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Book Review

Book Cover

The Regional Office is Under Attack


Author: Manuel Gonzales
Publisher: Del Rey
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 1 78 503601 9
Publication Date: 13 July 2017

The Regional Office is Under Attack (2017. 388 pages) by first time novelist Manuel Gonzales takes the reader into a world where enhanced people exist to fight the good fight against evil, whether this is extra-terrestrial, inter-dimensional or magical.

The main bulk of the story revolves around an attack on the aforementioned Regional Office which is one of a number of private crime fighting agencies. The agency hides itself, literally, beneath a travel agency which caters for expensive, niche, holidays and the story focuses on two particular characters Sarah and Rose. Rose is leading the strike on the office, she is swift and strong, pitted against her Sarah is strong, but also has a mechanical arm, which makes her a cyborg.

The story uses this central conflict to weave a narrative about how these two young women came to be in this predicament and as such the story jumps from the actual attack to past events, with a faux history, presumably written sometime in the future, likely by Sarah as those pages are presented as readout.

This all sounds a bit like a comic book, and, in truth, there are some elements of this, especially in the idea of the Regional Office, who recruits young women with exceptional abilities to train as, effectively, superheroes. We learn the Office was set up by a Mr Niles (not his real name) and Oyemi (also not her real name) following one event when Oyemi suddenly demonstrated powers she didn’t know she had. A considerable inheritance later, as well as a desire to save the world propels the two into setting up their own agency. The agency is split into two types. The operatives are those girls with special powers that can be sent on a mission and the oracles. I would say that the oracles were like the precogs in Minority Report (2002) when in actual fact they are exactly like them even down to there being three females submerged in a bath of fluid for some unknown reason. As the story unfolds we learn more and more about the two women, their backgrounds and what had brought them to this time and place.

This may sound like the book is a lightweight piece and the jacket does not disabuse the casual reader from this notion, the tone is positively flippant. However, under all the frenetic action and I can’t deny that there is a lot of this, there is a story of love, betrayal and the nature of revenge. Much of the tone of the writing is irreverent, especially when any of the girls are talking, but this is irreverence as a defence mechanism. Strong, swift and deadly they may be, but most have been rescued from children’s homes, or worse, or in the case of Sarah, have her mother just completely vanish one day.

Gonzales has done well to balance out the Die Hard elements of the battles with the more introspective backstories by using a narrative voice which is light but tinged with a little sadness. The overall effect is to keep the action going which only pauses for the info dump of the readouts. Altogether the balance was right, but I did feel a little deflated by the ending which seemed to suffer from a Return of the King multiple ending issue.


Charles Packer

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