REVIEW: The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fun, fast read based upon interesting ideas.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The story of a near-future Repo Man who takes back artificial organs from those who can no longer pay for them.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: An interesting premise and setting; expert storytelling; cool tech; seems like the writer is having as much fun as the reader.

CONS: I cannot think of any way this story could have been made better.

BOTTOM LINE: This one was a lot of fun. Highly recommended.


Eric Garcia’s The Repossession Mambo is built on an interesting premise: while advanced technology has given rise to indestructible human artificial organs (“artiforgs”), they are lumbered by the cold, harsh reality of economy. More specifically, artiforgs are enormously expensive and must be financed through the so-called Credit Union. When the choice is your money or your life, a thirty percent interest rate on a huge principle seems like a godsend – that is until you miss a few payments. That’s when the Credit Union sends a Bio-Repo men out to reclaim the merchandise. Typically, this means tracking you down, cutting you open, and removing the organ in question. If the surgery suddenly leaves you dead, well, that’s your problem. Read the fine print.

The Repossession Mambo is told through the eyes of a nameless Bio-Repo man who no longer works for the Credit Union. He is, in fact, hiding. As he types out his story on an old, outdated typewriter, readers come to learn his story. Through alternate, non-sequential snapshots of his past, we learn about his early life in the military, his 5 ex-wives, his estranged son, how and why he became a Bio-Repo man (a job nobody ever chooses willingly) and his relationship with Jake, a fellow soldier who he followed into the repossession business.

The author’s narrative choices make the story feel like you’re spying on discrete, random points in the narrator’s life. Slowly, as his life story begins to emerge, the pieces are gradually filled in until the puzzle is complete. This storytelling decision helped make it incredibly intriguing. It didn’t matter that, initially, not much was actually happening in the present-day story line, because the flashback passages were more than enough to hold up interest. (In later parts of the book, there was lots of stuff happening.) Some of it was the cool future tech — like artificial organs with the music player option, or the high-tech tools used by the best Bio-Repo men, like the scanners used to ferret out defaulted organs – but most of it was the way the author tells the story. Garcia’s prose shows the making of a stylist, someone whose verbiage is as entertaining as the story itself. For example, at one point we learn that the narrator named his black market artiforg scanner after one of his ex-wives because “it could do any number of people at once”.

Garcia uses the human heart as a metaphor for the characters’ humanity. In the case of our Bio-Repo man narrator (who remains nameless for the entire length of the book – you can see where this is going) his artificial heart symbolizes his detachment from the rest of the people that populate this wonderfully dark, consumerist future. Logically, it makes sense; only through such detachment can you continue to excel at the act of cutting people up and surgically removing their innards. That’s how you ignore the pleas of the downtrodden as you prepare to cut them open. Our narrator (livers a specialty) is great at what he does. His experience makes him a Level Five Bio-Repo man with a reputation for success. Some of it was learned on the job, some of it was learned on the battlefield of a war in Africa. And all of it is useful in his role as a runner.

It’s while he is hiding in an abandoned hotel out that the narrator meets another runner named Bonnie. Biologically speaking, Bonnie is almost the antithesis of the narrator. The vast majority of her body is artificial and it’s the heart that remains human. Various circumstances led to Bonnie’s condition, enough to make her a sympathetic human character, but the Credit Union doesn’t care. All they want is their money, so Bonnie goes on the run to save her life. She’s learned a few tricks while in hiding; things our narrator leverages when they join forces. But are their combined efforts enough to avoid the tenacity of the Bio-Repo men out to get them?

I highly recommend that you read The Repossession Mambo and find out.

Note: In an illuminating Author’s Note appendix (no pun intended) Garcia talks about the genesis of this short story that led to this novel and will find its way to the big screen in 2009 in a film starring Jude Law and Forrest Whitaker.

13 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia”

  1. Excellent! I’ve been a fan of Garcia’s work for a while now, and have been anxiously waiting for a new title.  This is on my must-read-this-week list for sure.

  2. Would you believe that movie with this premise came out last fall, and it was a musical? It’s called REPO and the star is Anthony Stewart Head.I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’ve been listening to the soundtrack? It’s an interesting coincidence…

  3. Kristine: I’ve got some of his Dinosaur Mafia books (Anonymous Rex and Casual Rex) sitting somewhere in “The Archives” (read: my own Raiders of the Lost warehouse full of book boxes) that are calling my name.

     

    Bill: If it matters, Garcia first wrote his originating short story back in 2002, iirc.

  4. Dude REPO, the genetic opera started out as a short story like 7 years ago. Totally not that original anymore.

  5. @Kristine: It’s funny that you mention Matchstick Men…I was recalling a recent interview with Garcia and it mentioned that film based on his book.  And then someone else recently mentioned it, and now you, too!  I just added it to my Netflix queue.  :)

    @Josh: I don’t think anyone here was saying it was original.  But that’s all subjective, isn’t it?  I mean, if you never encountered it before, it’d be original!

  6. For the record,  I never meant to suggest that there was an improper relationship between REPO and Garcia’s book, and I apologize if it came out that way. I’ve had enough ideas pre-empted by other writers, working quite independently from me, that I know how this sort of thing works.  If there’s anything to be read into this, I think it’s that people are getting concerned about the cost of medical care and more writers are thinking about it. I certainly intend to read “Mambo,” when I can. Is it out now?

  7. cyber-noir?   I like it.

    However, that book cover isn’t very appealing.   This could have used something like what you see on Jeff Somers’ novels.

    Matchstick Men is an underrated film.  Cage plays one of his better roles (post Leaving Las Vegas) and a very good Alison Lohman playing the part of the daughter.   As a side note, Lohman is the lead in Sam Raimi’s new flick, Drag Me to Hell, which sounds like some old-fashioned Raimi awesome.

  8. Well, um, *for the record*, Repo! The Genetic Opera started out as a stage play in the early nineties, and there is tentative proof that Mr. Garcia saw it. Rip offff.

  9. Repo! The Genetic Opera is a really good movie.  I saw it a few days ago (coincidence) and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  The music is aweome as well.  Check it out.

  10. Repo the genetic opra is nothing like Repo men and repo men is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better.

  11. So sure are you of this, Mysterious?  Amazing how you seem to think a movie that hasn’t been previewed yet, much less released, is better than another.

     

    A Repo! hater, methinks.  Or a studio plant trying to defuse discussion of the potential rip-off.

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