The A-Men – John Trevillian

January 15, 2011

I love this blog.  Really, I do.  I get to share my opinion about books and any other random thoughts I want with all you wonderful readers, and people send me books to review.  Seriously, they just send them to me.  It’s great, especially when they are good books.  Occasionally they are only mediocre books, or entertaining but not thought provoking books, or would be great with better editing books…so yeah, there is a downside, since I still feel obligated to read and post about them (fortunately I have yet to receive a bad book).  But that isn’t the case today.

Today I finished reading The A-Men by John Trevillian, the first book in a trilogy.  First of all, he has the coolest name I’ve run across in a while.  Second, he has a fast paced writing style that kept me interested the whole time – this is one of those books I finished in one day.  There were no lags, no places where it seemed like a good time to take a break.  In fact, my little guy was wondering why I had my nose in the book all day!  And third, he has created a cast of characters that keep me guessing.

The A-Men is set in a future Earth, in a dystopian society where governments are largely useless and a handful of major corporations run the world.  The book cuts between five major characters, each chapter focusing on one of them.  It is told from first person point of view, but each chapter is titled with the name of the character who is speaking, so it is less confusing than you might think.  There is D’Alessandro, a scientist developing the X-Isle project – using the brain of a whale to power an organic computer and create a new sort of virtual world – unaware that most of ‘civilization’ has left Earth and moved into massive space stations orbiting the planet.  And Pure, a young woman on the ground who gets caught up in the collapse all around her.  And Sister Midnight, a soldier trying to survive after being sent to keep order on the planet while the corporations pulled out, then abandoned by her own leaders.  And 23rdxenturyboy, an experiment in combining human and animal DNA – more human than not, he escaped from the lab he was being held in along with another prisoner.  And lastly, Nowhereman, also called Jack, who erased his own memory after setting himself up to be in the group of soldiers sent planetside.   The characters are eventually brought together as they struggle to survive, and to understand their situation.

The A-Men is action packed and exciting, and while it may not be deeply thought provoking, it will certainly keep the mind busy with all it’s twists and turns.  My only complaint is that it ends rather abruptly, with a lot of unresolved issues.  So if you read The A-Men, plan on reading The A-Men Return and A-Men Forever as well.  I certainly do.


The Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler

June 3, 2009

The only previous Butler I have read is Lilith’s Brood, which was very definitely science fiction, so I was expecting a very definitely sci fi type of book this time too.  That’s sort of what I got…

The Parable of the Sower is set in a near-future dystopia where the United States has pretty much fallen apart.  There is rampant poverty, environmental disaster, homelessness, violence, and drug use, and the few who try to maintain the old way of life live in walled communities and venture out as little as possible.  The story is centered on Lauren Olamina, a 15 year old girl living just outside L.A. when we first meet her.  She lives in on of the poorer walled communities, but her community has food and water, and some of the adults even have jobs that pay money instead of food or other goods.  Lauren sees the trend toward ever increasing violence, and doesn’t believe the sanctuary of the walled community will last.  Her father is a Baptist minister, but she finds his faith unfulfilling in the face of the horrors around her.  She begins to develop her own religious belief system which she calls Earthseed. 

Lauren’s fears of her home being destroyed are realized when her community is attacked by addicts one night and the entire community is burned, and most of the occupants are brutally killed.  Lauren and two others escape from the wreckage, and decide to make their way north to what they have heard is a better area.  Along the way she continues to develop Earthseed and share it with others.

The book is sci fi in the sense that it is set in the future, and there are a few technologies that while possible today are not available.  However, there are no aliens swooping down on us – either for attack or rescue.  There are no super-technologies to solve all our problems, and no super-humans with special powers either.  There are only people, struggling to make it through a nightmare world, and occasionally trying to make it better.  With Octavia Butler’s writing skill and command of language to back it up, it’s enough.