by Eric Garcia
Imagine a world where artificial organ implants are as plentiful and easily installed as parts on a car. Now imagine the same scuzzball business practices, used in the automotive industry, employed in the medical field. Yeah, not exactly Utopia, is it?
Garcia's novel is written as a firsthand account from a Bio-Repo man as he's on the run from the very company who once employed him. The repo man tells his story via an old typewriter on whatever bits of paper he can find, as he hides out and hopes the noise doesn't alert anyone to his presence in an abandoned building within the city he used to work.
The way the story is laid out is a disjointed memoir of a man basically writing out all the mistakes he made in his life, all of which have contributed to where he finds himself now: on the run from his former employers with an artificial heart he never asked for and can't afford to pay for. But the majority of the story is about his life, particularly his formidable days in the army and his more contentious days in married life--with four ex-wives in his wake.
I became interested in this book when I saw the trailers for the film last year. But a movie trailer is a terrible way to gauge the potential of the book its based on. I went in expecting a rather high-octane cat-and-mouse chase between a skilled repo man and his former peers now out to get him. What I got was a meandering lament, albeit an engaging one, from a character that spent more time seemingly squirreled away in front of an antique typewriter, surrounded by advanced technology in a kind of juxtaposition there, than he did actively evading the authorities.
I did manage to quite enjoy this novel, despite my preconceptions being dashed within the first hundred pages. The sci-fi elements are plentiful and articulated well enough for a dullard like me not to feel overwhelmed by all the jargon, and the repo man's tone has enough of that sarcastic tone to make him sympathetic. It'd be really easy not to give a damn whether this character lived or died, but Garcia presents him in a way that made me root for him towards the end, and the ending itself does provide a measure of satisfaction. Not what I was expecting there either, but that turned out to be a good thing.
I'll be seeing the film adaptation, starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, soon enough. It'll be interesting to see what elements of the novel make it into the film, because I can't see it being strictly adhered to. Movie audiences probably wouldn't have gone for that at all. Readers, especially ones who like sci-fi, should find something to like with the book at least.