Sunday, February 16, 2014

What We’re Reading: Speculative Fiction

In After the Golden Age, Carrie Vaughn introduced readers to the West family. Warren and Suzanne West are wealthy socialites, the owners and executives of West Corporation, and are also known as Captain Olympus and Spark (two of Commerce City’s most powerful super-human heroes). Celia West is their only child. Unlike her parents, Celia never developed any superpowers, and has spent her entire life attempting to either live up to or defiantly disregard their expectations and wishes.

In Dreams of the Golden Age, Vaughn returns to Commerce City, the Wests and the lives of super-powered humans. Twenty years have passed since the events chronicled in After the Golden Age. Celia is now married, the mother of two daughters (one a teenager, the other a pre-teen) and the CEO of West Corp. While she still lacks super-human abilities, she is a formidable corporate and civic force for good in Commerce City. Celia also works tirelessly to provide a stronger parental resource and influence for her daughters than she feels she had growing up. She is also curious and worried about whether or not one--or both--of her daughters will develop powers. There is no evidence that it has happened yet, but both girls are at an age at which they could manifest. And while she has a strong suspicion that Anna, her older daughter, may have developed some sort of power, Anna is not talking. Then the chief of police sends Celia video from a surveillance camera of a young, masked vigilante attempting to stop a robbery...

In After the Golden Age, Vaughn told the story of a young woman struggling to reconcile her past with her future as she works to create her place in the world. In Dreams of the Golden Age, that quest is continued, but is now split between the woman we know and the teenage daughter who is following a distinctly different path. The questions regarding super-powers stand in for a multitude of “regular” issues and expectations that exist between parents and children during the teen years. Vaughn emphasizes the need for open communication between the generations, urging adults to be as forthcoming with their children as they expect/hope the children will be with them. The circumstances also allow for an interesting exploration of the use (and possible abuse) of corporate and civic power, showing how often good intentions are simply no longer enough, in a world of bloggers and celebrity-driven media, to ensure actions in these arenas are not misperceived. All this and super-powered highjinks too!

Dreams of the Golden Age is a thoughtful, thought-provoking and immensely enjoyable continuation of Vaughn's franchise.

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