Review: The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales

Title: The Regional Office Is Under Attack!
Author: Manuel Gonzales
Rating: ★★★½
Summary: In a world beset by amassing forces of darkness, one organization—the Regional Office—and its coterie of super-powered female assassins protects the globe from annihilation. At its helm, the mysterious Oyemi and her oracles seek out new recruits and root out evil plots. Then a prophecy suggests that someone from inside might bring about its downfall. And now, the Regional Office is under attack. Recruited by a defector from within, Rose is a young assassin leading the attack, eager to stretch into her powers and prove herself on her first mission. Defending the Regional Office is Sarah—who may or may not have a mechanical arm—fiercely devoted to the organization that took her in as a young woman in the wake of her mother’s sudden disappearance. On the day that the Regional Office is attacked, Rose’s and Sarah’s stories will overlap, their lives will collide, and the world as they know it just might end.


The Regional Office Is Under Attack! is a weird little book that isn’t really like anything else and takes a bit of time to get into but is otherwise laugh-out-loud funny and wholly original. (A.k.a., I very much enjoyed it.) Manuel Gonzales throws you into the plot and expects you to keep up – which would be a turn-off in any other book – but after a couple of chapters, you’re, like, “okay, I got this.” The three stories, which interweave and overlap until you can finally parse out how everything fits, start to feel normal as head-scratching confusion turns into heart-racing anticipation.

Story one is the titular attack on the Regional Office, which is “an army of superwomen” who have been recruited and trained by the Office’s founding members, Mr. Niles and Oyemi, “to fight the evil forces of darkness” and who have already, in the book’s diegetic past, “saved the world from destruction, from self-annihilation, from the evil forces of darkness, from inter-dimensional war strikes, [and] from alien forces… like the retrieval of the Tremont Hotel from inter-dimensional, time-traveling assassins who intended to murder a future madame president by kidnapping and murdering her great-grandmother.” There are a lot of players in the first few chapters, and maybe a little too much going on, but someone named Rose is, like, doing parkour in a magic ventilation shaft and some woman named Sarah has a mechanical arm that looks like any other arm and you’re kind of okay with all of it. (Like I said, it’s a weird little book.)

Story two follows Rose and Sarah as they are recruited into and then eventually join Assassin Training Camp and the Regional Office, respectively. Except that Gonzales introduces them to you in the heat of the moment and then backtracks in such an apologetic and explanatory way that you don’t really mind knowing point D before points C and E before you’re also led to realize points B and A.

Then, interspersed with all of that, is story three, an in-universe biography of the attack on the Regional Office, appropriately titled The Regional Office Is Under Attack: Tracking the Rise and Fall of an American Institution. We are never told who is writing this book, or how they got all this informational on a super secret spy ring operating out of a travel agency, but it’s another one of those ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ moments that you just kind of roll with.

My main question throughout the whole novel—which I will say gets answered by the book’s close—was, What is the difference between Assassin Training Camp and the Regional Office? Gonzales keeps you guessing, all the way up to the final, final twist, but you kind of don’t mind, because, well, you’re reading about coteries of super-powered female assassins who know martial arts and have literal super powers. I mean, I can’t even really describe this book. Is it a revenge story? A heist? Die Hard meets Mission Impossible? I don’t know!!! I was just genuinely invested—in how Rose’s story fit in with Sarah’s, and how both women were going to survive the Regional Office being under attack, and maybe what the heck was going on—that learning the identity of the “defector from within” almost (kind of) felt like an after-thought.

Buy Borrow Bypass: Kickass Ladies Edition

Book Riot does this great feature called “Buy, Borrow, Bypass” and I like it, so I’m going to do that here.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Don’t recognize the name Felicia Day? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. You might be familiar with her face from such Joss Whedon-helmed projects like Buffy, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, or Dollhouse, though. Or maybe you remember her red hair in seasons seven, eight, and nine of Supernatural? Or somehow you’re really into MMORPG and watched The Guild??? (Didn’t think so.) If Day’s name or face doesn’t ring any bells, it’s safe to assume you probably won’t be into her debut, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), either. The book functions as a timeline of Day’s life, but feels less autobiographical and more like a play-by-play of her spectacularly odd adolescence, amounting to the origin story for the mythos that’s sprouted up around her. Is this because pop culture looks at Day as some kind of online creation and not as an actress who just happened to make it big by becoming Internet Famous™? Or maybe because it’s easy to get confused between real-life Day as Codex playing World of Warcraft and The Guild Day as… Codex… playing a fictional World of Warcraft??? I didn’t go into the book expecting much, but it was still kind of disappointing.

Verdict: BYPASS

IsEveryoneHangingOutWhyNotMe

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) / Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

I’m smooshing Mindy Kaling’s two biographies – 2011’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and 2015’s Why Not Me? – into one review because I have the same feelings about both of them, i.e., they’re awesome. Kaling is someone about whom I’ve learned great things via GIFs on Tumblr, and her memoirs (basically Parts I and II) really only exaggerate her cool factor. (Is that still a thing? Let’s make it a thing.) Instead of writing about her life linearly from point A to B, she structures both books as a collection of essays and anecdotes about making a living as a female comedian in Hollywood, first as a writer on The Office and then as showrunner for The Mindy Project. Through her writing, Kaling comes off as a person who knows how to 1) successfully navigate the male-dominated film industry, 2) do so with both grace and humility, and 3) be funny as hell in the process. She’s definitely worth a read if, like me, you haven’t had the chance to officially meet via a television screen.

Verdict: BORROW unless you’re already a fan and then BUY

WeShouldAllBeFeminists

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If you aren’t already feminist-leaning, Adichie’s print adaptation of her 2013 TEDx Talk might not convince you why you should be – but you should read it anyway. In 52 pages, Adichie succinctly explains what the word feminist means to her and why she considers herself one. Although her speech’s title definitely comes off as click-bait (if you’re feeling brave, just scroll through the video’s comments), the words themselves don’t. Adichie makes it easy to nod along and feel empowered to create change, just by acknowledging one’s own privilege in gender, race, or economic class. At its core, feminism isn’t a complex theory that one needs an advanced degree to understand; hopefully, if enough people read We Should All Be Feminists, maybe it won’t feel like one.

Verdict: BUY

Review: How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor

HowStarWarsConqueredTheUniverseTitle: How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise
Author: Chris Taylor
Rating: ★★★
Summary: Veteran journalist Chris Taylor traces the Star Wars series from the difficult birth of the original film through its sequels, the franchise’s death and rebirth, the prequels, and the preparations for a new trilogy. Taylor provides portraits of the friends, writers, artists, producers, and marketers who labored behind the scenes to turn Lucas’s idea into a legend. An energetic, fast-moving account of this creative and commercial phenomenon, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe explains how a filmmaker’s fragile dream beat out a surprising number of rivals and gained a diehard, multigenerational fan base – and why it will be galvanizing our imaginations and minting money for generations to come.


If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll remember me talking up How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise back in April – after I’d given up trying to slog through The Secret History of Wonder Woman and wanted to find another microhistory for my participation in the #ReadHarder challenge. If you’re not a huge fan of either pop culture or history, microhistories can be a tough sell on their own; reading at length about the historical, political, economic, and cultural factors that both contributed to – and also occurred because of – a huge film series like Star Wars is really only for mega-nerds who both like Star Wars and want to read 300+ pages on Star Wars. (Like I said, it’s a tough sell.)

Unfortunately, Chris Taylor doesn’t really deliver the “how” of his title, instead focusing more on the “what” – what happened to get Star Wars going and then what happened once it broached mainstream culture. I think that anyone trying to answer the ambiguous “why” is facing an uphill battle, but I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t more theoretical discussion on exactly how Star Wars conquered the hearts and minds of billions of people. Taylor gives a few pages connecting the dots between the original trilogies and the Vietnam War, but it stays in one chapter, buried among hundreds of pages of anecdotes and biography. I understand that Taylor wasn’t writing a George Lucas biography – because, clearly, Star Wars has been wrested from its creator and now breathes on its own – but a lot of the time, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe felt more like The Life and Times of George Lucas (and also thoughts on his creation, the mega-successful Star Wars) than what it was purported to be. (Taylor almost singularly refers to Lucas as “The Creator,” imbuing him with the mythical properties he was supposed to bestow on the mythos of the films themselves.)

While the information contained within How Star Wars Conquered the Universe was interesting – I mean, it’s Star Wars you guys – I think Taylor should have either tweaked his thesis (or perhaps even thought of one in the first place???) or else shortened his work substantially. This could have been a fantastic one-, two-, or even three-part think-piece focusing on why – or dare I say how? – Star Wars jumped from space fantasy to global phenomenon. What was going on in the mid-1970s that created the perfect absence into which Star Wars fit? In what ways did the film, characters, or plot answer lingering wants that other films of that genre or period didn’t? Why did those specific characters on that specific journey in that specific universe create the perfect vortex? How is just so vague of a question – and produces so literal of an answer – that it’s really not suited to the type of analysis Taylor is trying to provide. (Unfortunately.)

However, because there is really nothing that tries to comprehensively document the journey Star Wars took from far-fetched Flash Gordon homage to pop culture commodity, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Industry is worth a perusal – but know what you’re getting into before you start reading.