First I saw the movie - loved the movie - then I read the book - loved the book too!
Repo men, the term, brings up images of cars repossessed in the middle of the night; of deadbeats who can't or won't pay their bills; and of the "men" themselves who are not much better than their clients.
Now spin this world into a dysfunctional future where the same thing happens but instead of cars it's artificial organs that are being repossessed. Oh, yea, you read that right - organs. Hearts, livers, kidneys, you name it, technology has progressed so far that any organ can now be manufactured instead of transplanted. Think of just how wonderful that can be. Now think of it outside of the Canadian and British models of healthcare and think of it in the terms of the for-profit world of American health care.
So, a person needs a new pancreas but has to buy it himself. He certainly can't afford to just write a cheque for it; these things cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars and, even in the future, that's a lot of money. So he must finance the purchase from the Credit Union which is also responsible for repossessing the organ should the client default on the loan.
Gross! Right? But strangely compelling, right? I mean, how can you do that? You'd kill the person, right? How could that be legal? Who would take the job of repo man? All of these reactions are natural and the author is counting on you to have them, I was fascinated to find out what kind of world you'd have to live in for this career to exist.
Of course there is way more going on than just the "job", that would be a boring book. The main character, Remy is very good at what he does but circumstances along the way cause him to be on the other side of the job.
The book was well written and very different from the movie. The author, Garcia, used a rotating structure in the book where Remy is narrating from his present telling short stories about his past in the military and of his five marriages and five divorces. All these stories add a little bit of insight into Remy and how he got to where he is. Garcia also keeps the details of how Remy went from repo man to target (or client, to use the term from the book) to the last moment and it all gels together in a very satisfying way.
I must admit that I didn't quite get the final twist at the end. I was scratching my head a bit there, thinking, "Hmm. I'm not sure I really buy that but I'll let it go because the rest of it was so good."
One last thing - just look at the cover of this book! It's actually the movie poster but it conveys the whole look and feel of the book in one image. It's dark, (black and white, well blue and white) it's dangerous (just look at that cannon that Forest Whitaker is holding!) it's strange (what's with the weird tattoos?) it's a job (company coffee cup) and it's darkly funny (see the blood on the cup?). The world Garcia created here was really cool and it was fun to visit for a while but I really would not want to buy a house there.
And one more last thing. There is a very interesting essay at the back of the book explaining just how it all came into being. What I liked best about it was the evolution of the title; it started as a thirteen page short story called The Telltale Pancreas which was then turned into a screenplay called The Repossession Mambo then into the movie Repo Men.
I like The Telltale Pancreas best.