Company Town by Madeline Ashby
|Book Name:||Company Town|
|Publisher(s):||Tor Books (US)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Science Fiction / Mystery|
|Release Date:||May 17, 2016 (US)|
There is a lot to like about this ambitious, quick and explosive sci-fi story.
Company Town is told through the eyes of the protagonist Hwa and takes place in a city called New Arcadia. She lives in a world where almost everyone has some sort of physical or biological augmentation. People are stronger, faster, more beautiful and yet she herself has not a single augmentation, making her an oddity. Her average looks and hostile mother meant she would grow up learning self-defence instead of how to pleasure others. This combination of factors lead her to her current job – bodyguard to registered sex workers. She is good at what she does. Very good. She also cares for her charges and her physical and tactical skills end up drawing the attention of the people running the city.
The Lynch family are to New Arcadia as to the Wayne’s are to Gotham City (although newer and less liked, so maybe not). They have a large financial interest in various conglomerates and brought the city back from a state of disrepair and despair, after the explosion of an oil rig, which also took the life of Hwa’s brother. They are rep’d by Daniel, who is the first to spot/become a victim of Hwa’s martial skills and bring her into their employ. Her job is to protect the youngest Lynch son, Joel, who is being primed to take over his father’s company, despite the existence of many older siblings. When Hwa’s close friends start being gruesomely murdered by an invisible killer, she finds herself torn between using the company’s impressive resources to track the serial killer and protecting her charge.
I liked Hwa. She is clever and witty and not afraid to speak her mind. Throughout the book we see her faced with a myriad of situations and challenges that force her to discover who she is and what is most important to her.
Company Town is full of those ideas that are brilliant because of their simplicity, and engaging because not many writers can ‘go there’ and keep things plausible. The idea that the easiest, cheapest and most efficient way to kill or destroy someone in a digital age is with a computer virus, is so blindingly obvious in its simplicity that I’m surprised I’ve not seen it used more. The barman whose ocular implants allow him to scan the room and automatically queue his customers into an order of first come, first served was another of the details that made this world incredibly immersive.
The element of personal augmentations is used well. It weaves nuances of cyberpunk in the world Ashby has created. Something interesting about Hwa’s lack of augmentation was how it confused the computers that people carry, making her seem out of focus since there was no digital fingerprint to attach to. This helps the story have more detective style moments, than robotic cyborg moments, which kept things contained and tight.
I was left with a few questions. Hwa seemed to have an instant sister brother relationship with Joel, which compelled them to stick together and move the plot along, but was not really explored in its full depth. The ending was very Stephen King – completely out of left field and bizarre. It extended the scope of the book in an entirely new direction. There is definitely more to see in this world and the relationships between these characters.
Though none has been announced yet, I wonder if there is a second book is coming. If there is I will be picking it up, as this awesome sci-fi has more fresh ideas than most books three times its size.