Company Town by Madeline Ashby
Tor Books: May 17, 2016
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Free From Publisher
I’d go there again!
Full disclosure: I was going to focus on this review tonight, but I ended up spending about an hour on the phone waiting for customer service for my high-powered blender. And then a half-hour on the phone with customer service. Some of you may be familiar with this. I won’t name names until the issue is resolved. BUT. This is to let you know that my review may not be … as focused as it might have been otherwise.
Second pre-review note: Jaclyn reviewed this one earlier this week, read her take here. (Hint: she liked it more. She also thought more about the ideas the author explores in the novel).
Right. So I’m reviewing Company Town, which felt very Windswept by Adam Rakusa at the beginning, with a futuristic, unionized town that doesn’t quite fit into our world as we know it. This time, the union is a sex worker’s union – which reminds me, the whole book feels very Canadian. References to cultural things I became familiar with when I lived there, including a progressive attitude toward sex workers and a reference to a “cup” – which many Canadian women, probably a few American women (as in from the United States) will recognize. It’s also obviously set in Canada, but it’s the other details that make it so Canadian.
I really liked the main character. Bit of an outcast, certainly out of place in a world full of human gene modifications and babies made Gattaca-style, Hwa is a young woman born with a condition that causes disfigurement and epilepsy, among other symptoms. She’s an amazing fighter, through hard work and dedication, since she has no physical advantage. She’s also clever, even though she has almost no formal education.
The way she and the hero – though he’s not really a hero, he’s almost a secondary character – meet, it’s obvious they’re going to start something. She attacks him, gets tasered by the police, he tries to defend her even though she attacked him… but there’s a lot going on behind the curtain, and over the course of the novel, Hwa comes closer to understanding what that is. As I mentioned in my aside, now that it’s done, it seems to me as though the hero almost had a backseat role. I’m not complaining, because I liked the 80% focus on Hwa. The romance itself was mostly satisfying, except for the ending, which was a little weird.
That brings me to the ending. The climax, the denouement, when Hwa figures out the sly manipulative corporate leader’s plan, was too vague for me. I found it difficult to follow what exactly was going on as it was happening. That’s always frustrating. And then at the very end, the resolution to a lot of the conflicts seemed simplistic. Again, without a lot of detail, but this time it was easy to tell what had happened. And, I feel like all the issues of identity and humanity the author explores (again, see Jaclyn’s post for more details), were sort of… deflated by the ending. They didn’t come together for me.
Still. With all that, it was a fun, exciting and fast-paced read with deeply likeable characters. Especially the protegee, the magnate’s youngest son, who is clever and insightful as well as troubled and naive. Fans of science fiction set in corporate futures and science fiction with a dash of romance will likely enjoy this one, and I recommend it.
P.S. I know you’re dying to know, the blender issue was resolved, most satisfactorily.
The one that immediately comes to mind is Windswept by Adam Rakusa (mentioned above). The heroine works for a union on a dying platform, waiting for her opportunity to retire and getting involved in all sorts of messes along the way.
Another science fiction romance with suspense and excitement is Archetype Prototype by M.D. Waters. Futuristic, exploring issues of cloning, it has more romance to it than either Company Town or Windswept. And comes highly recommended by yours truly. Prototype is first in the series.