The A-Men by John Trevillian

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The A-Men by John Trevillian

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Futuristic, dystopian thriller with a morally ambiguous central character and compelling plot. Great stuff!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 410 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Matador
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1848763433

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In this future, man has developed the technology to live in space. With the Earth's resources all but depleted and swathes of civil unrest, space stations become desirable real estate. If you've got enough money, you live off-world. Most of the civil institutions have decamped, too, including all the people with influence and power. This leaves Earth a lawless pace, full of poverty and dominated by violent gangs. Turf wars abound and life on the planet is nasty, brutish, and often very short.

Into this social breakdown, come the A-Men, a disparate group, but one that's come together in a desperate quest to be special, to be something, to be someone...

The Nowhereman is Jack, a soldier sent in to quell the riots in Dead City and who woke up in the middle of a nightmare, with no memory and his only possession a book of folk stories. Sister Midnight is Esther, the sergeant of Jack's unit, and a devout believer in a world of atheists. Pure is Susannah, a Dead City hairdresser and celebrity wannabe. D'Alessandro is Nathaniel, scientist and son of a scientist, his X-Isle project is shrouded in mystery. 23rdxenturyboy is Benjamin, a street boy and slave labourer at a corporate genetic breeding facility.

Told in a five-fold first-person narrative, The A-Men is an intense read from the very first page. The sense of decay and violence is all-pervasive - even hairdressers dream of assaulting their clients in this book. The crumbling colossus of Dead City rises from the pages in all its brutality, and the flavour of a desolate, post-apocalyptic city is as vivid as any I've ever read.

Each of the A-Men has a strong, individual voice but the dominant one is Jack's - he's a true noir anti-hero and if you're not big on aggressive, foul-mouthed central characters, then I'd best stop you now because you won't like Jack. His amnesia gives Jack an unpredictability and aggression that makes his character truly interesting. Moral ambiguity isn't anything new in books of this kind, but I thought Trevillian's treatment of Jack was a fresh one. My favourite, though, was Benjamin - the street rat who knocks about with man-dog - or was that dog-man halfbreeds. He's street smart but also naive and he has an individual argot that suits him perfectly.

As the plot winds on, it's interesting to see how the five characters come together, and there are some sneaky dollops of very black humour, but the main focus is a dark, gritty, violent futuristic adventure - and on this vital count, The A-Men genuinely delivers. A finalist in the Art Council's YouWriteOn Book Awards in 2009, I can recommend it to all readers who enjoy dense, dark, dystopian sci-fi.

If dark urban settings are your thing, then you might also enjoy Half the Blood of Brooklyn (Joe Pitt Novel) by Charlie Huston. You could also look at The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan. We also have a review of The A-Men Return by John Trevillian.

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