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Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper; Original edition (March 9, 2010)
Read this book right after watching the movie and I think it's sad that so much from it appears to have been lost in the conversion. Yeah, only so much can be told in 100 minutes, but still.... The book's ending, and most of the story, is quite different from the movie. I personally prefer the ending of the book, but the one given to the movie is more... fitting, I suppose. Somehow, both stories seems to complement each other in a way.
"MAMBO", btw, is a reference to the structural style of the narration. It moves back and forth all the time, as if dancing, throwing around bits and pieces of the narrator's life story, sometimes seemingly at random. Seriously, this is NOT a poorly written book, on the contrary, a lot of not so obvious yet important details and several currently relevant subjects that inspire hard thinking were weaved into a well thought out story, but I see how the unconventional narrative style (which I have seen similarly used before in some Hispanic American novels) could be a little odd to some. IMO however it just created a really interesting, refreshing and entertaining read. Also, the book's fragmented structure is a reflection of how an ex-military turned Union Man (nameless in the book) sees everything, including people. To him there are only fragments and he's unable (and maybe a bit reluctant) to put those together and look at the whole. After all, he only came for your liver, who cares about the rest of you? ;)
I remember adding Eric Garcia to my authorial wishlist. Karin Slaughter was at the Melbourne Writers Festival, and talked of how she was more nitpicky of the locations in the Vincent Rubio series, when really she should've questioned the realism of a dinosaur going undercover in contemporary America. Dinosaurs, crime and humour? I was hooked. Those three books have been long out of print, though, so I've never acquired them.
I have, however, read MATCHSTICK MEN (which is okay) and CASSANDRA FRENCH'S FINISHING SCHOOL FOR BOYS (which is great). But Eric Garcia's crowning glory is this magnificent tome: THE REPOSSESSION MAMBO, later republished as REPO MEN. The premise is irresistible: people can have transplanted artificial organs, but if they don't keep up the payments, the artiforgs are repossessed.
Our unnamed narrator has been through five marriages and subsequent divorces, driven tanks in wartime Africa, and worked as a Bio-Repo man for the Credit Union. But now he's hiding out, writing his memoirs while he's still alive - which may not be for much longer.
Simply put, I adore this novel. I love the premise, the narrator's voice, the humour, the looping internal structure, the world-building, and even the romance. I'm not usually one for romance, but the ending totally made me coo, "Aw!" If I was a writer, I'd totally want to write something as awesome as this.
Be sure to stick around for the author's essay, THE TAMING OF THE MAMBO, which charts the twelve-year journey from idea to short story to novel to screenplay and back to novel. I haven't seen the film, REPO MEN, which unfortunately went straight to DVD in Australia, so I can't tell you how the book and film measure up against each other.
And no, I'm not familiar with REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA, so I can't talk comparisons, similarities and differences.
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It's a rule: If you watch the movie, you must read the book (or vice versa).
This is one of the few times I'll say the book and film complemented each other. The two go in slightly different stylistic directions but are rooted in Eric Garcia's dystopian vision regarding organ failure and corporate policy. In the future artiforgs (artificial organs) are the new bling bling. Everyone wants one because everyone needs one. But fall beyond your billing's grace period, and the repomen are coming after that shiny kidney.
Repomen is a nonlinear story about a top repoman who finds himself on the other side of the hunt. But given that the story is nonlinear, the past and present are scrambled so that his adventure unfolds in a multi-dimensional mind trip. The chronological confusion deepens the character's sense that his life and mind are deteriorating. In this case I was glad to have seen the movie first, though it wouldn't have been a problem otherwise.
I loved how Garcia took the real-life corporate entity and cranked it to full blast. In many ways Garcia's idea of a dystopian future seems more plausible, looking at where things have been headed, than Aldous Huxley did in Brave New World. My only complaint is that while Garcia's prose is decent enough, his overall writing level is average at best. I needed something more profound than raw survival and confusion. That's why Huxley and Orwell will always be the masters of dystopia.
Garcia writes a dystopia that feels absolutely at home in this generation. His characters are desensitized to horrific violence and live by a empty ultra-consumer lifestyle overseen by corporate overlords. Garcia's dark humor is the perfect vehicle portraying how abysmally low people will stoop in the name of vanity. Who needs spiritual enlightenment when you got six-pack abs?
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I have no trouble saying, despite my fondness for dinosaurs, this is my absolute favorite Garcia novel so far. The plot is unfolded for you in an extremely jarring and jumpy fashion, and I definitely found that a little difficult to digest at first, but I quickly realized that the details I was meant to remember were repeated for me enough and I didn't need to work for it. I quickly adapted and found myself being unable to stop.
The characters were all alive in my mind, the story was developed in a manner that easily allowed me to suspend my disbelief about such a broken capitalist system being permissible in the future, and the references to futuristic technology were subtle enough to welcome me into the narrative Garcia developed without beating me over the head with details. Of course, the all-important artificial organs themselves developed by fancy corporations were often well described, but other aspects like military-grade 3D projection maps and laser pens were dropped in as if they were items of everyday speech, fully enveloping me in this world as if I were a part of it long before I read this novel.
I have not yet had a chance to reread this novel, as I would usually prefer to do before I fully judge it, but I think my second read will be just as enjoyable, if not more so, than the first. Though the story does feature a Garcia-typical turn of events, I do not believe knowing this information will degrade the story for me.
I heard the movie flopped, but I can't wait to see how Garcia and his co-writer (whose name I'm too lazy to look up) have developed this for the screen. Highly recommended novel.
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