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Company Town

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Meet Hwa. One of the few in her community to forego bio-engineered enhancements, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig. But she’s an expert in the arts of self-defence, and she’s been charged with training the Family’s youngest, who has been receiving death threats – seemingly from another timeline.

Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city’s stability – serial killer? Or something much, much worse...?

285 pages, Hardcover

First published May 17, 2016

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About the author

Madeline Ashby

52 books436 followers
Madeline Ashby is a science fiction writer and strategic foresight consultant living in Toronto. She has been writing fiction since she was about thirteen years old. (Before that, she recited all her stories aloud, with funny voices and everything.) Her fiction has appeared in Nature, Tesseracts, Escape Pod, FLURB, the Shine Anthology, and elsewhere. Her non-fiction has appeared at BoingBoing.net, io9.com, Tor.com, Online Fandom, and WorldChanging. She is a member of the Cecil Street Irregulars, one of Toronto's oldest genre writers' workshops. She holds a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (her thesis was on anime, fan culture, and cyborg theory) and a M.Des. in strategic foresight & innovation (her project was on the future of border security). Currently, she is represented by Monica Pacheco of Anne McDermid & Associates.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 883 reviews
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,966 followers
February 10, 2017
Reading this is like going through my own personal evolution, one story stage at a time. :)

I had to throw out practically all of my expectations at different stages of the novel. Hell, I even thought this was going to be a YA-ish SF, but no, it's a lot more than meets the eye.

It starts out as a biology-twist to a cyberpunk premise, where the biology-only character, Hwa, is an anomaly to all the tech around her. :) Turn her into a bodyguard, have her look into strange murders, and then, above all, keep adding new SF concepts... and the tale fleshes out into something almost unique. It's definitely quite beautiful and strange.

It touches upon beauty and the theme of always putting in extra effort, which I really enjoyed, and the twists are truly fun. :)

Family dynasties, indeed. :)

I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep my eye open for now on for more of this author's work. :)

Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
722 reviews1,400 followers
August 17, 2017
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sadly, I wasn't impressed with Company Town. I've been looking forward to this book for about 2 years and it turned out to be not really the type of story I enjoy these days, and it had problems with pacing and transitions and overall knitting the story parts together.

Hwa is a half-Korean woman who works as a bodyguard. She was born with a syndrome that leaves her with a disfigured face, a large birthmark stain, and a tendency for seizures. She is also a rare person who hasn't been gene-tweaked or augmented with implants: she's all organic and can't be hacked. Because of this, Hwa is offered a job protecting a rich, powerful man's teenage son Joel who has been receiving death threats. Then, Hwa's friends from the sex worker union start showing up dead, and Hwa is trying to figure out whether she, Joel, or the women are the real intended targets...

This story was a mishmash of Hwa's bodyguard job and the serial killer plot, and it never 100% gelled for me. I was *thoroughly* confused by the final few chapters, the reveal of the bad guy, and the overall resolution. I had to use the search function on my Kindle to find where the bad guy was first mentioned, because I couldn't remember who he was...and I read most of this book in a single afternoon.

I feel like Company Town has a great gritty setting, interesting points about organic versus augmented bodies, and such potential for the characters of Hwa and Daniel Siofra. But it was all let down by an unbalanced story with choppy, predictable story beats. Scenes sometimes cut away so abruptly that I thought I had accidentally skipped a page or a paragraph was missing. And as I mentioned, the final few chapters were flat out confusing to me, and what actually happened to certain characters was easy to miss.

So, in summary, this book started out as a very enjoyable (if not amazing) read, I really became immersed in the middle section, but by the end I felt vaguely disappointed.
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews185 followers
July 9, 2018
Company Town is a very busy and insanely ambitious novel. It stuffs about a dozen different hot button SFnal concepts - each one usually enough to support a story on its own - into a whacked out futuristic serial killer thriller. The world-building in Company Town is so mind-blowingly dense it literally burrows its way into the characters' bodies and hollows them out from the inside. I don't know how to describe what a crazy mess this book is and still convince you to read it; the plotting is so frantic and loopy it constantly feels like it's trying (and failing) to get out of its own way; the last act reads like the entire science fiction genre is having a panic attack. It's like the author set out to write a good old-fashioned crackerjack story but couldn't stop sledgehammering every page with her id. The fact that it doesn't quite live up to its ambitions is more a testament to the sheer moxy of its ambitions than to its shortcomings. A must-read for SF fans, even if reactions to it are likely to be polarizing.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
May 25, 2016
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/05/25/...

I was so excited to finally get my hands on Company Town, a book which had been on my to-read list for years going back to the days since it was first announced by Angry Robot. While the original publisher’s sale followed by the novel’s move to Tor resulted in a significant delay for its release, I have to say the wait was absolutely worth it. I was already a fan of the author, having read her seriously imaginative and seriously twisted novel vN set in an age of self-replicating synthetic humans, but with Company Town Madeline Ashby delivers a whole other level of storytelling genius.

The book takes place in New Arcadia, a city of floating towers surrounding a dilapidated oil rig in the North Atlantic just off the east coast of Canada. Three years after a major accident shook up its residents, new life has returned to town in the form of Zachariah Lynch, patriarch of a wealthy family of energy barons who buys up the place and begins development of an alternative reactor under the waves.

Our protagonist Go Jung-Hwa works as a bodyguard for the United Sex Workers of Canada, accompanying her charges to appointments with their clients. The sex trade may be a highly regulated industry in New Arcadia, but that doesn’t mean the girls don’t need protection. Because Hwa was born with Sturge-Weber Syndrome, her mother deemed it “a waste” to invest in any augmentations for her daughter, so as a result, Hwa is one of the few people in the city completely free of bio-engineered enhancements. In spite of this, she is adept at self-defense and is no stranger to getting into scraps, making her very good at her job.

Eventually, her talents come to the attention of Zachariah Lynch himself, whose fifteen-year-old heir Joel has been receiving death threats. Taking an immediate liking to the kid, Hwa agrees to work for the Lynches, becoming Joel’s personal bodyguard. However, her sudden career change could not have come at a worse time. Women from around town, all sex workers and Hwa’s old friends, are turning up murdered. The timing of these incidences are just way too uncanny to be coincidental, making Hwa wonder if the killings and the threats against Joel might be all related.

This was a highly addictive read, literally a book I couldn’t put down. I kept making excuses for myself not to stop reading (“Sleep? Who needs sleep?”), and as a result I ended up finishing this over two or three sessions in a little more than a day. I enjoyed everything about this novel, from the phenomenal world-building to the irresistible mystery surrounding the story. I also found the characters likeable, especially the protagonist Hwa, whose personality was positively magnetic. She’s definitely not one to hide her feelings about her condition and the associated port-wine stain on her face, wearing her fears and insecurity on her sleeve. However, she is also emotionally and physically strong, having weathered all kinds of challenges on her own without any help. Knowing that she’s different and living with a disorder that could incapacitate her anytime has not slowed her down. She’s a character you can sympathize with but not pity, someone whose self-doubt does not inhibit her from doing what she knows is best for herself. Despite having a rough life, she can still see the humor in things, as well as the good in people. It is this that ultimately leads her to accept the job protecting Joel Lynch, who is nothing like the “rich kid” stereotype. His personality appealed to me immediately as well, winning me over with earnest charm and innocence.

Then there was Daniel Síofra. Mere words cannot describe how much I love this character! As head of Joel’s security detail, he’s also Hwa’s boss. There’s actually a thread of romance here that took me by surprise; it is not strong nor is it a big part of the story, but nevertheless it’s one of the most satisfying romance arcs I have ever read. That incredibly intense moment where Hwa finally opens up emotionally to Síofra, the first time she has ever done that with anybody, practically had me melting into a puddle on the floor.

But while characterization was by far the strongest point, the story didn’t disappoint either. Sure, at times there was a bit too much going on, and I’m still trying to sort out my feelings about the ending (which had a mind-blowing twist!), but overall there’s no denying the allure of this mystery. The suspense was what kept me reading long into the night.

All told, I loved this book and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to fans of futuristic sci-fi and mystery. Hwa’s not your typical sleuth but she’s brilliant and accomplished in her own way, protecting those who can’t defend themselves. A fascinating setting along with an amazing cast of characters made Company Town an unforgettable read.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
June 29, 2016
With this book and Lavie Tidhar's 'Central Station' (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) coming out, I feel like cyberpunk is making a bit of a comeback! (And that makes me happy!)

A version of a segment of this story was previously published in the 'Upgraded' (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) anthology as 'Come From Away'. I wrote: "I suspect this ‘story’ is actually an opening to Ashby’s upcoming novel, ‘Company Town’ – the blurb and character names match. I look forward to reading the full book!"
As it turns out, it's not actually the opening segment, but as I suspected, it works better in context than as a stand-alone bit.

The 'Company Town' here is a Canadian off-shore rig. (Its isolation gives the setting a lot in common with a lot of sci-fi set on spaceships - it has that kind of 'feel.') After a disastrous explosion a couple of years ago, the economy of the town is teetering and it's just been wholly bought by a new corporation. The inhabitants are unsure of what the future will bring: mass layoffs? New social policies? An upturn or a downturn?

Our protagonist, Hwa, is one of those nervous about her future. She works as a bodyguard for escorts' outcalls, and as such is a member of the sex workers' union. Social changes could very well jeopardize her job. And indeed, her job does change - but what happens is wholly unexpected: she's offered a position as private bodyguard to the young heir to the company who's bought the settlement. This is no cushy job, though. The boy has reportedly been receiving death threats, and Hwa is unable to tell how much of the danger is his eccentric-billionaire father's paranoia, and how much is legitimate.

In her new position, Hwa has access to privileged information. She discovers some disturbing things about the plans that are in store for her community. At the same time, her old friends start being murdered. As she tries to do what she can to help, and solve the mystery, her loyalties are questioned - and stretched, as she finds herself having to question everyone else's loyalties as well. She cares about her old clients - but she also believes she's found a kindred spirit in one of her new co-workers, the appealing Daniel Siofra.

The story is a nice, action-oriented tale with an engaging mystery - but the characters also have a decent amount of complexity. Hwa is a badass, tough bitch, but she's not infallible, and not without her flaws. Her issues are all believably rendered. I also really liked how the society was drawn; with all the ramifications of artificial augmentation becoming common, and how the new tech affects how people interact. There were a few pop-culture references that felt a bit jarring (will the 'Terminator' still be popular in a couple hundred years?) but overall, I thought the book was excellent.

Many thanks to Tor & NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinion is solely my own.
Profile Image for David.
659 reviews316 followers
May 23, 2017
Company Town is the story of Go Jung-Hwa, the half-Korean, all Newfie daughter of an embittered ex K-Pop star working as a bodyguard for the sex workers’ union, on an oil rig city off the coast of Newfoundland. Whew - that was enough to sell me.

Hwa suffers from Sturge-Weber Syndrome that leaves her with a port-wine stain across her face and body as well as leaving her prone to seizures. Most would have had the necessary implants to cure the disease but she’s financially unable. Instead, as a purely organic, non-augmented human she’s essentially un-hackable which proves beneficial when she’s tasked with being the bodyguard to the young scion of a powerful tycoon that has essentially purchased the city Hwa lives in.

This is the definition of a page turner. Perfectly engineered to an almost insidious level to promote late night, “Just one more chapter” consumption. Ashby drops some serious beats throughout the story and pushes you right through till the end. Hits all the right sci-fi notes for me.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,132 reviews309 followers
August 27, 2016
Hwa is an enigma in that she is one of the only fully organic, or non-enhanced people living in New Arcadia, a town on an oil rig in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. She is poor, and her face and body is marked with a stain that makes her both stand out and invisible at the same time in an era where almost anything can be fixed by implants and enhancements. But when the town of New Arcadia is sold and the town becomes the property of the Lynch family, it turns out that Hwa is just what they want in a bodyguard for their youngest member and heir.

It takes a bit of convincing for Hwa to leave her job as protection for union members of the United Sex Workers of Canada out on assignment, but eventually she agrees to become the personal bodyguard and trainer for fifteen year old Joel Lynch. The job seems straightforward until she learns that Joel has been receiving death threats, and that his father wants to keep that information from Joel. Things become even more complicated when, in addition to everything else, one of the women Hwa knew from her former job turns up dead, and Hwa starts to wonder if she made a mistake taking the job after all.

Ashby has created a wonderfully rich world filled with future tech as a setting for a tightly paced murder mystery. On another level, however, this story is as much about the relationships between people and the bonds that they form. Hwa is the epitome of strength but at the same time so fragile. Her character's journey is profoundly personal, yet never feels overwrought.

This is a book that is complicated and takes some time to think about, but ultimately I found it very rewarding.
Profile Image for Aaron.
205 reviews21 followers
April 16, 2016
I'm of two minds. Ashby's ideas are potent and her worldview is fascinating, frequently ripping free of the page and lodging in the back of my head—but there's an issue with the connective tissue of this book, and that issue grows to the point where it threatens to swallow the good. Fortunately, there's enough good to keep the ship upright, and I found myself tearing through the book because I was genuinely curious how all these disparate, discombobulating threads would somehow find their way back to a center-point. And they do, mostly. But to drill a bit further into my issue with the book: it feels, in part, like it was either underwritten and not quite fully developed, or over-edited, where the ligature that ties muscle and bone (setting and plot) to the vascular system (characters, heart, i dunno, this is a tortured metaphor) is surgically streamlined a bit too far. So there are frequent but not entirely consistent stretches of abrupt plotting and brevity of description; similarly, there's a fascinating and well-drawn main character (a young Korean girl who suffers from an all too real neurological and skin condition called Sturge-Weber syndrome, which effectively disfigures her and dictates her worldview) who frustratingly vacillates between making careful observations about the world and her place in it only to spout action movie cliches a few pages later; and then there's the ever-dreamy love interest, who is literally perfect looking, but also beautiful inside because wish fulfillment. Because the narrative is stretched a bit thin, we have to pay particular attention to character's names—everyone who appears is important in some way, and they often reappear with no reintroduction. I actually prefer that Ashby doesn't care about holding the reader's hand, and she's also not afraid to disorient us through chapters that shift to hallucinogenic dream pieces several times throughout the book. It is a bit jarring when we jump from a YA-feeling martial arts battle to some hard-noir serial killer murder mystery stuff, just as the science fiction-y technological feel of the book leaps from the humdrum cyberpunk day-to-day living in a random Canadian city divided into towers of varying technology... to supreme hard-SF replete with time-shifting, parallel-universe existential madness... But those are the ideas Ashby wields best, the poles of these various genres, and that's why this thing is ultimately so much damn fun despite the issues mentioned above. I'm curious to see where Ashby goes next.
Profile Image for Yodamom.
1,989 reviews194 followers
June 24, 2017
I am not going to tell you anything about the book. I read it blind on a recommendation and think it was better for it. it you enjoy science fiction with intense action and mystery give it a go.
I really enjoyed this unique little science fiction read. Great characters, a world that was fresh and exciting, and a mystery that I didn't figure out till it was revealed. The relationships each of the character had with each other was so different it was a touch off putting at first but soon became normal for this world in my mind. This would make a fabulous movie, it was so visually written.
The story is filled with twists and turns that I didn't even know where twists till towards the end. When it was finally pieced together I was practically a drooling bag of goo from the intensity or the actions that lead to that point. Seriously I did get hot and a touch sweaty on the brow. I wish there was a book 2 I could see a future worth knowing at the end.
Okay the author is a foodie, a glorious one too. She mentioned Cioppino and Fainting Iman, the first is my # Fav food the second I'll be making very soon. So I loved her book and her taste in food , double winner. Yep, she is going on my must read author list.
Profile Image for Basia.
193 reviews55 followers
February 7, 2017
A most addictive read!

My goodness, where do I BEGIN with THIS precious little find?! I can honestly say that I picked up this book mostly because I presumed--how wrong I was!--that this would be a short, quick, simple read. And then it started to become crystal clear that this is instead a pretty sophisticated tale, one with so many wonderful levels to the story!

At its heart, I guess it's a sci fi/Steampunk mystery, and holy s@?#!, it's a good one! But it's so far from the average one we might pick up these days. Hwa, the protagonist, is BRILLIANT! She's tough, strong, damaged, imperfect, and doesn't care whether you judge her. Joel is another great character. I enjoyed their interactions with each other, and with Daniel, and the sex workers.

The mystery is a compelling one, as is the setting. I recommended this with all my heart. However, I do urge you to clear your schedule first. I am still reeling from the book.

Oh, what a great book this was!

I want to note that I read half of the book on my Kindle, but the other half I listened to. It took me a chapter or so to get used to the woman who narrated, but once I did, I enjoyed how she made it all come to life.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,593 reviews191 followers
February 6, 2017
When I first saw the industrial grunginess of the image on the cover for this book, I knew I had to read it. When I finally got my hands on the book, I was not disappointed. I had read Madeleine Ashby's vN so I knew I'd be in for something different and possibly strange. This book was filled with characters and moments that could have gone one way, but the author chose to handle in an interesting and at times, unsentimental way.
The main character, whom I fell in love with, Go Jung-Hwa, is a half-Korean young woman working as a guard for sex workers on a floating city, New Arcadia, off an oil rig off Newfoundland, Canada. (When I found that out the story takes place in Atlantic Canada, I was pleasantly surprised.) New Arcadia is not in good economic shape, especially after an accident there three years earlier, that also claimed the life of Hwa's brother.
The population on New Arcadia all have a variety of augmentations that repair and decorate the bodies of the individuals, that is, except for Hwa. Hwa suffers from a neurological disorder (Sturge-Weber Syndrome) that makes her prone to seizures, affects her eyesight, and caused a port-wine stain over part of her face. Because of her disorder, Hwa's mother felt that her daugher did not merit any augmentations, and has also spent years emotionally abusing Hwa.
Hwa does not feel sorry for herself, and has worked hard to become a competent bodyguard and self-defence teacher for the sex workers.
Enter Zachariah Lynch, an extremely wealthy and very old man, and head of a highly profitable company that had purchased New Arcadia. Zachariah also has children, one of whom, Joel, he's been grooming to take over the company. Through an altercation with his chief of security, Daniel Siofra, Hwa comes to Zachariah's notice, who ends up employing her to guard his son.
There are so many things I loved about this book: the setting, the weirdness and variety of augmentations amongst the populace, the mystery that unfurls over the course of the book, but mostly, there are three aspects of the book that pushed this book from like into love for me:
1) Hwa: her strength, her lack of sentimentality, her caring, and her ability to fight.
2) The friendship and respect between Hwa and Joel.
3) The romance between Hwa and Daniel; it is subtle, and grows slowly and believably, and is based on respect.
I know this is a standalone story, but I really wanted to see more of these three characters.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,463 reviews9,617 followers
April 20, 2016
MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List

I absolutely loved this book! It was not what I thought it was going to be, it was even better! The first line of the book got me right off the bat!

Hwa wondered if today was the day should would finally get to finish that sorry son of a bitch once and for all.

In the beginning we meet Hwa, she is a bodyguard to the prostitutes on the rig. She makes sure nothing happens to them. Okay, I might have to put in some mild spoilers

Hwa, along with many other people, live on an off shore oil rig. There are a lot of them around and they have been bought out by the Lynch Company after the last rig blew up. Yay, not! At one point she is contacted by Daniel Siofra after a little run in they have. His boss, the big man, Zachariah Lynch, wants her to come and work for the company guarding Zachariah's son Joel.

Hwa decides to take on the job and she has to go to school/class with him. Basically everywhere she goes. Although, they do get in trouble at times talking during class :-)

"Our company," he said. "Well, the self-assemblers our company owns. They're building another experimental thermonuclear reactor, right here. Underwater."
"Underwater." Hwa pointed at the floor. "Under this water?"
Joel nodded. "Under the city."
Hwa drew breath. "What the hell kind of James Bond villain bullshit-"

Hwa, Joel and Daniel form a bond and I love all three of them. Hwa starts teaching Joel how to fight and they all try to look after each other. But it seems there is someone coming after Hwa this time, she is always getting shot, blown up, in fights, you name it. But she's a real trooper. :-)

"Hwa? He waved a hand in front of her face.
"Are you in shock?"
"Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker."

Things are much worse than any of them thought. There are some really bad things going on and a lot of Hwa's friends are starting to get killed in VERY gruesome ways!

Also, this is a world where people can have perfect health and augmentations, all kinds of scientific stuff but Hwa never went for any of that, she is a totally organic human. It's funny reading that in the book but that is what she's called.

I thought this book was awesome and it doesn't show this is book one so I'm not sure if there are going to be more, but the end left it open in case and I REALLY hope the author writes more books in this world.

*I would like to thank Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.*
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,262 reviews222 followers
November 20, 2017
Go Jung-hwa (Hwa) is a bodyguard for sex workers in the city of New Arcadia. New Arcadia is a group of towers surrounding an old oil rig of the coast of Canada that has just been purchased by the Lynch Company. The company's owner, Zachariah Lynch wants to employ Hwa as protection for his youngest son Joel because she is free of all biotech and thus not hackable. Being without enhancement is very unusual at this point in history and Hwa's lack of it is because of a combination of a congenital birth defect (Sturge-Weber), low socioeconomic status and just plain parental abuse. Hwa strikes up a strong relationship with Joel and also with her direct supervisor Daniel Síofra, but death threats against Joel and a series of murders of women around New Arcadia make life difficult.

A lot of ideas and plot packed into a relatively short volume. We have the status of someone with medical issues in a world where that is almost unknown, let alone when they're as visible as a port-wine birthmark over much of Hwa's body. Also ubiquitous surveillance which Hwa's condition is basically in-built camouflage to, and ubiquitous visual filtering which leaves many of Hwa's acquaintances unaware of her condition. There's also the struggle of someone who has defined themselves in a position of strength despite issues like epilepsy and a history of child abuse. All on top of a bio- and cyber-tech murder mystery with strong science-fictional elements. The fact that the author pulls it all off and so well shows a really high level of skill.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jack.
Author 4 books129 followers
March 31, 2017
This review took an exceptionally long time to write, even though it's not as detailed as some of my other recent reviews. There are several reasons for this. First, work has been insane, and I've hardly had time to just sit back and relax. I'm either working, single parenting, or sleeping. Second, I had to give this one a little more thought after finishing it as I didn't really have an initial clear-cut impression of it. And, in some ways, I still don't. Third, I liked the book enough that I didn't want to half-ass the review. This book deserves more than that.

At a macro-level, this is a solid read. There's some clever science-fiction elements in play here, and the idea of a functioning town existing on what is essentially an isolated oil rig makes for a unique and fun setting. We have decent action set pieces, some well realized struggles between social classes, and there's even a bit of romance thrown in. I was generally well engaged, even if I was left confused sometimes. Overall, I felt it was a mix between the cyberpunk musings of William Gibson and the eco-techno-future of Paolo Bacigalupi. Oh, and it also came across as a treatise on eating healthy and exercising regularly.

Like, for reals yo. There are so many mentions of proper exercise forms and what kind of fats and sugars are ok to eat when you need to stay in ass-kicking shape.

This is a single POV book, written in 3rd person. Our protagonist is Go Jung-Hwa, a Korean enforcer/bodyguard for the United Sex Workers of Canada, which is essentially a unionized brothel that functions within established government regulations. As a protagonist, she's pretty well engaging. In a society heavily augmented with cybernetic implants, she is an anomaly: completely unenhanced and prone to seizures and other illnesses. There were many ways which author Madeline Ashby could have gone with the main character, but having her essentially physically vulnerable from the outset was a rare and interesting choice. In a way, it explains her adherence to a strict diet and exercise regimen. She is determined and capable, but certainly not infallible, and I found myself invested in her struggles. When a new parent company (and a VERY wealthy one at that) takes ownership of the rig town that she lives on, her entire world gets turned upside down. This affects her in multiple ways, including opening up her personality more. Once we get to know her more, we find that she's rather snarky, and there were moments of true levity with her intrapersonal interactions.

"Hwa decided that this was probably not the time to remind Lynch that she was a high-school dropout, and that while she fluent in multiple languages, her mother-tongue was cursing."

In fact, there were several genuinely funny moments peppered throughout this novel, some of which managed to completely catch me off-guard. I don't always get a sense of an author's personality through reading their works, but after reading some of the passages here, I get the feeling that Madeline and I would get along famously.

"It felt like being born, if your mother was an unfeeling machine with a pussy made of steel who didn't care if you lived or died."

At some point in time, the normally "lone wolf" Hwa gets saddled with an exclusive bodyguard job guarding the teenage son of her insanely rich employer (with some typical teenage drama), as well as a supervisor who can essentially monitor her every move, Big Brother-style. The presence of both of these individuals begins to put cracks into her façade, which is most welcome, as it starts to humanize her even further.

"Hwa shuddered. Trapped with her detail on the community floor of Tower-Two, constantly swatting away fairy-lights and standing in line for the washroom behind giggling girls whispering blowjob tips to each other was one of her visions of hell."

An anti-social bodyguard at a school dance? Seriously, that's some funny shit!

So we have a cool setting, and a main character who is engaging and motivated. And we have some wicked and sharp humor. So far so good...

But you know there's a "but..." coming, don't you?

You'd be correct. While the setting is cool, and while Hwa was someone I could root for, some of the other elements of the book just don't work as well. For instance.the technology. There's some pretty nifty ideas being floated here, some of which are even relatively scientifically sound. But some of the everyday tech, the stuff that gets mentioned the most because of how commonplace it is, just isn't explained in a way that makes sense. For example, people have filters over their eyes, which projects a different reality on their vision. Maybe they are walking down a dingy hallway, but they see it as a tree filled paradise. Or something along those lines. And people are viewed differently depending on the filters that are being used. But none of this really gets expounded on. In fact, I'm kind of going out on a limb even giving that much definition to is, as the book certainly never really defines it. It's confusing, and really never gets clarified. There's some other tech like that as well. Some stuff gets a clear definition and is written in a way that makes it make sense. Other stuff...I'm left scratching my head.

Also, some of the action scenes don't quite work. Someone is out to get Hwa, and this someone is nearly impossible to detect. But instead of just killing her (just ask Scott in Austin Powers!), this person jumps through increasingly difficult hoops in order to try and make it look like an accident. Which is entirely unnecessary, as NOBODY would know who did it if the assassination was actually accomplished. For all the high-tech shenanigans going on, the villains were generally operating like amateurs.

The TRUE villain, though, was handled decently well, even if the final threat was resolved "blink and you'll miss it" quickly.

What's interesting is that the book seems to flow better as you get further into it. The narrative is tighter, the dialogue is better, and the jokes are funnier. What I don't know is if that is because I was getting more and more used to the setting, or because the author was becoming more comfortable with her creation, the further she got along in telling the tale.

"None of the students really noticed. They were too busy miming anal on the dance floor."

So...yeah. There were things I truly enjoyed about the book, and things that left me exasperated. The whole concept is pretty unique, and Madeline Ashby gets bonus points for her humor and the unexpected twists that she integrated into the story. But the confusing or glossed over aspects really hurt my overall enjoyment (and comprehension) of the tale being told.

I will, however, look into other books by this author in the future, and that's certainly points in her favor.
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews132 followers
August 26, 2016
4.5 stars. I just really, really enjoyed this book. It's a rich world, and the heroine is an awesome, kick ass feminist. There's so much going on that summary feels daunting at the moment, but just let it be said, it's full of fantastic ideas, some real world politics, and futuristic tech.
Profile Image for Maryam.
696 reviews111 followers
October 7, 2016
Company town is a sci-fi thriller or a serial killer thriller or …. Something else, yes that’s what it is a lot of things.
it happens in a future time in Canada, Newfoundland. Like in Infomocracy the companies govern the cities but not by voting, they actually buy a city.
In this world the world is so broken and polluted all human beings need to be edited, augmented to be healthy, to be able to live a normal life. Hwa is not, she is the only organic person in this city and when new owner of city Lynch company decides to employ her as bodyguard to its future heir a series of killing starts that somehow are connected to her.
This book tries to touch a lot of different areas. A biological modified human world, a troubled family and its problem that somehow didn’t quite sit well with we as the story line proceed, a romantic relationship that to me was redundant, but well I enjoyed it enough.

Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,734 reviews649 followers
April 7, 2017
This book was highly anticipated and talked about a year before its publication. I know because I marked it early for my "to read" file. When I saw the Kindle version on sale last month, I could wait no longer. And once on my pad, I couldn't resist starting it.

Company Town is a fast, action-packed, near-time, dystopian story. It takes place on an energy rig off the east coast of Canada. Yes, it's nice to have a fresh venue for this sort of thing. Here, we are not talking about a platform but a whole complex city that has grown up around the energy production services including multiple towers and life on a number of levels.

The story is told in the third person and the focus is on Hwa, a "damaged" daughter of a sex worker who, in her early twenties, has found a niche as a martial arts expert who protects a group of sex workers as they go out and back from "dates." Part of Hwa's ongoing trauma is an explosion to "the old rig" that took place three years previously and killed her half-brother, with whom she was very close.

One of the interesting aspects of this thriller is that the world has seemingly gone oligarchical. Big corporations dominate and one of the biggest, the family run Lynch corporation, has recently acquired this "company town." This has raised a number of concerns among the guilds and unions as well as the general population because the energy production of the rig has substantially declined. Everyone wants to know what are the company's long-term intentions.

Just one more aspect of the plot before we leave it. The head of the family is now about a century old. Of all his children, it is the youngest, Joel (an adolescent), that he intends to run Lynch. He has been getting messages that Joel will not be allowed to live to carry out his father's intentions. Early in this book, Hwa catches the Lynch's attention and is offered a job protecting Joel. From there, the rest of the story plays out.

I haven't read any of Ashby's other works, but I am impressed with her world-building skills and attention to detail. She has thought out what life on a platform, out on the ocean, would be like for permanent residents. She is seemingly at ease discussing the mix of technological advancements that would make most of it possible and the kinds of personalities that would gravitate to such a life.

Peel all the layers back and you have some of the standard elements: a mystery, a lot of life-threatening action, and some romance. This book will likely rise or fall on how much you find yourself caught up in Hwa's dilemmas. As one character says to her: "You're a black swan...A wild card. Something unpredictable." As Hwa starts to question some of the assumptions she has made about herself and her job, I found myself drawn into the story and mostly satisfied with its resolution. Ashby leaves it open for further adventures, but it reads well as a single book.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,922 reviews1,258 followers
April 7, 2017
Company Town, while a book I definitely wanted to read, is not a book I had intended to read right now. This is how it came to me:

Me: *spots book on living room table, evidently purchased by Dad* You read this yet?
Dad: No.
Me: *takes book* Let me know when you want it back. *drops smoke screen*

100% accurate retelling.

I’m quite surprised this is a selection for Canada Reads. It’s very science fiction, and not literary-acceptable science fiction by a juggernaut like Margaret Atwood. Madeline Ashby name-checks concepts like the Singularity and, without going too far towards spoiler territory, includes some temporally-challenging timeline/artificial intelligence/nanomachine stuff in this book.

Trigger warning in the book for violence against women and, specifically, sex workers, and rape threats. There is a serial killer at work and some of the scenes get gruesome. I’m not going into details in this review, though.

Company Town is about twenty-two-year-old Go Jung-hwa. A high school drop-out, Hwa makes a living as a bodyguard for the United Sex Workers of Canada union members on the New Arcadia oil rig. She stands out because she is completely unaugmented in a genetic and cybernetic sense. She makes up for this with tenacity and rigorous training, tenets she intends to pass on to her charge, the fifteen-year-old son and heir apparent of the company that buys New Arcadia.

Make no mistake: though this book is set in the near future and filled with technology only now in its infancy, Company Town is about the present day in the best sense of science fiction. Ashby’s portrayal of Hwa, the sex workers she protects, and the corporate machinations that threaten the existence and stability of New Arcadia are all very real and pressing people and issues in the present day. By removing them into a hypothetical future with robots and virtual reality Ashby just has a few more degrees of freedom to explore where we might be heading as a society—and I say “we”, since this book is actually set in Canada!

One of those degrees of freedom is in Ashby’s depiction of unionized sex work. This is a hot topic right now, with several high-profile court cases happening recently in Canada. It isn’t clear specifically if sex work is legalized or decriminalized in this future (the difference is an important one to sex workers), but the point is that it’s not underground any more. That doesn’t eliminate the need for protection, as Hwa’s job at the start of the novel demonstrates—but even the positing of a future with unionized sex work is in some ways a positive move towards social justice. For all the economic oppression and violence that happens in this book, there is at least this hopeful dimension to this future.

Still, much of Hwa’s experience will seem familiar to contemporary readers. Her world still searches for clean energy solutions, and the vice of fossil fuels has continued to squeeze corporations into constructing bigger, more dangerous oil rigs that are essentially cities. These environments have their own laws, and with a new owner, new rules come into play. It’s notable that Hwa does not call the police when her former colleagues start dying: she investigates on her own, using the resources available in her new position, because she does not trust the police to protect women. And Ashby does an excellent job explaining, in a visceral way, so that male readers in particular might get an inkling of why that’s the case. In addition to the more graphic scenes, there’s a disgusting chat conversation Hwa eavesdrops on halfway through the book. While reading it, all I can think is, “this is how a lot of men talk today”. It’s how the President of the United States has talked, on record, about treating women. Company Town is set in the future, but nothing about its treatment of women is science fictional.

I love how Ashby shows Hwa’s colleagues pushing her away after she leaves the United Sex Workers to go work for Lynch, Ltd. It’s not very subtly done, but that makes it all the more potent: they see her as a traitor, a sell-out. Worse, they don’t trust her anymore, making it all the more difficult for her to help them—which is the main reason she stays with Lynch even after the job goes sideways, fast. But you really quickly understand that, in a world where everyone else is against them, trying to get something from them or possibly planning violence against them, they have to stick together. And they interpret Hwa’s action as abandonment, even if it is potentially a good decision for her on a personal level.

I also appreciate the relationship between Hwa and her charge, young Joel. Although he’s a self-described genius, he’s not annoying. He is fifteen, and it shows, both the quirky confidence fifteen-year-old boys have and the moments of excruciating self-doubt. This is amplified, of course, by his obvious responsibilities as heir to the privately-held Lynch company. But I love how he goes to bat for Hwa, how he comes to trust her and help her, and how he starts to question certain aspects of his father’s business. Their relationship feels the most real and reaffirming of all the ones in this book, in contrast to, say, Hwa’s relationship with Daniel, which I could never really place in terms of whether it was supposed to be messy romantic tension or just programmed corporate espionage.

(I also headcanon Joel as asexual. He reassures Hwa he has no desire to have sex with her. It’s true, of course, that part of Hwa’s characterization is physical disfigurement that renders her conventionally unattractive. Still, a couple of times he mentions how he finds the whole prospect of sex unpalatable, gross, perhaps “even painful.” And I’m like, “Dude, fifteen-year-old me totally gets where you’re coming from here. Stick with your generation ship designs and your VR books and science club.” So there’s that.)

If the first half of this book is our introduction to Hwa and her world, then the second half is an intense thriller and mystery. As Hwa’s involvement in the Lynch corporation’s plans for New Arcadia gets deeper and deeper, she has to question her identity and her allegiances and even her ideology about what the future should hold. It’s philosophically complex but also intense because of the physical action sequences, the detective legwork and chase scenes that Hwa participates in. For the majority of the time, I was enjoying this book at about the same level that I did vN or iD : hey, this is a cool science-fiction novel. Then a switch flipped, and I can’t quite remember where, and I realized that this book is a big deal. Like, I get now why it was chosen for Canada Reads.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Carly.
456 reviews183 followers
May 2, 2016
"A man without a past and a woman without a future."
In the future Ashby envisions, bioaugmentation has become so universal that Go Jung-Hwa, unedited and suffering from Sturge-Weber Syndrome, is effectively unique, a black swan whose interaction with the world is not fully saturated by augmented reality. Hwa is just trying to live her life, working as a bodyguard for the local sex workers' union and teaching them self-defense on the side when her duties bring her into contact with Daniel Siofra, a mysterious fixer who works directly under the man who now owns the whole town. Suddenly, Hwa finds herself tasked with protecting a vulnerable child while around her, her old start dying under horrific circumstances.

The strongest aspect of Company Town is the worldbuilding. Ashby's new future is gritty and immersive, familiar and yet imbued with an alien strangeness. The story takes place in a near-future mining town in Canada that is undergoing the same sort of rusting as so many current industrial towns. The single-product economy is on the brink of failure, and while the town's new owner/investor may bring it back to life, everyone in the town is on edge about the potential cost. However familiar the social and economic situation might be, the people themselves walk around in augmented reality, their vision tagged with identifying information of the people they see, their forms obscured and defined by virtual reality instead of physicality. Botflies--no, not those botflies; these are flying robots-- buzz around everywhere, acting as tiny and ubiquitous paparazzi. A post-human civilization seems to be just on the horizon.

The concept is fascinating and the book itself is packed with nonstop action. However, I found the plot itself rather more problematic, from the core concept to the solution of the underlying mystery. I felt that not even the basic setup could withstand cursory examination; for example, I was completely puzzled about why Hwa, hired as a bodyguard for a kid, ends up attending school with him as a fellow student rather than actually guarding him. Everyone knows what she's doing, so it's not a disguise, and having your bodyguard take classes and do homework seems a great way to keep them distracted. Outside of school, Hwa spends basically all the time on her own rather than actually guarding the kid, again without any explanation. Not only that, but Hwa herself ends up as a target, and even though her very presence puts her charge in danger, they keep her as his bodyguard, with no explanation for why anyone would keep a bodyguard who is clearly getting the body into danger rather than guarding it. Very little else about the plot could bear scrutiny, from the action scenes to the final reveal. The book is also a good example of a common device used in mysteries that I call "plot-driven obscurity," where characters withhold facts or wrap them in cryptic statements solely because doing otherwise would reveal the mystery. However, such issues aren't out of the ordinary for thrillers, and if you're in the right mood, I think they can easily be overlooked.

Plot issues aside, Company Town is an interesting story tackling some compelling issues ranging from post-human life to the politics of prostitution. Throughout, Hwa struggles to be seen--and to see herself-- as a person instead of a disorder. She also fights to come to terms with her frustratingly appearance-obsessed mother, and a culture in which people prefer to edit her out rather than see her disfigurement. Despite a few plot weaknesses, Company Town is an interesting scifi read with an interesting protagonist and a vivid vision of a near future.

~~I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Macmillan-Tor/Forge, in exchange for my honest review.~~

Cross-posted on BookLikes.
Profile Image for Stevie Kincade.
153 reviews100 followers
October 20, 2016
(Audiobook) Thank you Madeline Ashby, Thank you

Thank you for giving us a butt-kicking female protagonist we can believe in

I have read plenty of books with a great female lead. My favourite book of last year had one. I know they can be done. I was starting to feel like some kind of chauvinistic arsehole hating on all of these stories this year with a capital K Kick-arse female lead. Really though, I just hate tropes.

It was starting to feel like the biggest trope of recent genre fiction was the brainstorming session so many authors seem to have before writing:

OK my story is about a guy IN SPACE/MAGICLAND who KICKS ARSE...no no that's been done....A GIRL who KICKS ARSE. YES! And she is a "chosen one". YES! That can be the big reveal at the end...GOOD WORK!...She has amazeball skillz. YES! And she is gorgeous. I LIKE IT! All she has to do is shoot the big baddies a withering glare and they pee themselves in fright. COOL! Oh and Sass! LOTS and LOTS of sass! I THINK I'VE GOT A WINNER!

THANKFULLY Madeline Ashby has bucked this trend by giving us a wonderful character in Hwa. She is strong and complex. Deeply insecure but optimistic. She wins the heart of the reader early and hooks us into caring about her story. Sure Hwa can be a bit prickly but I was thankful that the dialogue was sharp and witty. I'm sure Ashby could make some money as a "script Doctor" improving the tired one-liners of mindless action movies. Hooray for not-terrible one liners in action scenes!

There is an intelligent feminist tone to the book I appreciated. There is a welcomingly cynical attitude towards testosterone-fuelled sexuality and body image. There is also a bit of romance that may lose Ashby some points with people who don't like that sort of thing. You know who you are! I thought the whole package was disarming and refreshing.

"Company Town" is a Science Fiction thriller. I would compare it to Dark Matter in that it is a big, fun page turner that requires some suspension of disbelief. Dark Matter has a better premise; Company Town has a better protagonist.

There is a little bit of anti-corporate sentiment:

"Is the Lynch Company not a cult? Moore asked. "Is it not a novel organisation fanatically devoted to making possible the wishes and dreams of a single figure based on his view of reality?" "It's a family business" Joel said.

Acerbic Wit:

(At her Mother's house)
Hwa spotted a Christmas card she had made in pre-Kindergarten sandwiched in between the pages of an artisanal blown-glass dildo catalogue. She decided not to mention it.

And a heavy dose of ambition. I had some minor problems following every plot detail and some motivation issues

Narrator Cecelia Kim was a good actress. She did a great job of emoting and I think she could be a very good narrator. However her accents...could use some work. Schaeffer's accent was just weird. I kind of take it for granted that an American narrator should be able to do a handful of British accents and a British narrator should be able to do a handful of American accents. The British accents here were noticeably off and I imagine if you were actually English and listening this would be quite annoying.

Overall "Company Town" was a great ride and a book I would definitely recommend.

Profile Image for Sebastian H.
403 reviews7 followers
July 15, 2016
One of the sure signs of a good novel is a "show, don't tell" attitude.

This one, unfortunately, ended up feeling more like a "don't show, don't tell".

An interesting premise that got burdened by chaotic pacing and out-of-left-field twists that, instead of surprising me, made me groan and turn back pages and pages just to see who that essential character they were now discussing... actually was.

It started promising, I guess. But as the plot thickened and the characters began to (somewhat nonsensically) parade through, a host of issues began to emerge that, eventually, dried up my enthusiasm.

Issues such as:

In short, a disappointing read.
Profile Image for Brandon.
902 reviews233 followers
February 28, 2017
Madeline Ashby’s Company Town takes place in New Arcadia, a city built atop an oil rig off the east coast of Canada. Populated by technologically-augmented humans with Newfoundland accents, the story follows Go-Jung Hwa, a bodyguard for legalized sex workers. When the rig is purchased by the affluent Lynch family, the aging patriarch approaches Hwa with a job offer - protect his fifteen year old son from a litany of death threats. Soon after she takes the job, a number of her friends from the sex trade begin to fall to the hand of a suspected serial killer. Can Hwa balance her new responsibilities alongside her quest to find and stop the person murdering her friends?

I haven’t had the chance to read a lot of fiction - especially sci-fi - that’s set in Canada, so this was a relatively fresh experience for me. Being from Cape Breton, the Newfoundland accent and dialect is in many ways similar to the one I grew up with, so seeing it written out in a novel was a bit jarring at first but only enhanced my enjoyment going forward.

Hwa, the novel’s protagonist, stands out in more ways than one. Born with Sturge-Weber disease, her body is partially “stained” (her words). Seeing as no technological modification would aid in her appearance and straddled with a low income making modifications economically impossible, Hwa is one of the only pure and organic citizens in New Arcadia. This makes her nearly undetectable by those with cybernetic enhancements thus making her role as a bodyguard the perfect fit. Her disease has left her with a wealth of insecurities which brings her down to earth and makes her a more relatable character. Don’t let that fool you completely though, she’s still a certified ass-kicker and she steals every scene she’s in.

It’s not like Hwa has it easy, either. The villains that Ashby created to put in her way were real bastards. Seeing as the identity of the serial killer is in the dark well up until the end, when I arrived at the conclusion, the reveal blew my mind. As much as I love figuring out the “bad guy” ahead of the main character, there’s nothing better than being wrong.

With many threads to follow, Company Town is a fast-paced read. The world-building is top-notch and the cast of characters works well to push the novel forward. Company Town is a wildly original story and a great pick for CBC’s 2017 edition of Canada Reads. I’m hoping for a strong showing from Tamara Taylor.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,231 reviews169 followers
October 1, 2016
What an intriguing book! Ashby has put together one mind-blowing read that combines a noire thriller with science fiction and bildungsroman.

Crazy action scenes, full of martial art - check. Smart dialogue - check. Engrossing crime mystery - check. Cyberpunk with genetic enhancement, invisibility suits, changellings, time-travel elements - check.

The world building is fascinating and concentrated into one microcosm. It seems the author followed the old crime thriller tradition of having characters restricted to one oppressing setting. Golden Age crime writers used a mansion or island for instance; here we have a drilling platform made up of disparate towers and components, off the coast of Canada.

As much as I enjoyed all these elements, what amazed me were the characters, especially the conumdrum that is Hwa. Her portrayal is truly a study in contrasts. From her weaknesses to her strengths, here is a character that grows under your skin. Throughout the story, we witness her psychological growth through her voice and perception as well as her interactions with others. And this leads me to Joel and Daniel, both excellent in their respective roles. I just loved seeing these three and wouldn't mind having more!

Finally, Ashby really doesn't make it easy for her readers, expecting them to hold on and sort out the data themselves. I feel like I've definitely missed some details and sometimes had to make the effort to process what I had just read, but it all works beautifully. I just need to re-read this one, soon :0)
Profile Image for Aleshanee.
1,411 reviews97 followers
February 6, 2017
Außergewöhnliche Ideen aber leider etwas konfuse Umsetzung

Also das Cover ist schon sehr genial gemacht und das war es auch, was mich auf dieses Buch aufmerksam werden ließ. Der Klappentext klang nach einer guten Mischung aus Science Fiction und Krimi - und auch ein bisschen Cyber-Moral und ich war sehr gespannt, wie die Autorin das alles umsetzen konnte.

Der Anfang war ehrlich gesagt sehr verwirrend für mich und ich konnte mich nur langsam in dieser kleinen Welt auf der Bohrinsel in Kanada zurechtfinden. Dabei hat mir auch immer ein bisschen der visuelle Eindruck der Stadt gefehlt, die auf dieser Bohrinsel hauptsächlich in Türmen errichtet wurde, denn es fahren hier auch Züge und das kann ich mir auf einer Bohrinsel so gar nicht vorstellen. Auch wenn sie sehr groß ist.

Erzählt wird aus Hwas Perspektive. Sie ist 22 und Bodyguard von Prostituierten, während sie ihrem Geschäft nachgehen. Hwa hatte es nie leicht in ihrem Leben: eine Mutter, die sie ständig herabsetzt und demütigt, ein Makel, den sie durch technische Hilfsmittel nicht beseitigen können, weil sie zu arm sind und auch das Milieu in dem sie aufwächst. Das schlägt sich auch in ihrem Umgangston nieder, denn der ist eher rau und hart, wie ihr ganzes Wesen. Ein Panzer, den sie sich im Laufe der Jahre angelegt hat.

Joel, den 15jährigen Sohn von Zacharias Lynch, dem die Stadt New Arcadia gehört, war mir sehr sympathisch. Genauso wie Hwas Vorgesetzter Daniel, hier haben mir vor allem die witzigen und subtilen Dialoge der beiden gefallen. Die meisten Figuren waren greifbar, auch wenn sie da noch etwas tiefer hätte gehen können.

Nachdem ich mich in der Geschichte etwas zurechtgefunden hatte, war ich sehr fasziniert von den ganzen Ideen und war gespannt auf die Aufklärung des Mordes. Es gab viele Andeutungen und Hinweise - auf Hwas Vergangenheit, auf die Rolle von Daniel und wie das Unternehmen Lynch damit zusammenhängen könnte. Dazu kamen auch andere Tipps bzw. Ermittlungswege, die leider nicht weiter beschritten wurden - hier hat mir doch noch etwas mehr Tiefe gefehlt und das Potenzial wurde nicht richtig ausgeschöpft.
Manchmal hab ich mich etwas schwer getan, denn es gab oft und gerne technische Details und Fremdwörter, mit denen ich nichts anfangen konnte, was teilweise schon frustrierend war. Manchmal gab es auch Sätze die mir völlig aus dem Zusammenhang gerissen vorkamen und die ich nicht einordnen konnte. So als hätte ich etwas überlesen, übersehen oder nicht verstanden. Vor allem gegen Ende springt die Autorin von Szene zu Szene ohne direkten Bezug zueinander, bzw. muss man sich das alles irgendwie zusammenreimen - als ob der Schluss einfach mal schnell zu Ende gebracht werden sollte.
Hier hätte man ebenfalls noch etwas mehr ausbauen und erklären können, denn so wirklich verstanden hab ich die letzten Szenen nicht!

Die technischen Möglichkeiten in dieser fiktiven Zukunft waren teilweise ziemlich interessant und hatten gute Ansätze, faszinierend und abstoßend zugleich und haben auf jeden Fall zum Nachdenken angeregt. Gerade die Frage, inwieweit man einen Menschen gentechnisch verändern kann oder sollte und ob das überhaupt sinnvoll ist. Das große Streben, perfekt und ohne Makel zu sein und was das den Menschen im Endeffekt kostet - womit ich nicht den Geldwert meine.
Hier hat mir die Autorin am Ende leider einen nicht schönen Abschluss geliefert, über den ich immer noch nachgrüble, was sie damit wohl aussagen wollte.

Insgesamt eine außergewöhnliche Idee mit interessanten Charakteren und spannenden Ansätzen, die mir aber zu wirr und unverständlich umgesetzt wurden.

© Aleshanee
Profile Image for Renee.
201 reviews21 followers
March 8, 2017
I'm going to be honest - I struggle with science fiction and YA, and this book is rooted in both. If this was not a Canada Reads contender, I don't think I would have powered through to the finish line. Though I didn't love the book's execution, Ashby is a creative talent with some great ideas, and I enjoyed many elements of the book.

Hwa is a bodyguard for the United Sex Workers of Canada in a place called New Arcadia, and accompanies the girls to their appointments. Hwa is a a badass - she's a tough, mixed-race woman, and one of the few fully organic people left in New Arcadia; all other residents have been scientifically "augmented" in some way. Hwa has Sturge-Weber Syndrome, which has left her with a facial birthmark and susceptibility to seizures - she figures since she isn't beautiful, her parents didn't bother investing in any augmentations. When New Arcadia is acquired my the Zachariah Lynch, he employs her to train and protect his son, Joel, who has been receiving threats. Coinciding with her change in career, her old friends, all sex-workers, are turning up murdered, and Hwa sets out to find answers.

Hwa is great: she's a a fierce, a fighter, insecure, bold, flawed, and completely likeable. This maybe a stretch, but I felt like Ashby was making a commentary on Canada's troubling history of missing and murdered women - I don't know if this was her intent, but I imagine that it must have crossed her mind when writing a story about the murder of women in the sex-trade.

This book seemed to suffer from an identity crisis, and that is part of my low rating. This felt like a YA book that just happened to be about adult content. All of the dialogue and many of the scenarios read like YA, making it very disconcerting to read about "sex-workers" and murder. It simply lacked a clear direction - I understand and respect the story Ashby wanted to tell, but wasn't impressed with its execution.

With that, my front-runner for Canada Reads is still Fifteen Dogs!
Profile Image for Natasha Penney.
159 reviews
February 9, 2017
This book was fantastic! The story moves quickly and the main character is one of the most interesting women I have encountered in quite some time. The premise and plot development are imaginative and fresh. You are immediately pulled into the story from the opening line. There are enough ethical questions looming under character and plot-driven momentum to ensure this book can't be easily dismissed once you're done. It has a great Canadian feel as well. Though as a Newfoundlander I find it difficult to explain how annoyingly trite it is to have the lazy literary "aye" and "b'y" sprinkled into the main character's dialogue. It's unrealistic and unnecessary. But that quibble aside, I found myself wishing when the book came to a close that it wasn't a standalone novel. I just didn't want this story to end. I'm really looking forward to the Canada Reads discussion about the one.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
94 reviews46 followers
October 23, 2016
Company Town is a fun, wild, out of this world ride for fans of Terminator and sci-fi in general.

I wasn't sold on the synopsis of this book, but several of my Goodreads friends seemed to really enjoy it, so I decided to give it a go - and I'm very glad that I did. In the beginning, we meet Hwa, who lives in New Arcadia, an oil rig offshore of Newfoundland, Canada. Hwa works as a bodyguard for prostitutes, but is soon convinced to leave this position to become the personal bodyguard of Joel Lynch, the teenage (and youngest) member of the Lynch family, who have just purchased the rig where Hwa resides. A trusted employee of the Lynch family's, Daniel Siofra, has hand-selected Hwa for this task because she is remarkably unique in his eyes: in a world where almost everyone has implants and bio-engineered enhancements, she has bucked technology and trend to remain au naturel. This makes Hwa uniquely qualified, because it means that she cannot be "hacked" by those who would seek to harm Joel. Initially, Hwa seems overqualified for the job, but things take a quick and complicated turn when Zachariah Lynch, the head of the Lynch empire and Joel's father, explains the complexities of the situation to her.

Things get ugly quickly. Hwa's friends from her former job blame her for leaving them in a vulnerable position when sex workers start turning up dead, murdered in horrific manners, and protecting Joel is much more difficult than she could have foreseen. A tight-knit bond forms between Hwa, Joel, and the mysterious Daniel, a man without a past who is just as determined as Hwa to protect Joel. Hwa struggles with her protective instinct and loyalties to her former employer vs. Joel Lynch and Joel Lynch's messed up family, finding that she can't trust anyone, and there's far more going on here than meets the eye. I'm keeping this very ambiguous, because part of the joy of Company Town is the taut twists and turns that kept me glued to the page, eager to find out what happened next.

Torn in two pieces with stakes that get higher all the time, organic human Hwa must race against time and connect the mysteries to save her charge, her friends, and herself. There's a sense of dread that colors the entire narrative, done very effectively - when Hwa's "fortune" is told numerous times, she's aware that things look bleak for her, but she doesn't have time for that nonsense and is determined to be the architect of her own future. She feels very real and very flawed, which is always an asset in a story like this.

This is so compulsively readable (I couldn't put it down) and well-done, even if sometimes it becomes slightly difficult to keep one's head above the water because there's so much happening all at once that it can be dizzying. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Michael Hicks.
Author 35 books433 followers
May 25, 2016
...and just like that, Madeline Ashby has instantly made it onto my list of must-read authors.

Company Town has all the trimmings of things I love. There's a good dash of sci-fi with some near-future razzle dazzle cybernetic augmentation, genetic engineering, Singularity conspiracy, and a nice heaping of serial killer mayhem to round it all off. The setting is wonderfully impressive (and forms the basis of that kick-ass cover!) - the titular Company Town is a city-sized oil rig off Newfoundland that has just been bought by the Lynch Corporation.

Hwa, a body-guard for the city's sex workers, has been brought on board to protect the youngest of the Lynch heirs after a series of death threats are made toward the boy. Hwa is a wonderful character in her own right, and deeply layered. Afflicted with Sturge-Weber, half her body is stained red; this genetic abnormality perfectly reflects and informs her personality. She's an outsider in Company Town both because of her physical imperfections and her choices. She's one of the ultra-rare denizens of Company Town to have absolutely no genetic modifications or cybernetic upgrades, which makes her an outcast. Her employment with Lynch only serves to further separate her from those she was once close to. She refers to her physical affliction as a stain, but it's a stain that runs bone-deep and straight up into her psyche as she struggles against being an outcast and fighting to remain at arm's length from the world around her. In Ashby's hands, Hwa is perfectly defined, as interesting and she is engaging.

Company Town is a great read, but primarily because of the characters. There's plenty of great ideas on display here, and plenty of room for future installments should Ashby be planning a series of this, but it's the cast and their relationships to one another that, first and foremost, make this book truly compelling.

[Note: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
Profile Image for Michael Underwood.
Author 37 books254 followers
February 7, 2016
What happens when an award-nominated writer of gripping, fresh SF turns her hand to a stand-alone SF Thriller? In this case, the result is a compelling, pacey, and thoughtful novel.

The main character is distinct (a disabled Korean woman who is a total badass), the setting is fascinating (an off-shore company town oil rig), and the premise powerful (our heroine, an escort's escort, is tapped to protect the city-rig's heir apparent against a threat that seems to come from another timeline).

Company Town is Terminator for the 21st century.
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