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The Company Man Paperback – April 11, 2011
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[A] gritty crime thriller' SUN --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Robert Jackson Bennett was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, the Sydney J. Bounds Award, and an Edgar Award, he is the author of the novels Mr. Shivers, The Company Man, The Troupe, and American Elsewhere. Find out more about the author at www.robertjacksonbennett.com.
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It is a science fiction of a different bent. A combination of SCI FI, gritty noir, and almost steampunk. It takes place around 1920 on the west coast of American in a city fueled by fantastic technologies but mired in poverty and dark secrets. While this is an alternate history story, it is written a lot like the old 1930's and 40's SCI FI, social philosophy, and detective novels/movies many of us grew up on. The story has a nostalgic feeling that is overshadowed with knowledge from today. The reader finds herself sometimes a step ahead of the book's characters based on what we know today, but then deliciously falls behind the characters' understanding as the plot progresses and new twists unfold.
The three main characters in the book are very intelligent and special. They are definitely a product of their times. They exhibit what I would call an old fashion sense of honor and romantic vision, while still fighting their own internal demons. The main character of the three (though all are dominant to the story) is uniquely gifted and terribly tortured by this gift. The secondary characters are of course less resolved, but still distinct. And the bad guys have many grey edges.
The plot is convoluted but never confusing. While I figured out where some things were headed, I still found myself surprised and happily confounded. There are internal and external battles, moments of great sadness, horror, and death, but also a theme of strong friendships, duty, honor. And Mr Bennett's poetic style of writing, his beautifully descriptive prose, overlays wonderfully over the entire setting. I won't forget this book, these characters, this city, or this world any time soon.
A different but fantastic read. I loved it.
I had not heard of this author before, but now I will go and find some more of his work and download it to my queue on my phone - maybe even jump straight to something of his next instead of moving on to the book that is currently on top of my queue.
The action takes place in Evesdon, the Company's home city on the ocean somewhere in the American northwest. Hayes has been investigating a murder with the local police that may or may not be union-related. Things move slowly until eleven more Company employees, all union activists, are mysteriously murdered on a subway car. Hayes is then provided with an assistant in order to get to the bottom of it all before the Company gets blamed.
This book is a real "film noir" story, moving slowly but inexorably toward the end. You'll need some patience as story parts are brought to the fore, set aside, and revisited as the book goes on, but the patience is worthwhile.
Since the late 1800s, the McNaughton Corporation has provided incredible technological wonders to the world, the source of which is quite mysterious, and the wonders are much more advanced than anything in our own timeline in the 1920s (for example, at one point early in the novel there is a failed attempt at launching an orbital vehicle). These miraculous inventions, and their source, become key to the story as Hayes attempts to get to the story behind the story that his bosses are throwing at him. The various subplots all come together nicely by the time Hayes and the reader figure out what's really happening here.
The city of Evesdon reminds me a little of New Crobuzon from "Perdido Street Station" in terms of all of the nooks and crannies and history and differing people within the city. This "shining metropolis" that is supposed to be the showcase for the McNaughton Corporation is, of course, anything but. Just as most cities have a dirty underside, Evesdon surpasses that with many levels of dirty underside, both literally and figuratively. Indeed, the city itself plays as large a part in this novel as any of the main characters.
Bennett has fleshed out a nice piece of universe in this story. I'm hoping he revisits it at some point.
This isn't precisely a happy story (as befits something described as 'noir'), and it's not a romantic story. Both of which I am very grateful for, but some people might be disappointed.