Friday, July 23, 2010

Booknote: The Repossession Mambo

This is my review as I posted it in my GoodReads profile. This book has become one of the my recent must-read selections. When someone asks me what to read next, this is what I am recommending. The book is the basis of the film Repo Men. I have not seen the film, and I am holding low expectations of the film when I get to see it (Hollywood pretty much fucks up anything in science fiction, especially when it comes from a novel. I mean, aside from Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick is a good example of an author constantly mucked up in film). Sure, Eric Garcia is listed as having been one of the screenwriters, but an author doing the screenplay is not always a guarantee either. The film does list Forest Whitaker in the role of Jake. I will admit after reading the book, I was not sure Forest Whitaker was the guy to play Jake (I visualized someone a bit leaner for one). However, Jake does have a psycho bend to him (to say anything more would spoil things), and Mr. Whitaker does that kind of role excellently. Having gotten to the end of the book, I can say that Mr. Whitaker could certainly pull off the role. I mean, his turn in Last King of Scotland still haunts me. I will have to wait and see. In the meantime, here is my book review.

The Repossession MamboThe Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a must-read for various reasons. For one, if you like the paranoia element in works by Philip K. Dick and Alfred Bester, then you will probably like this one as well. I would say it falls somewhat in the dystopian genre (the protagonist narrating in first person can be seen as a bit similar to Winston Smith), so if you like that, this work will appeal to you as well. Next, and this is a big reason why I tell this people to read this book: it is one hell of a commentary on why we need a good universal health care system that cares for everyone. This novel basically shows the worse case scenario for managed and for profit care systems. In a way, it does for health care and for financial extremism (think the recession is bad now, imagine it worse if those bankers so on are not regulated at all) what The Handmaid's Tale does for religious fundamentalism taking over the country. Plus, the book itself is a pretty good thrill ride.

This is a world where any organ or body part can be replaced...for a price. Can't afford it? No problem. The Credit Union will be happy to work with you on financing. However, can't pay the loan? They send their Bio-Repo men to get their assets back by any means necessary. You bleed too death during the repossession? Too bad. You should have read the fine print and paid your loan. Rate of the loan too high? Looks like usury? Hey, what's that when you get a new kidney or liver instead of having to die waiting for a transplant? Sure, this is a future dystopian scenario, but are we really that far away from it. What really keeps us from selling organs in an open market? We already do have artificial hearts? Who is to say those won't get better and better over time? And why not other organs? And as health care costs keep spiraling out of control to the point where only the ultra-rich can get it, how long before some entrepreneurs come along and offer financing? How much different is that from, say, a rent-to-own joint or any other shady loan operations now? The beauty and strength of this book is that the future it portrays is all too plausible. Therein lies the true terror of it.

I won't spoil the ending, but I did have mixed feelings about it, which is why I did not go for the 5 stars. But the ending will leave you thinking. And as I said, it is a pretty engaging book overall. Definitely recommend it.

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