REVIEW: Repo Men by Eric Garcia

REVIEW SUMMARY: One of this reviewer’s first forays into gritty SF. It was a good enough experience that it won’t be her last.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A former repossession specialist hides out from his old co-workers who’d like to repossess his artificial heart.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Fascinating protagonist with very interesting life, great narrative style
CONS: Some crass scenes, light world-building
BOTTOM LINE: A decent amount of action and a fascinating crew of characters make Repo Man a worthwhile read.

The unnamed protagonist of Repo Men (originally published as Repossession Mambo) is typing his memoirs on an old Underwood typewriter in an abandoned hotel.  Once a level five repo man, charged with repossessing the artificial organs of those who stopped making payments for the Credit Union (and others), he’s now on the run, having his own artificial organ and unable to pay the extremely high interest rates.

Despite being character driven, this book never loses interest.  The protagonist’s life is so fascinating, from his 5 ex-wives, to his job as a repo man, to his time in the military and friendship with Jake, it’s a non-stop adventure.  He’s a mix of contradictions. He’s described by a therapist at one point as having a great capacity for love, but each of his ex’s call him a bastard.  He’s not a cold hard killer, but has no problem ripping out someone’s liver or heart, despite knowing the person is going to die because of his actions.  There’s a brief mention of him repossessing children’s organs, but no description.  Perhaps the author realized that heading in that direction would destroy any sympathy the protagonist otherwise gains.  And he does gain some.  He’s somehow a likable guy, despite the work he does.

The narrative is disjointed, jumping from time to time, keeping you on your toes trying to figure out what’s happening and why he’s now on the run.  Within that jumbled framework comes a fairly linear life story; from highschool through military life, joining the Credit Union and all his wives along the way.  Even the present day story is fascinating, with everything he knows about repo men giving him a better chance at survival.  The mystery of why he’s on the run is quite compelling.

As for the negatives, the story can be quite crass at times.  His first wife is a prostitute, and there’s a lot of sexualized humour (though no eroticism or graphic descriptions).  It’s not on the level of, say, Porky’s, but it is highschool-style crass humour.  While this reviewer isn’t a fan of that kind of writing, it did fit the book and character, and wasn’t overdone.

The world-building is very light.  You’re only told about what the protagonist finds interesting, namely his life. He’s quite self-centered and focused in that respect.  There’s some information about how the organ shops got started and the high interest rates that keep people’s names on his pink slips, but not as much about this new world as this reviewer would have liked given the interesting premise of the book.

The ending… fit the story but wasn’t entirely satisfying.  The character has a chance to grow as a person and things don’t work out as you’re expecting.

A decent amount of action and a fascinating crew of characters make Repo Man a worthwhile read.

6 thoughts on “REVIEW: Repo Men by Eric Garcia”

  1. I liked “Repo Men” although when I read it, it had the original title “The Repossession Mambo” – I’d be curious if that version differs from the film tie-in version in any way.

    I quite like Garcia, though I felt this was his weakest novel. An interesting thought experiment and something of a biting satire on modern medicine. But pales in comparison to the “Dinosaur Mafia” novels or even “Cassandra French” or “Matchstick Men.” I often feel like Garcia desperately wants to be a screenwriter and not a novelist. The dinosaur books are so fantastic…and yet…he hasn’t touched that world since “Hot & Sweaty Rex” 8 years ago.

  2. Sorry for the late replies, I’ve been away for a week and was without internet access.

    @ Trevin – The book now has an essay about how the book and film both came about that suggests the book entitled Repo Man is the same text as Repossession Mambo just with a different cover/title. I haven’t read anything else by him. Repo Man’s the only book of his my store stocks so I may have to check out the library for more.

    @ John – That’s why I read this one first. :)

    @ Derek – I haven’t seen the film yet. Given what Garcia said about the differences between the film and the book I’m not sure I’m going to.

    @ Tam – Interesting, thanks for pointing that interview out.

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