Eric Garcia, whose latest novel is The Repossession Mambo, told Tor.com that the book is about a world not that far in the future where artificial organs have become perfected and readily available.
“If your liver fails, you can go down to the store and pick out a shiny new one, complete with warranty and various special features,” Garcia said in an interview. “Of course, they’re still expensive, and most people need to take out a loan to secure their purchase, at rates upwards of 10, 15, 20% APR and so forth. Should you ever be over 90 days delinquent in your payments, the corporation sends out their specially trained bio-repo men to reclaim their property. If you happen to pass away during the repossession itself, it’s not really their problem…”
The Repossession Mambo follows the lives of one of these bio-repo men. “A one-time expert in his field who has accidentally found himself with a brand new heart, suddenly unable to pay, and now on the wrong side of the equation, hiding out from his former employees,” Garcia said. “Holed up in an abandoned motel, he finds an old manual typewriter and begins to pound out the story of his life and his work as a member of one of the most feared, respected, and vilified professions in the world. But, you know, it’s a comedy.”
The protagonist of the book doesn’t have a name; or, rather, he’s got one, but it’s never used throughout the book. “[That’s] partly to dehumanize him, and yet partly as a way to make it feel like he’s everyone just as soon as he’s no one,” Garcia said. “He’s referred to, at various points, as Repo Man or Bio-Repo Man or RM, but we never learn his actual name.”
He’s a man who’s found himself at a crossroads. “His entire previous life in the service of a profession that he’s just beginning to question,” Garcia said. “Set apart from the rest of humanity by the job he’s chosen and the worldview he’s internalized, the Bio-Repo Man is unable to form any lasting human connections. He’s had 5 wives so far, and recounts their stories with just as much passion or impassion as he does the jobs he’s had ripping out artificial spleens and kidneys. His one lasting relationship is with his best friend and co-worker Jake (with whom he also spent time in the military), partially because they’re both in the rare cadre of people who do what they do, and partially because neither one feels the deep need to talk about it all that much. In short—and as the tagline so aptly puts it—he’s a man who loses his heart, but finds his soul.”
The worldbuilding all came from the single notion of the artificial organs—artiforgs. “In positing a future that hinged on the extension of life via mechanical organ replacement, I wanted to make sure that it all connected back to that idea, that the world I was created truly revolved around this amazing yet morally dangerous new industry,” Garcia said. “I didn’t want flying cars or laser pistols—if new organs were suddenly feasible, it simply seems logical to me that a huge portion of funding and private money would go directly toward this, perhaps stunting growth in other industries as the first couple of decades would be all about people trying to live longer, live stronger, live ‘better’.”
Garcia also wanted to make the world less about the society in general, and more about the society inhabited by the protagonist. “He’s telling the story of his life, not anyone else’s, so it was important to keep that focused,” Garcia said. “Perhaps somewhere else in this world, someone’s doing some amazing research into AI or jetpacks, but that’s not the world the Bio-Repo Man lives in. His is a life of danger, of hydraulic fluid, of collection bags, and of fear, and that’s what I wanted to convey in the world.”
The Repossession Mambo is out in bookstores now, and will be coming soon to a theater near you. Garcia co-wrote with his screenwriting partner Garrett Lerner, and it stars Jude Law as the Bio-Repo Man, Forest Whitaker as his best friend Jake, and Liev Schreiber as their boss Frank. It’s due out from Universal Studios early next year.