You may not be familiar with the name Manuel Gonzales, but once you’ve had the pleasure of delving into one of his out-of-the-ordinary literary creations, you won’t forget it. A graduate of Columbia University’s creative writing program, Gonzales has previously shared his unique brand of storytelling via publications such as Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and The Believer. His first collection of short stories, The Miniature Wife (2013), received much acclaim, including the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction.
In his debut novel, The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, Gonzales conjures a futuristic world of super-powered female assassins—part of an organization called the Regional Office. Two women are at the heart of the conflict: ardently loyal Sarah and defector Rose. While Sarah (and her curious mechanical arm) looked to the Regional Office as her savior after the disappearance of her mother, Rose sees corruption and betrayal within the organization’s leadership. Filling out the cast are their fellow agents; their recruiter and mentor Henry; and, of course, the secretive individuals behind the scenes pulling all the strings. Backstory on each character and the Regional Office itself is delicately spliced between action-packed scenes, making this a wonderfully choreographed narrative. The moment you think you have a grasp on the truth about the Regional Office, Gonzales tosses in a twist that will have you questioning your understanding all over again.
The amount of detail Gonzales infuses into this world makes it come alive in an engaging, quirky and delightful way, creating a perfect backdrop to a page-turning plot. Gonzales’ tale has something for every reader: Double agents! Secret romantic trysts! Conspiracy! Fight scenes! Friendships gone awry! At its core, however, The Regional Office Is Under Attack! is ultimately a tale of vengeance—one during which you’ll find yourself struggling to choose a side.