Monday, February 27, 2017

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

Company Town by Madeline AshbyCompany Town by Madeline Ashby

Genres: Mystery, Science Fiction
Published by Tor Books on May 17, 2016
Pages: 285
Source: Purchased

Purchase: Amazon|Book Depository

They call it Company Town--a city-sized oil rig off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes, now owned by one very wealthy, powerful, byzantine family: Lynch Ltd.

Hwa is of the few people in her community (which constitutes the whole rig) to forgo bio-engineered enhancements. As such, she's the last truly organic person left on the rig--making her doubly an outsider, as well as a neglected daughter and bodyguard extraordinaire. Still, her expertise in the arts of self-defense and her record as a fighter mean that her services are yet in high demand. When the youngest Lynch needs training and protection, the family turns to Hwa. But can even she protect against increasingly intense death threats seemingly coming from another timeline?

Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city's stability and heightens the unease of a rig turning over. All signs point to a nearly invisible serial killer, but all of the murders seem to lead right back to Hwa's front door. Company Town has never been the safest place to be--but now, the danger is personal.

A brilliant, twisted mystery, as one woman must evaluate saving the people of a town that can't be saved, or saving herself.

I loved this book. I say this quite often, but this time I really mean it. It’s brilliant, intelligent and deals with very relevant and current themes. And to see this come out of Canada is amazing. We have some great authors here in Canada, and I’m really happy to have discovered this author through Canada Reads. For those of you who aren’t aware, Canada Reads is a battle between five books from March 27-30, 2017. Five Canadian celebrities defend a Canadian new release and there can only be one winner. I really hope Tamara Taylor (actress on Bones) defends Madeline Ashby’s book for the win. Company Town really deserves it.

The novel is set in the near future, on the eastern coast of Canada, where a group of oil rigs have been transformed into a floating city in the Atlantic ocean. Bioengineered genetic enhancements are the norm in this future and very few people have no enhancements. One of those people is Hwa, a high school drop out, working as body guard for sex workers on the rig. Her lack of enhancements is not by choice but more out of lack of funds. When Lynch Ltd., the new owner of the city, offers her a new cushiony job, she’s hesitant to leave her post, since so many of the sex workers are also her friends. But she’s perfect for the job of protecting Lynch’s heir, since without enhancements, she can’t be hacked by an outside threat.

I love the way we are introduced into this new, technologically rich environment. It gives you the impression that nothing is private, that someone is always monitoring you though technology. I’ll admit, it was very hard to understand the technology at first, and since the author relies heavily on the technology to tell her story, you really have to read the first few chapters slowly. The author assumes the reader knows about the technology, relying on the reader’s intelligence and imagination to extrapolate. It makes you consider how much we rely on technology, even today. It also makes you wonder how much more technology we will surround ourselves with in the future.

Personally, as an optometrist, I rely heavily on technology to do my job, but I admit, I also love my gadgets like my smart phone and my smart watch. (On a side note, the protagonist Hwa suffers from Sturge-Weber Syndrome and one of the possible complications include glaucoma, an eye disease, so I really appreciated those little details in the book, especially the artificial intelligence/robotic eye doctor. However, I highly doubt I’ll be replaced by a robot, any time soon.)

Company Town is a high paced murder mystery that transforms into a very conspiracy charged novel. Sex workers are the easy target for murder, and now that Hwa works for the company that owns the floating city, she takes advantage of her new access to classified information to investigate the death of her friends. She also gains the help of her new boss, Daniel Síofra, who works for the Lynch family and their business. Together, the unlikely pair form a strange bond, which makes you wonder if their professional relationship could ever turn into a personal one.

They seem to care for one another, but with Hwa’s condition comes a large purple “stain” on her face and insecurity about her physical appearance. Daniel has received so many bioengineered alterations to his appearance that Hwa considers him to good for her. Hwa questions everything, from Daniel’s implication in the Lynch business, to Lynch’s ultimate goal for the city, to conspiracy theories about the explosions that killed so many on an oil rig a few years back. The more Hwa investigates the murders, the more questions arise.

The futuristic elements, the human connections and the smart plot makes this book an unforgettable read. I really hope it wins the Canada Reads competition, but even if it doesn’t, I’m glad I discovered it through its promotion. I’m definitely reading more Madeline Ashby books in the future. I love her style and the amount of work she put in creating this futuristic world. I strongly recommend this book to any fans of the genre.

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Stéphanie is an book nerd and Optometrist living in a small community in Northern Ontario and even if she liked living in Montreal for 5 years, she believes the small town life is more her style. Ever since she was little she loved books and stories. It's no surprise that today, you'll always find her with a book within arm's reach.

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