Title: The Regional Office is Under Attack!
Rating: 3 Stars
This is an odd book to rate. On the surface, it’s basic action genre. There is a top secret organization (The Regional Office) that has a team of female action heroes with extraordinary gifts taking on world threatening organizations and/or extra-dimensional beings that the rest of the world is blithely unaware of. At the beginning of the book, an attack is being launched against The Regional Office. The story is told from the point of view of both an attacker as well as a defender.
What makes this odd is that this is clearly inspired by / blatantly steals from any number of movies.
- There is an air duct scene straight out of Die Hard.
- Rose, one of the attackers of The Regional Office, is first introduced as kind of a malcontent young woman that is then recruited and trained to become an assassin (ala La Femme Nikita).
- The mission of The Regional Office resembles nothing more than the Men In Black.
- Sarah, defending The Regional Office, is equipped with an all powerful artificial arm. Over time, her arm takes over more of her body, and she ends up growing mechanical arms and legs. Ultimately, she becomes truly a cyborg, in my head resembling something like the Terminator or, more likely, Robocop.
- The Oracles, who form the predictive arm of The Regional Office, are three women, heads shaved, permanently kept in a plastic pool of water, which is pretty much exactly from Minority Report.
- The team of female assassin agents seem much like the original team from Kill Bill.
It’s written in the breezy style of David Wong’s book, John Dies at the End. Amazing things happen that are treated with something like nonchalance.
So, basically it’s a movie that is transposed to literature. Why? Is Gonzales trying to make some connection between popular entertainment and literature? Maybe I’m going down this path because I’ve just finished re-reading David Foster Wallace’s essay, E Unibus Pluram.
It’s a very dated essay (1993), but still thought provoking. In it, he examines the fact that television has completely taken over entertainment (like, I said, it’s dated). One of the essay’s interesting conclusions is that previously the purpose of art was to expose hypocrisy via the employment of irony. That is, the value of art was in describing the distance between what one expects to be true and what is actually perceived to be true. The challenge to art is that television has been, since at least the 1980’s or so, hugely self aware and ironic. Since television is so ubiquitous, that means that Americans (if not the world) has been so immersed in irony that we have become inured to it.
If everyone’s first language is irony, what fresh perspective can art truly bring?
Is this what’s going on here? Is Gonzales bombarding us with images that we already know as some kind of short hand for some deeper purpose?
I don’t know, and honestly, I kind of lost a bit of interest. The first third or so of the book was fun, exciting, and innovative. However, at a certain point, it just kind of seemed to lose narrative steam and seemed to chug to its inevitable conclusion.
It had a lot of promise and I think that Gonzales was, to his credit, swinging for the fences in trying to do something truly innovative, but at the end of the day, even with big, smart, new ideas, you still have to tell a story that keeps me engaged all of the way to its end.