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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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[Taken from/adapted from my blog: http://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/]
The Story: "Repo Men," by Eric Garcia (or The Repossession Mambo, depending on who’s asking), relates the rise and fall of one of the Credit Union’s top Bio-repo men. After an accident on the job forces him into hiding, the hunter becomes the hunted as the Bio-repo man is forced to confront his own demons from the past and devils of the present. But will he end up escaping with his life or will it be reclaimed?
My Take: "Repo Men" is sheer awesomeness. It really is. Why? Well, allow me to explain…
First, the world-building, while not new in concept, it still solid. It takes a modernized healthcare system and morphs it into a capitalistic entity. The premise goes like this: imagine if you could replace every organ in your body with an artificial counterpart. You could own a new liver, lungs, even a larynx that could never succumb to aging or disease. Sounds good, right? Well…only if you keep up with the payments. If you do, then your artiforg (artificial organ) is yours for life. If you don’t, you’ll be called upon by the not-so-friendly Bio-repo man with scalpel in hand, ready to reclaim your past due ‘forg and return it to the Union. For an outrageous sum of money (plus interest), every facet of your body can be replaced and repossessed. And with that understanding in place, readers are thrown into a world where one’s life is literally tied to one’s bank account.
Story-wise, "Repo Men" follows a non-sequential plot driven by flashbacks told by one of the Union’s top Bio-repo men who never gets a name, which is intriguing.Read more ›
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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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