Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Review: The A-Men
The A-Men is one of those novels that require perseverance. It took me more than 100 pages before I was actually drawn into the world crafted by John Trevillian. It’s difficult to pinpoint the cause, but I think it’s largely due to the fact that you are thrown into this strange world without any real preamble. As the story progresses you slowly start to get a handle and then the perspective changes and you are left questioning what you thought was true. This was quite confusing and often frustrating. The best way to describe the A-Men would be to think of Mad Max-style gangs in a metropolis with a few elements from the Matrix thrown in.
The story is told in the first perspective through the eyes of five characters, with each chapter devoted to a single character. The central character is Jack (The Nowhereman) who wakes on board a spaceship, the XSS Scheherazade, without any memory of who he is or how he came to be there. His only tie to his past is a tattered book of faerie tales called Forevermore. As he searches for his true identity he encounters the various other characters and they ultimately form a gang called the A-Men. Together they have to struggle to survive in a world left in chaos after the big corporations (who essentially run and own everything) decide to move their operations to space.
All the characters have a distinct voice and viewpoint. I found Jack, Esther (Sister Midnight), Benjamin (23RDXENTURYBOY) and Nathaniel Glass (D’Allesandro) the most interesting while the addition of Susannah (Pure) felt like an afterthought. The first half of the novel was quite exciting and action-packed. I really liked the nail-biting confrontation with the Grim Reapers and their six-armed leader, but unfortunately things went downhill from there.
The appearance of the gun-toting gang of cosmetically altered beauty queens, the Burger Queens, stretched my suspension of disbelief beyond breaking point and brought the novel into the territory of plain weirdness. When the Burger Queens save Susannah and her transvestite friend Lucille they get a cosmetic surgery makeover with “designer minds” thrown in too. People are struggling to survive, there’s barely any power left and still the Burger Queens have access to cosmetic surgeons and advanced technology. Really?!
After Jack reaches the one man who holds the key to his past he suddenly loses interest and wonders off to take a mini vacation with his newfound love, Susannah. It really brought the whole pacing of the story to a complete halt and made very little sense in the overall scheme of things.
The A-Men does redeem itself somewhat once it gets back on track with a gripping finale and a very emotional and touching parting between two of the characters.
The A-Men has some very interesting concepts and themes. Unfortunately it loses the plot somewhat and goes off on a bizarre tangent which just leaves you frustrated and confused. I was left with more questions than answers and felt that some of the more interesting elements were left unexplored. The gratuitous use of swear words also detracted from the story and might offend more sensitive readers. I loved some parts and others simply didn't work for me. Ultimately this is one of those novels you will have to read for yourself to make up your mind.
The Rating: 5/10 (Average)