After the Golden Age is a novel of the “deconstruct the superhero genre” persuasion. Since I am not a very big fan of superhero comics, it took me a while to get around to reading it. Our Heroine is Celia West, the only daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark, the foremost superheroes of Commerce City. Celia has no superhero talents of her own, and is every criminal and supervillain’s idea of a good kidnap victim. For various reasons having to do with family dysfunction and a very extreme expression of teen rebellion, she is estranged from her family.
Celia is a forensic accountant and the firm she works at is involved in a major case involving a supervillain named The Destructor who also happens to be the arch-nemesis of her parents. When it’s revealed that Celia has a connection with this particular villain, she’s removed from the case. This does not of course stop her from attempting to dig into the Destructor’s background. When she discovers further connections between her family and the Destructor, things get more than a little complicated. On top of this, there is a crime wave that at first appears to be due to Destructor’s absence creating a power vacuum, but may be due to someone attempting to discredit the superheroes.
The main thing I liked about this book was the “super hero genre feel” accompanied by the very real family problems of the main protagonist. Celia is a very strong character who is attempting to overcome feelings of inadequacy and a troubled relationship with her family, and I liked the way that some of the family drama aspects of the story played out. (It was actually kind of heart-breaking the way Celia’s father just obstinately fails to see how hard Celia is trying, and how he also doesn’t see that his lack of trust and temper is why Celia is so distant.)
I also liked the romantic elements of the story, even if the setup is more or less the “one girl, two choices,” trope. This variation of the trope is less annoying because there are no overt rivalry scenes between the two guys. There is also no real “good choice” or “bad choice” between the romantic interests. (Both men have definite problems and Issues. Dr. Mentis is a telepath who does not really have a life outside of his “superhero” work. Mark Paulson has the same black and white worldview Celia’s father has, and dumps her when he finds out some things about Celia’s past that she would have preferred to keep hidden.)
This is a very fast paced book with a lot of action and suspense. I really enjoyed the book; though I kind of wish there had been more depth to the relationship between Celia and Mentis. (I also wish it were about two hundred pages longer.)