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The A-Men
John Trevillian
Matador, 403 pages

The A-Men
John Trevillian
John Trevillian was born in London, England in 1965. He now lives in Talliston.

John Trevillian Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'A kaleidoscope of images sucks me out of myself and into the stream. Replacing dull gun-grey metal with a million multi-hued data rainbows. Endless droplets. Elongated by speed. I drown in it all. It is so existentially beautiful. So foreign and yet so familiar.'
A front cover quote taken from readers's reviews on The Arts Council's YouWrite website declares The A-Men to be "a work of dark genius," and on the back cover a user of the same website tells us, "If this isn't genius, it's the closet thing I've seen to it." High praise indeed, and comments that had me almost salivating at the prospect of reading something so wonderful. The blurb that accompanied The A-Men laid out its prospectus as hard-boiled SF action, a fast-paced future noir, with the heart of mythic fantasy. I hoped that at least one of the above statements proved to be true.

Author John Trevillian tells his tale in the first person, using the perspectives of five characters on a one view per chapter basis. In other words, while there is interaction, what the reader sees is entirely coloured by whomsoever is the observer. The non-famous five are Nowhereman, also know as Jack;, Sister Midnight, also known as Esther, Pure, D'Alessandro, and 23rdDxenturyboy. In reverse order, 23rdDxenturyboy is a street brat who, during rioting in a collapsing city, escapes with a genetically altered dog, to pursue a life imitating their favourite VTV superheroes. D'Alessandro is the son of the single greatest inventor of the 22nd century, who has sealed himself and his team in an abandoned corporate HQ, intent on developing his mysterious experiment in reality named the X-Isle Project. Pure, is a hairdresser with a transvestite girlfriend, both of whom dream of becoming media stars. Sister Midnight, is a kick-ass army sergeant, and a devout believer in Christianity, in a world where religion is almost dead. Finally, there is the Nowhereman, who awakes aboard the XSS Scheherazade with his memory wiped, and on the eve of being dropped into a rioting New Jeda City as part of a military containment squad. The only possession the Nowhereman has that might give him a clue to his mysterious past, is a battered copy of a banned fairy tale, titled Forevermore. "And so it begins," to quote Ambassador Kosh.

Almost straight away it was apparent to me that two of the main cast, Nowhereman and Sister Midnight, were far more interesting and well developed than the others. D'Alessandro sometimes gets close, but the remaining two might as well not have been included, and soon became irritating, their input doing little to advance the plot. Chapters from the perspective of the Nowhereman or Sister Midnight were, in large part, entertaining in an action oriented fashion. Especially in the initial stages, where Jack has no idea who he is, and begins to use the book, Forevermore, in an attempt to rejuvenate his surgically excised memory. The culmination of this part of the book sees a highly cinematic scene atop an enormous, damaged skyscraper, where the forces of order encounter an organised resistance of well armed -- and, in one case, four armed -- street thugs.

Then, baffling as Gandalf playing poker, it all starts to melt. Why, and what exactly John Trevillian was trying to accomplish, simply refused to reveal itself to me. My impression was that, having reached the climax of the original story, he wanted to go beyond, but didn't really have a route plan. Some of the latter chapters came across as if they were written on recreational drugs, which may have been by design. Perhaps The A-Men works at a level far beyond the capabilities of this humble reviewer, but the further the book dropped into free-fall, the more I struggled to understand and engage with the characters. I wanted to like it as much as I had the early chapters, but increasingly I found myself skipping pages. There was also the issue of the author's gratuitous use of swear words, as if his characters were teenagers who'd just discovered them. It wasn't that I found this offensive, it was simply boring, and made the Nowhereman, in particular, a little less convincing.

In summary, this novel will suit readers who enjoy fast-paced action, machine gun ideas over tight, credible plotting, and characters who mostly simulate depth, rather than displaying the real thing. Sometimes high octane fun, at other times a confusing babble, The A-Men ultimately veers off course like a speeding comet, its brightness diminishing the further it travels.

Copyright © 2010 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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