I went to the Waterstones in Brighton on my way back to London this week, just to see what they had on offer. One of the books I ended picking up was The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales. The title alone was pretty funny and the description intrigued me enough to pick it up. And I’m glad I did.
It isn’t perfect. I imagine the tone and style might grate on some people, but for me it was really fucking funny.
The plot is absurd. The Regional Office is a group of super-human women, guided by Oracles to defend the earth from all threats – alien, mystical, time-travelling, monstrous, etc. But its attacked! By first what seems a counter-agency but as we learn through the plot, has come from within.
There main characters all strange and delightful:
- Sarah: a woman recruited to the Regional Office, given a mechanical arm and hunts down the murder of her mother (or so it seems at first)
- Rose: a super-human recruit, trained to take down the Regional Office
- Oyemi: a woman with mystical powers who co-founds the Regional Office
- Mr Niles: Oyemi’s childhood friend, co-founder of the Regional Office, recruits Sarah
- Henry: recruiter of super-powered women, nice guy
The main two are Sarah and Rose, who are pitted against each other to either save or destroy the Regional Office. We follow their stories, interjected with scholarly papers on the backstory of the regional office. It was quite a nice pace and interesting way to set up such a daft story.
I enjoyed the tone and uncertainty of both the central characters. You get a lot of internal monologue and a lot of it is deprecating, questioning and very sweary. SO SWEARY. I identify with the proficient use of expletives. The tone was very flippant and self-conscious. My only criticism of this is that sometimes, they all seemed the same. While Rose was often more sweary and Sarah more introspective – sometimes they all just seemed a bit same-y. But I still loved it.
The only other criticism I have is that I wanted more of an ending. It’s a bit of a deflating balloon at the end. You have this massive attack, amazing fights between Mr Niles and Rose, between Sarah and the other invaders. You have these interesting segments about the history of the agency. And then, it kind of ends. And then, there’s a few more chapters that don’t do an entirely good job of wrapping up. It’s a big ambiguous what will happen between Rose and Sarah (they are having a big fight at the end). My hope is that they somehow resolve their issues and have a book together. Basically, I don’t like ambiguity, so this criticism is more a reflection of what I like, rather than a problem with the book.
But it was a compulsive read. I stayed up to 230am last night, reading through this through to the end. I loved the characters, the set-up, the historical interludes, the fact that all the most powerful characters were women. I loved the intrigue and the fighting and the fleeing. It was delightful, give it a go.