Tag Archives: Eric Garcia

Anonymous Rex Series and Movie (Review)

velociraptor detective Eric García (Repo Men) wrote three novels about the dinosaur detective Vincent Rubio: Casual Rex, Anonymous Rex, and Hot and Sweaty Rex.   Detective Rubio is a velociraptor, not a Rex, so I suspect that the author wanted a catchy and suggestive title.

In Rubio’s world, dinosaurs have not died out, but remained disguised members within human society to protect themselves from the humans that would hunt them down if they knew of the reptiles’ existence. Maybe they watched too much V series and took it to heart. Because dinosaurs are at all levels of society, they can tweak paleontological data so that dino research ‘proves’ their extinction. If a human isn’t fooled or discovers the true nature of the disguised dinosaurs, dinos have full authority from ‘the Council’ to kill them.  Most dinosaurs, including Rubio, look down on humans as inferior beings. This comes as no surprise if you can fool them for millennia into thinking you are extinct.

Detective Rubio unguised In the novels the dinos are costumed as humans and interact with them normally in their daily lives, even as children. It is a very difficult premise to believe in, even for this reader who ‘accepts’ holosuites and hidden schools of magic. The costumes are so wrong- the high tech suits are made of latex and are supposedly so authentic-looking that it looks real even when the dinos are naked. The dinosaurs keep their snouts and tails in check with straps and buckles! I can ‘accept’ that evolution made dinosaurs smaller –even human-sized– because the story offers the plausible explanation that the fossil record has been severely tampered with. But the hiding in latex thing (and hiding for centuries pre-latex) was really hard to get past to enjoy the stories.

Thankfully in the TV movie Anonymous Rex (2004) the technology used to disguise dinosaurs included high tech holographic images as far as I could tell. Except they could feel their transformation and their bodies’ volume changed (?!). I’m still unsure what they did about their tails. I admit that I never really got over the ‘dinos in costume’ idea, but that didn’t make me hate the storylines. Although flawed in practice, it is an amusing premise. The dinosaur society quirks are amusing too. In their world, for example, dinosaurs get addicted to herbs like basil, whereas alcohol has no effect. Dinos can identify one another through pheromone scents, and tend to sniff one another on the back of the neck when they meet. Here’s a summary about each book in the series and the TV movie.

Rubio and Watson doing their thing Casual Rex (2002) was written after Anonymous Rex (2001), but it is a prequel so I’ll cover it first. It introduces us to Vincent Rubio and his partner Ernie Watson of Watson & Rubio Investigations. Although Watson has a terribly unoriginal name, he is the sweetheart of the two and infinitely more likeable than Rubio. Watson is a T-Rex, fatherly, and wiser than the younger Rubio. He’s obsessed with his ex-wife. Vincent  is obsessed with his clothes and drug (herb) habit.

In the story, Watson & Rubio investigate a dinosaur cult called ‘The Progressives,’ in which dinosaurs strive to connect with their primitive  side even though they grew up as human as possible to fit into society at large. ‘Progress’ entails becoming more of a natural dinosaur. The problem is not this philosophy, but when the Progressive leaders take it to the extreme.

Anonymous Rex The TV movie Anonymous Rex was based on the Casual Rex novel, and not the Anonymous Rex book. The movie plot is similar to Casual Rex but the core conspiracy was at a much smaller scale in the film.  The movie adds a daughter (Stephanie Lemelin) for Ernie Watson (Daniel Baldwin) who is mostly there to get rescued. Vincent Rubio is a much more likeable character (being Sam Trammell helps of course). The book has two amusing subplots sadly missing from the movie: an investigation for the detectives’ landlord and a great costume maker/drag queen called Jules that I would have loved to see in the movie. Both the book and the movie deal with Vincent’s ambiguity towards the ‘Progressive’ cult ideas. Something refreshingly toned down in the movie was the constant intolerance towards humans and ‘lesser’ dinos- Compys being the lowest of the low- it made Rubio that much more unlikeable. Another problem with the book is that some of its humor is dated.

The second book, Anonymous Rex, is definitely the best of the trio. If you read just one book in the Rex series, make it this one. The story is about Vincent Rubio hitting rock bottom: bereft of a partner, doing herbs, and not being able to get out of debt because the agency isn’t taking on enough jobs. He had recently been thrown out of the local Council, which unlike the movie, doesn’t play Mahjong to make decisions- they fight it out (sometimes literally). He manages to land a job at a big detective agency, Trutel, and while investigating the case of a nightclub fire, finds it links back to what happened to his old partner.  This book covers more dinosaur idiosyncrasies like how they get hospital care without blowing their cover, the taboo world of sex with humans, how dinos procreate, and black market guises.

The third book, Hot and Sweaty Rex: A Dinosaur Mafia Mystery, is about a recovering herbaholic detective Rubio who finds himself enmeshed in a mafia war between Velociraptors and Hadrosaurs down in South Florida. Rubio is coerced into working for the Tallarico (Velociraptor) family. In this case he’s working with Glenda Wetzel, a Hadrosaur, previously introduced in the series as a detective friend.  To complicate matters, Vincent is friends with the Hadrosaur family boss. (This book is where the Anonymous Rex movie gets its Mahjong idea- it’s what the Raptor mobsters play.) I’m not into mafia books or films so I’m  biased here but I found the story quite boring. It is definitely the weakest of the three for me, although it had its fun moments.

Summing up, I would recommend seeing the Anonymous Rex movie and the Anonymous Rex book for campy fun. Read Casual Rex if you want more of partner Ernie Watson and dinosaur alt-history, and skip Hot and Sweaty Rex unless you really like your mob stories.

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‘Repo Men’ the Movie Compared to the Book ‘Repossession Mambo’

The Repo Men film is a dark, at times comedic dystopia with plenty of action and tension. Essentially it is about a Credit Union repo man –the kind that takes your car if you don’t make your payments– except instead of cars, he repossesses artificial organs (artiforgs), almost always killing the client in the process. It is gruesome -at times qualifying as torture porn- and definitely earns its R rating. It is great popcorn fun and I really enjoyed it; you will too if you have the stomach for it.

The book was written by Eric García (Anonymous Rex trilogy) and the screenplay by García and Garrett Lerner (John Doe, Smallville, Roswell). Besides García, there are other Latinos in this production:  director Miguel Sapochnik, cinematographer Enrique Chediak, and supporting actress Alice Braga (I Am Legend). There are other Latinos in the cast and crew. For example, John Leguizamo is in it, although we’ll have to wait for the DVD because his main scene was cut and you barely get a glimpse of him in the movie. He plays Asbury, a black market artiforg dealer. All in all, lots of Latino love in this film. Just listen to the musical intro! Of course Forest Whitaker, Jude Law, and Liev Schreiber help make the movie first-rate.  Law plays the main character Remy and Law’s son Raff plays young Remy. And for NBC’s Community fans (like me), there is a nice surprise! The casting was perfect all around. There were no weak links among the actors.

Overall, the movie is faithful to the book. Even the name change to Repo Men is redeemed. Speaking of names, in the book the main character had none. So, according to the book’s Author’s Note, screenwriter Garrett gave him a name based on ‘Repo Man,’ RM, or Remy for reference. The name isn’t used in the movie  (unless it’s in a deleted scene). Jude Law is credited as Remy though. Here are some differences between the book and movie:

  • The repo men tattoos in the book are dark circles with golden arrows running through it; in the movie they’re Union logos with stripes underneath according to rank.
  • The endings were very different. I’m not spoiling this bit, but let me say that they are both interesting endings, and I’m not sure which one I like better.
  • [SPOILER] In the movie, Remy is married and lives with his wife Carol and little boy Peter. He is a likeable anti-hero. The book Remy is divorced four times and is arrogant in his repo man status. He is married to his fifth wife Wendy. His one good feature is his relationship with his son Peter, a college student (son of third wife Melinda), even though he manages to frak that up too.
  • [SPOILER] The one adaptation I was totally bummed about: in the book, a woman called Bonnie finds Remy and goes on the run with him. Bonnie is badass and more interesting than her movie counterpart Beth, who needs to be “saved.” (In the book, ‘Beth’ was the name of the first wife, a prostitute who couldn’t be bothered to switch careers once married. This Beth is unrelated to movie Beth.) In the movie, Remy finds a drugged-out woman in hiding called Beth, helps her detox, and wants to save her. In the book, the woman he finds hiding out is someone else entirely, and it’s the most dramatic point of the novel. The screenplay watered down the female costar and that dramatic moment.
  • [SPOILER] The four times Remy became unconscious according to the movie: tank test during soldier training, a bar fight, defibrillator accident with songwriter T-Bone, and botched repo job. In the book: tank test; attacked by two “beefy” guys he interrupted at the Red Light District while searching for his prostitute wife Beth; misuse of ether on first solo job, and defibrillator accident with kid show actor Captain K.

I liked the movie more than the book it’s based on, Repossession Mambo (itself based on the short story The Telltale Pancreas)  although they both have pros and cons. The best feature of the movie over the book is the stripping of excessive wives and soldier back story. The storytelling is linear and straightforward. The book jumps to different times and characters, symbolizing Remy’s fragmented view of the world. It’s not as easy to grasp as the movie. Plus action sequences do much better visually, especially an awesome hallway fight scene that’s not in the book. The movie soundtrack is excellent, by the way. The best feature of the book over the movie is the expanded artiforg, supply house, and Credit Union history. Also, the female lead is stronger in the book and you get a better sense of Remy’s thought process- something that’s hard to do with a movie script.

If you liked the book, you will definitely like the movie. If you liked the movie, you might want to read the book for its extra details and character development. The jumping around in the plot won’t be a problem if you know most of the story already. On the other hand, reading the book first might be confusing. To sum up, it’s a great story of a scary future that just might be ours.

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