Company Town, reviewed

The reviews are in! (At least, some of them are.) In addition to blurbs from Charlie Stross, Seanan McGuire, and Chuck Wendig, here are some other reviews for Company Town, which is finally out today! So if you were thinking about picking the book up but wanted to wait for some professional opinions on the matter, here you are:

io9: “We’re a good decade past the heyday of upbeat, or semi-upbeat, looks at a future of cybernetic enhancement, artificial intelligence, endless plenty, and perfect information. (Along with some skeptical, gritty takes, like Richard K. Morgan’s Kovacs novels.) Ashby is part of a new wave of authors who are getting some dirt on the unrealistic sheen of the Singularity, in part by focusing on a protagonist who’s left out of all the shiny progress, and in part by showing her torn between her working-class friends and her new employers, the masters of the universe.

The result is a book that keeps you thinking about what it means to be human in a posthuman world—even as it also keeps you entertained with action, serial killers, and crazy plot twists.”

Chicago Tribune: “Hwa is offered a position protecting the teenage family heir apparent, which could either be a dream job or a nightmare, as she uncovers a series of murders that seem directed more at her own friends — and maybe herself — than at the mysterious wealthy family. The plot is a fairly familiar one of the streetwise but vulnerable kid versus corporate conspiracies, but Ashby deftly introduces an escalating series of solid hard science-fiction ideas, ranging from global warming to cyborgs, spaceships and even possible multiple timelines — and of course the dark secrets hidden by the wealthy family patriarch turn out to be a lot darker and more consequential than we at first suspect.”

Seattle Review of Books: “Hwa has all the gumption and character of a William Gibson heroine, but her underbelly is better written — without being a victim, she’s more vulnerable. She’s better rounded, less cartoonish, and much more nuanced than many “tough girl” characters we encounter in modern genre fiction…If you want to know what the future will look like, reading Madeline Ashby is a good bet.”

Kirkus: “A futuristic murder-mystery thriller that mixes singularity, time travel, romance, and science fiction, Madeline Ashby’s Company Town is a heady, exciting novel that balances well the deeply humane and the futuristic setting. The latter is well realized: it’s easy to imagine a future such as this, with the bio-enhancements, the technology, the growth of power that is connected with those as well as the marked differences in how one interacts with the world. The head of the Lynch family, for example, wants to live forever, believes deeply that the Singularity is going to happen, and this is part and parcel of this story, and wholly believable too.

…I truly loved this book and remain enamoured with Hwa—I fell hard for her, and felt every blow she received, celebrated every victory she had. Company Town is well worth a read just for her.”

Publisher’s Weekly: “Ashby smoothly brings mass market noir detective fiction into the near future, but she struggles to resolve her story satisfactorily. Hwa does pretty well for herself as a bodyguard for the sex workers who populate a self-contained community/oil rig off the eastern coast of Canada. She wants cybernetic enhancements, but her uncaring mother won’t let her get them. When an obscenely rich family with unusual views buys the entire town, Hwa’s brought into their family affairs, which include multiple murders. Hwa is an immediately likable protagonist who isn’t afraid to shatter rules—or bones. 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.”

Barnes & Noble’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog: “The plot swerves radically as it races to a climax, but Ashby never loses control, even when Hwa’s personal journey seems in danger of being swallowed by events far larger than even the toughest woman in company town. We’re left with a strange hybrid of near-future noir and lawless western future that’s equal parts noir and western, with Hwa as our femme fatale, tragic hero, and frontier gunslinger. If she’s not standing against the future, precisely, the foot planted in her too-human past leaves her in a singular, powerful position: she may be the only one who can fight the future.”

BoingBoing: “Company Town is a locked-room murder mystery at sea, in a setting that’s got trenchant things to say about class and gender, and about the way that our technological ambitions reflect both of them. Hwa ranks with science fiction’s great badasses, and as a technological refusenik, she’s the perfect protagonist for this story about the way that money, power and technology all dream together.

Take Ashby’s pyrotechnical prose, her talent for writing mean and true things about sex, and combine them with a futuristic, gritty setting, and you get Company Town: a nice place to visit, but you definitely don’t want to live there.”

Ars Technica: “If you like your science fiction kaleidoscopically strange yet infused with astute observations about where current technology might take us, you need to pick up a copy of Company Town right now…One of the delightful elements of this novel is how off the rails it gets. Ashby isn’t content with setting up a noir thriller about megacorporations and murder. She’s got to throw in time travel and cyborgs and conspiracies within conspiracies. Sometimes the author drops one of the many plates she’s juggling, but for the most part she’ll delight you with white-hot action and zippy dialogue.

What ultimately sells Company Town isn’t its crazy plot, however. It’s Ashby’s mastery of the small technological details that make her world feel utterly real. When she’s not writing dark science fiction, Ashby works as a foresight consultant for tech companies, advising them about possible future uses of emerging tech, and her expertise is on full display here. One of my favorite scenes is when Hwa is trying to get surveillance footage from a bar where one of the murdered sex workers spent the last minutes of her life. It turns out the best view she can get is from the bartender’s augmented reality contact lenses, where he’s using facial recognition algorithms to identify all his customers and track which of them ordered first. He then switches to an infrared mode to determine whether each chilled drink has reached the desired temperature. These mundane uses of augmented reality feel completely plausible, giving the novel the grounding it needs to succeed as a narrative.” “Company Town is a smart, very astute and oftentimes irreverent snappy, gritty noir cyber-thriller, as well as a compelling bildungsroman about a young woman coming to terms with herself.”

AE Sci Fi: “Set on a multi-towered, city-sized oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador named New Arcadia, Company Town promises — and delivers — plenty of action in a gritty, noir mode. But it also benefits — and to some extent suffers — from doing several other things as well. Company Town isn’t just a noir thriller, it’s also a novel about post-humanism and the Singularity, told from a different point of view.”

E.M. Epps: “I read Company Town in two sittings, and had I owned a copy of the hardback rather than a digital review copy, I probably would have hugged it in sheer readerly glee when I was done (since I couldn’t hug Hwa herself). Highly, highly recommended.”

Omnivoracious: “Subtle, tense, and complex, Company Town masterfully straddles the line between science fiction, thriller, and romance.”

Or, hey, you could just go check out the Goodreads comments.

1 thought on “Company Town, reviewed”

  1. I don’t know how to sum up my read/reaction to this novel but don’t want to pass up letting you know how much I enjoyed it.

    It was so good I read it in a sitting and will have to reread it again later to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

    I don’t know where to begin. Your main character has a disability but you don’t have the writer antipatterns that happen with disabled characters. She’s a real person.

    I like contrasting her with Daniel, who appears like the perfect person, but who still happens to be very likable. I love that he was raised in the context of a surveillance state(?) yet is still sympathetic and does things that are normal to him, as though he is an embodiment of Google Now for her, the person he likes.

    I had the reaction of “wow I like you, but woa you are creepy. but you’re a kid”.

    I like the ending is not exactly happy. she’s “fixed” in some way, but this is so mixed because she didn’t plan on having who she is become so different. She didn’t ask to be changed.

    I don’t even know where to begin with all the other things I liked about this book. I still have this emotional/naive first reading to get through.

    I enjoyed your other books a great deal, but for some reason this one really clicks with me.

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