Published by Macmillan on May 17th 2016
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Urban
Sexual Content: Non-explicit sex scene, references to sex workers.
Reviewed by: Kim
New Arcadia is 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 feel like COMPANY TOWN snuck up on me; at first I was reading a pretty good dystopian-type novel, and then BAM, it turned into a fabulous, terrifyingly too-close-for-comfort near scifi with interesting new concepts and amazingly real characters.
Hwa, who was named after a purple dessert her mom hates, has Sturge-Weber Syndrome, which shows up as a purple-red birthmark on her face. She’s not too worried about it though, since most people have implants in their eyes and can’t see her real face anyway. It also helps her in her job as a bodyguard, since her face naturally confuses facial recognition software. In a hyper-monitored city, she is one of the only people who is difficult to track 24/7.
Hwa is charming. She is quiet, strong, and since she never had any money to spend on implants (and her mom never thought it was worth spending what little money they had on damaged goods), she is the last non-modified person on the rig. She is seen by most of the other characters as a freak because of it, but to her new employers, it means she can’t be hacked. Who better to protect the most important child around, the heir to the Lynch family, who have just bought the failing rig.
A lot of the scifi is subtle, but still effective and fun. The subscription-based implants were particularly scary: if you fail to pay your subscription, your implants might stop working. They might also start breaking down and poison you. Black market implants are often copies of copies, like a man-made wrongly-replicated cancer. The different characters with their different mods and implants, really added to the diversity of the city and outlined the massive class divide in the city. Hwa leaves her job as a bodyguard for escorts to work for the richest family in the city. Reconciling these two worlds is not easy and it was super interesting to read.
My only issue with the book was just how much stuff was going on. Between the social classes, the serial-killer, the future and past of the rig and the complex characters, this is not a book you want to read while something is on the tv. Still, if you have the time to immerse yourself fully, this is a unique book with a powerful cast of characters.