Imagine that your innocuous-seeming travel business was the cover for an ultra-top secret agency of deadly female super spies with ninja-worthy martial arts and weaponry skills (aka the Regional Office) and that you suspected it was soon to be attacked by the forces of evil. But the attack came sooner than you think. In fact, it’s happening right now.
That’s the jeopardy faced by Sarah O’Hara, who is about to have her finely honed talents for fighting and cunning tested to the limits. And somewhere inside the building, working her way John McClane-like through the Regional Office’s ventilation system, is her nemesis, a sassy young assassin called Rose who is determined to complete her mission at any cost. The Regional Office is about to be levelled (not a bad trick, considering most of it is already underground) and hyper-kinetic carnage, sexy killer teens, smart-mouthed one-liners and shameless nods towards Die Hard, Mission: Impossible, Charlie’s Angels and even Three Days of the Condor are the order of the day.
Manuel Gonzales’s novel is a rush of cinematic storytelling, with a twisted sense of humour, brilliantly cartoonish violence (there were several moments when The Regional Office is Under Attack! reminded this writer of a grown-up version of The Powerpuff Girls, which is in every way meant as a compliment) and video game energy. There are booby traps, explosions, deadly mechanical limbs, and a glorious subversion of action hero(ine) clichés, with more than a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. It is a playground for movie geeks, perfectly paced and often laugh-out-loud funny, and an absolute delight from the first page to the last. But, unlike so many other attempts to ‘re-invent’ the superhero genre, the visual and verbal pyrotechnics are only window-dressing. This is, at its heart, a shrewdly thoughtful, faintly nostalgic adventure story that takes every genre convention apart, polishes it up, and plugs it back into a place we would never suspect. And when all its many explosions have finally dulled back into silence, The Regional Office is Under Attack! still leaves us with plenty to think about. Read it now before Hollywood cocks it up completely.
THE REGIONAL OFFICE IS UNDER ATTACK! / AUTHOR: MANUEL GONZALES / PUBLISHER: RIVERHEAD BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW