhero novel without a supervillain, and, sure enough, there’s the shadowy figure called The Executive who is out to control the future of Commerce City. Much of Celia’s story centers on mundane issues of city politics and urban planning, but this information turns out to be crucial to the final confrontation. More importantly, Anna’s adolescent blundering with her new powers (and with teen friendships and relationships) should be reason enough for teens to pick this up. This is not as clever or as funny as the first novel, but it’s nevertheless a strong entry by the always-reliable Vaughn.–Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA