TITLE: After the Golden Age
AUTHOR: Carrie Vaughn
I've read many prose books about superheroes, some using comic book characters and others using characters created for the books, and I've enjoyed them, so when I saw this paperback sitting on a display table at Barnes & Noble, I had to give it a try. The cover remains one of the best things about this book. The other is that it wasn't bad enough to stop reading. If it had been, I would've given it one star instead of two.
There's a good story in here, about a young woman who is the non-powered daughter of two superheroes. She's estranged from her parents and trying to forge her own identity as an accountant, while trying to put her past behind her, a past that includes a youthful rebellion that had her joining her parents' arch nemesis for a brief time while she was in her teens. But when she's asked by the firm she works for to dig up financial information on that arch nemesis who is now on trial for sundry schemes, that past comes roaring back.
On one level, this is a standard "superheroes are people, too" story. On another level, this is a "life sucks to be me" story, with a protagonist who gets kidnapped, a lot, as a way to get to her parents. The book started off promisingly enough with just such a kidnapping, but too soon, hackneyed writing, questionable grammar, and an annoying tendency by the author to follow a "telling" sentence with a "showing" sentence when only the latter was needed, turned this interesting story into a tedious read. The characters were okay, and I was curious to see how things would turn out, and that led to another odd aspect of the book: an in-story epilogue with a jump ahead to tell us what happened to the main characters a couple of years later, which seemed rushed and superfluous and tacked on, unless the purpose was to forestall any question about a sequel, or perhaps, to push any possible sequel far into the future. At times, I felt this was intended as a YA book, but the main character is in her 20s and to be honest, it was hard to tell what age level this was written for. I just wish it had been better written. My imaginary red pen was poised to mark up the text and I could easily have cut 20-30 pages worth of unnecessary sentences. It's a shame, because I really wanted to love this.
After writing the review, I checked the reviews on GoodReads and LibraryThing. There were a few people who didn't enjoy the book much, but most loved it, and apparently, there is a sequel. This one is actually Book 1. The glowing reviews seem to be written by people who don't pay attention to or don't care about ploddingly uninteresting writing styles, whiny main characters, or haven't read similar, better treatments of this type of story, growing up with superhero parents. Perhaps my expectations were higher than those of other readers, or I have higher standards when it comes to anything superhero-related in prose books. No matter. If this sort of thing appeals to you, give it a try and decide for yourself.