A kick-ass heroine, disturbing vision of the future and a twisty plot are the key ingredients of this gripping sci-fi thriller.
Oh Company Town, you nearly broke me. I was expecting an engrossing sci-fi action thriller with a kick ass protagonist, I was not expecting the emotional hit of lead character Hwa’s back story. I don’t want to give too much away but it totally blind sided me. It’s nearly a week since I finished reading the book and it’s still with me.
I love a good kick ass heroine and Hwa of Company Town is one of the best. In a world where nearly everyone has “edited” away their imperfections, she’s one of the few entirely organic people left. Hwa has Sturge-Weber syndrome and because of that has a vascular birthmark running down one side of her face and body. She lives with the constant threat of seizures but her “stain” also messes with surveillance cameras and people’s enhanced vision meaning that her face is rarely truly seen. She’s working for the Union as a body guard for sex workers when she’s hired by the Lynch family who’ve recently bought the town sized oil rig where she lives. Their youngest member, Joel Lynch, is receiving death threats but when Hwa’s friends are targeted by a serial killer she has to balance her job with trying to catch a murderer.
Ashby’s future is particularly disturbing because it doesn’t seem so far fetched. There are people who want to live forever, endless surveillance, bodily enhancements like “muscle regimes”, one of which comics fans may enjoy seeing is called “Liefeld” and food subscription services for those who can afford them. It’s a fantastic read. Oh and I loved Dr Mantis the AI medic with his six limbs and attempts at a bedside manner.
Hwa is so kick ass, she is steely and resourceful and I wish this book wasn’t a stand alone because I’d really like to read more of her. In the acknowledgements Ashby says that she has published two stories set in the same world in different anthologies and I hope to track those down soon. There’s also a Company Town playlist if you want to check it out. It’s the first of Ashby’s books that I’ve read, which in hindsight is sad as I already own vN. I want to read that this year.
Company Town by Madeline Ashby is published on May 17th.
Disclaimer – I received a digital galley of Company Town in return for an honest review.