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WesternSFA
Dreams of the Golden Age
By Carrie Vaughn
$25.99, Tor, 318pp
Release Date: January 7, 2014
This is a sequel to Vaughn’s story “After the Golden Age.” I loved these stories, most probably because I grew up on comicbook superheroes and I still love them. Thanks be to George R.R. Martin for sponsoring a forum for superheroes in prose, not just comicbooks or graphic novels, in his Wild Card series. Vaughn has contributed to that series.

In the first novel, Vaughn has a metropolis called Commerce City as the site for her superheroes. A lab accident (and isn’t that always the way!) with radiation caused genetic mutations that produced both heroes and villains. Celia West was the daughter of the two most powerful and popular heroes, part of the group known as the Olympiad. But the genetic mutation skipped a generation and Celia was powerless. She was, however, the most common target of kidnappers and spent a great deal of her childhood dealing with that. The story focused on Celia’s relationship with her parents and other members of the Olympiad.

This story picks up several years later as Celia’s oldest is leaving childhood behind and becoming a young woman – a superpowered young woman. Celia, now married to Dr. Mentis of the now-defunct team The Olympiad, is the head of a huge company where she spends half her time protecting her city and the other half worrying about her daughters and tracking new young super-powered teenagers. It was Celia who discovered the genetic link back to the lab accident and she’s used her considerable wealth and influence to track down every single person involved in that accident…and all their descendants. Through a system of anonymous grants, she’s gathered as many of the young people as she can find into the same exclusive school as her daughters attend. It is her hope that they will find each other, protect each other, and learn from each other; because both she and the Police Chief (the son of the arch-villain from the first book) believe they will need a new superhero group to protect Commerce City .

So when a new vigilante group starts patrolling the city streets stopping crime and saving lives, she knows exactly who each of them are; except for her own daughter. Anna does have a power but inherited from her father so it is a mental power; most undetectable and not very useful or flashy. Her friends have the real superpowers and Anna feels rather useless. All she can do is locate people; and only those with whom she is most familiar. It helps to know where her parents are, when it’s time to sneak out of the house but other than that…nothing. Since her family history taught her that anonymity is the only safe route for a hero, she is adamant that the fledgling group keep their identities secret; her own mother’s kidnappings were a result of her grandparents declaring their true identities to the public. But her friends are eager for publicity so she and her best friend, Teddy, break from their friends. Teddy’s power is also low-impact, he can turn invisible and pass through solid objects. Pretty helpful for breaking and entering, not so much for saving lives or stopping criminals. So the two of them focus their energies on more subtle uses – like investigating corruption.

The story focuses on an insidious threat to the entire city from a shadowy figure known as The Executive. Anna gets some information and assistance from a new player, a college-aged super-powered boy who just moved into the city. His appearance puzzles Celia as he is an unknown and has no apparent connection to the lab group. Celia is fighting off her own attack on her company – in the courts. Celia is also worried about Anna’s late-night adventures because, although, she knows all about the other vigilantes, she doesn’t know yet what her daughter can do. Nor can she talk to her about it as even a super-powered teenager is just as prickly as a normal one.

This was even more fun than the first book; I read it completely in just two sittings. Vaughn’s voice is so clear I’d swear I could hear the characters in my head. Dialogue is definitely one of Vaughn’s strengths. The plot was very good as were the characters. I sure hope she continues with these stories. ~~ Catherine Book

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