It isn’t often you see a book with an exclamation point in its title, but in the case of The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, by Manuel Gonzales, the breathlessness of that exclamation point is not overstatement at all but a reflection of the breakneck speed and energy of the book itself.
Imagine a sort of wild-eyed cross between The Matrix and James Bond and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, together with all the Young Adult novels about Chosen Ones fighting to save the world, and you have the beginning of a notion of what this book is like.
The Regional Office of the title is so much more than just a bureaucratic office. It could be described as a secret organization that protects the whole world from all kinds of threats, including interdimensional horrors, demons, aliens and basically anything beyond the ability of normal law enforcement and military to solve. It’s run by a woman with supernatural powers (she claims) and a man who has long been devoted to her and to the organization. There are Oracles who can predict the future (and the directors use this information to protect against the more terrible enemies coming to attack the world) and Operatives who are young women with superpowers who use those power in service of the Regional Office’s missions. Naturally the location of the Regional Office is top secret, hidden deep underground, the only outward hint of its existence an odd travel agency on the ground floor.
You would expect that such a powerful organization would never be able to fall prey to an attack from within, that any possibility of subversion would be instantly discovered by the powerful Oracles and wiped out by the Operatives, but thereby hangs a tale, because the attack in question comes from two disgruntled members of the organization, who have managed to recruit a couple of Operatives, despite the best efforts (maybe) of the Oracles and the Directors to prevent such a thing.
The characters include Rose, a teenager who’s been recruited to join the Operatives by a young man on whom she has a deep crush (unrequited, as it turns out), and who later joins the group attempting to destroy the entire operation, and Sarah, one of the head honchos of the organization who has a very powerful (and maybe not entirely under her control) artificial arm, who is attempting to defend the Office from the invaders.
The book zips back and forth in time, with sections from what purports to be an “official” history of the fall of the Regional Office, descriptions of how Sarah came to the Regional Office, Rose’s recruitment and training, events that happened right before the attack, and the moment by moment description of how the attack unfolds. The tone is breathless and excited, and it’s so fast-moving you’re carried along with the plot’s momentum, eagerly turning pages to see what’s going to happen next even if you already have some hints already of how it all ends up.
In the midst of all the action (breakneck and breathtaking action from different perspectives), Gonzales manages to raise fascinating questions about fate and personal responsibility, about the extent to which people are constrained by their pasts and the extent to which they can break free and what that freedom would be like. It’s a fun read and a fast read and well worth checking out.