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Company Town Hardcover – May 17, 2016
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"Elegant, cruel, and brutally perfect, Company Town is a prize of a novel."
--Mira Grant, New York Times Bestselling and Hugo-Award nominated author of the Newsflesh series
"This is brave, bold, crazy storytelling at the edge and doesn't read like anything else I've seen up or down the pike. I don't even know where she gets these ideas, but I hope she keeps getting them and writing the stories that result."
--Chuck Wendig, New York Times bestselling author of the Miriam Black Series
"A brilliant and chilling look at our post-oil future. I haven't been this hooked by an SF novel for ages."--
Charlie Stross, author of Empire Games
"The world is an updated version of Raymond Chandler's, with gray morals and broken characters, and Hwa's internal monologue has just the right balance of introspection and wit...[a] very solid page-turner."
"The skill with which Ashby introduces her various SF elements is worthy of the best Heinlein....Company Town never falters in its pacing. It's a terrific ride." --Locus
"I'm an immense fan of Ashby's work...It is often profound, and it is never boring." ―Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
About the Author
MADELINE ASHBY is a science fiction writer, strategic foresight consultant, anime fan, and expat. Her debut series about killer robots included vN and the sequel, iD. Her essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9.com, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity, and Tor.com. Since late 2014, she has been a regular columnist for the Ottawa Citizen.
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Top Customer Reviews
While the premise, as I’ve laid it out, seems “normal” and prosaic, Ms. Ashby makes it anything but. Hwa is a phenomenon in herself. While most of her upbringing has done its utmost to teach her not to value herself, she has pushed back and will suffer no fools. While she doesn’t see her own value as she might, she is no doormat. Yes, as part of her job, she kicks butt and asks questions later, but it is her ability to put the puzzle together, to think through the challenges put before her that set her apart. Her relationships between her family (in the form of a prostitute mother and a dead brother), her employers (both the sex union and the Lynches) and her “under-world friends" are rich, varied and multi-dimensional. The augmented bodies around her make for a difficult world to navigate as one who still has pure and natural biology.
One of the processes that fascinates me is to see an already really good writer become an even better writer. I believe that’s happened here with Ms. Ashby’s writing. So what makes it better? It’s more accessible and draws us into caring more about the characters and relationships while remaining edgy and holding no punches. How is this magic achieved? At least for me, I found myself more able to empathize with Hwa than I ever did with Amy, Charlotte or even Javier in her previous Machine Dynasty duology (vN and iD). While her characters there were rich and fascinating, they were different enough, both in capabilities and outlook, that I couldn’t empathize with them.
My life has been considerably different than Hwa’s. First, I had parents who in many different ways and forms made it quite clear to me that I was unconditionally loved. There are a few more freeing gifts than this. Second, I had a relatively comfortable middle-class life. Yet we all feel those moments of exclusion, where we feel substantially different from and, somehow, less than those around us. All, while not to her same degree, have suffered loss. Merely because she bears the stares with an insouciant shrug makes them no less painful. We take heart in seeing her network of friends. We sense the steel in our own spine stiffen when she makes clear that she suffers no fools. So while there are many differences, including physical and intellectual talents, well beyond our own among them, Hwa is someone with whom we may empathize.
Another mark of Company Town is that a mutually caring relationship takes center stage. The relationships were at best awkward, sometimes antagonistic while always complex in the Machine Dynasty duology; while the relationships between Daniel Siofra and Go Jung-hwa or Hwa and Joel are different types, they are both mutual caring relationships while remaining complex. Javier relationships with Charlotte and Amy were all too strange. While that strangeness added to the novels but distanced us from the charachters, here, we more naturally care even in the midst of the strangeness
Our vision of the world is all too often upended in both good and difficult ways. So too in the Lynches’ New Arcardia.. The “white knight” proves to be the one in need (bought that t-shirt). The broken one proves to heal many and the man in control finds his reign illusory. It’s a masterful bit of writing that pulls that off without feeling artificial and manipulative. While I know some may disagree, I love the ending; it brings things together in a beautiful but possible way without ignoring the realties that we never have a perfect world when we’re done. So is justice fully achieved? No. While we may long for “… justice [to] roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24 ESV), it will not, on this side of the grave; Company Town reflects that fallen state oh so accurately.
So, what do I love about Company Town?
•Hwa – her tenacious character who cannot fail to help others
•This world of augmentation and biological adoptions and their social implications
•The complex, multi-dimensional relationships and interactions.
•The riveting, quick-paced yet thoughtful narrative
I really can’t think of anything I didn’t like about the book; even the depiction of the seedier side of New Arcadia was intriguing.
I highly commend Company Town to you reading pleasure.
World Building: 4.5/5
When the ending begins to form at an accelerated pace relative to the rest of the novel, it feels almost like I'd engaged in a sprint to the end. Some prior plot points dropped entirely, while others seem to happen for the sake of consistency and to avoid any break for the protagonist to overcome a series of failures, it left me on a slightly sour note, as I'd been hoping for a little more depth or fallout when I realized there were barely 20 pages left.
An interesting read, but one that left me wishing I knew a little more about where it all went at the end.
This was a decent enough read: the writing style, dialogue, sense of place, action, pacing, characterization are all decent to good. Many excellently subtle pop culture references; the kind that you're not even sure they _are_ references half the time. A nice counter to books that bludgeon you to death with blunt nostalgia (hi Ready Player One.)
The world building is uneven; some good chewy cyberpunk for sure, but also some odd bits that just feel thrown in for good measure. Plus many unexplained aspects, some of which are unfortunately core to the story. Why is there an entire actual city around an oil rig? And why does a setting with nanotechnology and strong AI and robotics need humans doing manual labor? Etc.
Endings are hard but the one here feels pretty rushed and it's a detriment. What is probably intended as a standard plot twist just comes off as pointless or bewildering. Might've worked better if some characters were easier to keep track of.
All that said I definitely do not regret my purchase or time and would recommend this to someone seeking new cyberpunk or even just urban action/drama with a well written/realized female protagonist.