A review of Manuel Gonzales’ The Regional Office Is Under Attack!
I didn’t actually read ANY kind of summary on this before starting it and I feel like that made the experience that much more fun and interesting, but for those of you who prefer to read synopses:
“In a world beset by amassing forces of darkness, one organization—the Regional Office—and its coterie of super-powered female assassins protects the globe from annihilation.At its helm, the mysterious Oyemi and her oracles seek out new recruits and root out evil plots. Then a prophecy suggests that someone from inside might bring about its downfall. And now, the Regional Office is under attack.”
The following is the rest of GoodReads’ synopsis, but it gives a away a little bit more so if the above has already sold you on it and you still want a bit more mystery before reading, ignore this part:
“Recruited by a defector from within, Rose is a young assassin leading the attack, eager to stretch into her powers and prove herself on her first mission. Defending the Regional Office is Sarah—who may or may not have a mechanical arm—fiercely devoted to the organization that took her in as a young woman in the wake of her mother’s sudden disappearance. On the day that the Regional Office is attacked, Rose’s and Sarah’s stories will overlap, their lives will collide, and the world as they know it just might end.
Weaving in a brilliantly conceived mythology, fantastical magical powers, teenage crushes, and kinetic fight scenes, The Regional Office Is Under Attack! is a seismically entertaining debut novel about revenge and allegiance and love.”
• • •
This was a surprisingly really fun listen! I had no idea what it was about when I downloaded the audiobook from my library. It was just on the front page of my library’s website and I liked the cover and it just happened to be available and I had nothing else on my queue. So I borrowed it.
At first, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what was going on for a while. I think I struggled to figure out if it was serious or not (it is decidedly not) and if it was sci-fi or not (it decidedly is). The humour is often subtle and the sci-fi element is handled very matter-of-fact-ly for the most part and, in the end, I just let the story unfold and had a lot of fun along the way.
I loved all the characters. Pretty much all of the main (and almost all the secondary) characters are women except two male protagonists, and I enjoyed how Gonzales wrote them. They’re interesting and strong (literally and figuratively), they are unapologetically cold and practical and exactly the kind of messed up killers they were selected and trained to be. I really enjoyed reading about them. The characters really pulled me through my confusion about events in the beginning and made me not really care what was happening as long as I could spend time finding out more about them. But what was happening did turn out to be an interesting little adventure too.
I’ve seen a review from someone saying all the female characters are controlled by the two male protagonists in the story and I completely disagree. I actually felt like there was a very light, possibly feminist touch to this story. The female characters have a lot of agency and despite the novel’s style, they are not two dimensional. By contrast, not a lot of attention is put into rounding out the male characters that much, but that doesn’t affect the story. The two men in the story (and all the other characters) are completely at the whims of the women…two women in particular who we don’t really spend much time with and who sort of just stay very mysterious for the whole story. The same review wasn’t a fan of the way the characters are written, but I think it’s important to note that it is all rather satirical and taking anything too seriously is probably not the best way to take in the story. Although it isn’t really YA (I don’t think?*)…it sort of feels like a satire of certain kinds of YA stories.
*(It probably could just as easily be placed in the YA section as the general fiction section though?)
I was also very impressed with how the action and fight scenes were handled. I didn’t get lost in or feel bored by them (which often happens when I read action) and there was a good pacing throughout those scenes and tying them into the story.
One of my favourite segments and one of the funniest bits was the part with the hostages. Just thinking about some of it now makes me laugh. It reminds me (as does a lot of the book) about how you might create a strange scenario (especially panic situations) on an ordinary day in an ordinary place and wonder about how normal people (especially your own colleagues who you know a little bit about) would fare in those situations. And it juxtaposes that fantasy humorously with the probable outcome.
If you like silly stories that feign seriousness, with interesting characters (many cold, powerful, but still very human women), this might be the book for you. But it is a bit odd. I was sceptical, too, when I realised there were four different narrators in the audiobook (Sarah Scott, Natasha Soudek, Susan Hanfield, and Mike Chamberlain), but that actually worked out really well and I loved each of their performances.
If you like silly stories that pretend to be serious, that mix a smidgen of sci-fi in with normal life as if it’s normal and have a host of interesting characters who are fun to follow around, this might be for you.
rating: ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
genre: SFF, humour
publisher: Penguin Audio
date read: 8 July 2016
recommend for: action movie fans, fans of satire, YA fans
pros: engaging story and style, very fun and fast-paced
cons: the humour might not be everyone’s cup of tea