Company Town by Madeline Ashby. ★★★1/2
Company Town‘s plot didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I nevertheless enjoyed reading it. Hwa’s a bodyguard for a sex workers’ union on a future city built around an oil rig. The city’s being bought out by a single family owned business, and Hwa is offered a new job: guard Joel, the family’s youngest son, who has been receiving death threats from another timeline.
On the bright side, the world building was fantastic. The city of towers out in the ocean felt believable and realistic, even as it was completely different and inventive. Almost everyone in the future has some sort of bio-engineering that’s tweaked their genetics and physical body, and the setting itself involves a lot of bio-engineering in the structural design.
Hwa is one of the few fully “organic” people left. She’s a half Korean woman with Sturge-Weber Syndrome, and she’s a total badass. I liked her a lot as a lead character, especially the friendship with parent-child undertones she developed with Joel, the boy she’s guarding. Neither of them grew up with supportive parents, and I think that’s part of why they bonded so strongly. Before I move on, I do want to note that given the end of the book, I wouldn’t recommend Company Town for representation of disabilities. Ask me in the comments if you want to know the spoiler.
Company Town‘s main failing was the plot line. It just didn’t make much sense at all. I have zero clue how the “death threats from the future” plot line was working, and I don’t think I would understand it any better even if I reread the book. Then there were smaller plot issues like how Hwa didn’t act much like a bodyguard and seemed to be able to do whatever was plot necessary, with no restrictions given her position. There was also some weirdness at the end, partly due to the nebulous plot line and partly due to the spoiler I referenced above.
Despite its flaws, Company Town was a fast and enjoyable read, and it clearly had feminist intentions (although you could argue as to how well they were carried out). I would recommend reading it, especially for the vivid world Ashby conjures.
I received a free ARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.