Author: Madeline Ashby
In Madeline Ashby’s ambitious cyberpunk novel, Company Town, we see a futuristic Canada, where living on an oil-rig off the coast of Newfoundland, is part of everyday life. Entire towns have been created on these gigantic oil-rigs and the people who live there either work the oil-rig or support it in some way. Augmenting yourself with the newest bio-tech is just one way to pass the times, the other major pass-time is securing the services sex-workers, who are now unionized and come with bodyguard protection.
When the company town of New Arcadia is purchased by the Lynch Family, Hwa, former bodyguard to the sex-workers, is manipulated into becoming the personal bodyguard and trainer for the youngest Lynch member, Joel. As the heir to the Lynch Company, Joel’s protection is paramount to the prosperity of New Arcadia, and now his protection falls to Hwa, one of the last un-augmented humans in the world.
When a friend and former sex-worker of Hwa’s turns up dead, and an attempted murder on her own life, Hwa realizes there is more to the Lynch family than meets they eye. As she delves into the murder, she discovers that more than one friend has ended up dead. Who is this killer that seems to be extracting revenge on sex-workers? Is she also a target of the killers ire? Is the Lynch family somehow involved with this killer? As Hwa gets more involved, she discovers that time isn’t linear and that the killer can be anywhere.
The pacing of Company Town is a little odd, with what feels like entire sections of the story left out. For example as a bodyguard, Hwa gets knocked around a bit during her duties. There are multiple scenes where she loses consciousness at the end of a chapter, with the next chapter starting out a few days later with Hwa in another location and talking with different characters, and no mention of how she survived the last encounter. The entire third act of the story was also incredibly rushed. Ashby spent a great deal of time during the first and second acts setting up the world and her characters, and just as the big boss-battle happens, Hwa gets knocked about again and loses consciousness. When next we see Hws, the battle is long over, months having passed. No mention what happened or how she survived. It seemed like Ashby was afraid of running out of room on the page to write, so just skipped over parts to advance to the final chapter, leaving out some stuff in the middle.
Up until the ending of the story I was really enjoying the world, the tech, and the characters that Ashby created. The third act is the downfall of this novel, leaving you questioning what really happened during the final boss battle. Company Town is an enjoyable read as far as plot and world building are concerned, but the pacing leaves little to be desired.