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Company Town - Madeline Ashby

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, shes the last truly organic person left on the rigmaking 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 citys 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 Hwas front door. Company Town has never been the safest place to bebut now, the
danger is personal.
A brilliant, twisted mystery, as one woman must evaluate saving the people of a town that cant be
saved, or saving herself.
Jun 29, 2016Althea Ann rated it really liked it review of another edition
With this book and Lavie Tidhar's 'Central Station' ( coming
out, I feel like cyberpunk is making a bit of a comeback! (And that makes me happy!)
A version of a segment of this story was previously published in the 'Upgraded'
( anthology as 'Come From Away'. I wrote: "I suspect this
story is actually an opening to Ashbys upcoming novel, Company Town the blurb and character
names match. I look forward to reading the full book!"
As it turns out, it's not actually the opening segment, but as I suspected, it works better in context than
as a stand-alone bit.
The 'Company Town' here is a Canadian off-shore rig. (Its isolation gives the setting a lot in common
with a lot of sci-fi set on spaceships - it has that kind of 'feel.') After a disastrous explosion a couple of
years ago, the economy of the town is teetering and it's just been wholly bought by a new corporation.
The inhabitants are unsure of what the future will bring: mass layoffs? New social policies? An upturn
or a downturn?
Our protagonist, Hwa, is one of those nervous about her future. She works as a bodyguard for escorts'
outcalls, and as such is a member of the sex workers' union. Social changes could very well jeopardize
her job. And indeed, her job does change - but what happens is wholly unexpected: she's offered a
position as private bodyguard to the young heir to the company who's bought the settlement. This is no
cushy job, though. The boy has reportedly been receiving death threats, and Hwa is unable to tell how
much of the danger is his eccentric-billionaire father's paranoia, and how much is legitimate.
In her new position, Hwa has access to privileged information. She discovers some disturbing things
about the plans that are in store for her community. At the same time, her old friends start being
murdered. As she tries to do what she can to help, and solve the mystery, her loyalties are questioned -
and stretched, as she finds herself having to question everyone else's loyalties as well. She cares about
her old clients - but she also believes she's found a kindred spirit in one of her new co-workers, the
appealing Daniel Siofra.
The story is a nice, action-oriented tale with an engaging mystery - but the characters also have a decent
amount of complexity. Hwa is a badass, tough bitch, but she's not infallible, and not without her flaws.
Her issues are all believably rendered. I also really liked how the society was drawn; with all the
ramifications of artificial augmentation becoming common, and how the new tech affects how people
interact. There were a few pop-culture references that felt a bit jarring (will the 'Terminator' still be
popular in a couple hundred years?) but overall, I thought the book was excellent.

Many thanks to Tor & NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinion is solely my own.
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Mogsy (MMOGC)
May 25, 2016Mogsy (MMOGC) rated it really liked it review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, mystery, dystopia-utopia, review-copy, netgalley, arcs-and-galleys
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum
I was so excited to finally get my hands on Company Town, a book which had been on my to-read list
for years going back to the days since it was first announced by Angry Robot. While the original
publishers sale followed by the novels move to Tor resulted in a significant delay for its release, I have
to say the wait was absolutely worth it. I was already a fan of the author, having read her seriously
imaginative and seriously twisted novel vN set in an age of self-replicating synthetic humans, but with
Company Town Madeline Ashby delivers a whole other level of storytelling genius.
The book takes place in New Arcadia, a city of floating towers surrounding a dilapidated oil rig in the
North Atlantic just off the east coast of Canada. Three years after a major accident shook up its
residents, new life has returned to town in the form of Zachariah Lynch, patriarch of a wealthy family of
energy barons who buys up the place and begins development of an alternative reactor under the waves.
Our protagonist Go Jung-Hwa works as a bodyguard for the United Sex Workers of Canada,
accompanying her charges to appointments with their clients. The sex trade may be a highly regulated
industry in New Arcadia, but that doesnt mean the girls dont need protection. Because Hwa was born
with Sturge-Weber Syndrome, her mother deemed it a waste to invest in any augmentations for her
daughter, so as a result, Hwa is one of the few people in the city completely free of bio-engineered
enhancements. In spite of this, she is adept at self-defense and is no stranger to getting into scraps,
making her very good at her job.
Eventually, her talents come to the attention of Zachariah Lynch himself, whose fifteen-year-old heir
Joel has been receiving death threats. Taking an immediate liking to the kid, Hwa agrees to work for the
Lynches, becoming Joels personal bodyguard. However, her sudden career change could not have
come at a worse time. Women from around town, all sex workers and Hwas old friends, are turning up
murdered. The timing of these incidences are just way too uncanny to be coincidental, making Hwa
wonder if the killings and the threats against Joel might be all related.
This was a highly addictive read, literally a book I couldnt put down. I kept making excuses for myself
not to stop reading (Sleep? Who needs sleep?), and as a result I ended up finishing this over two or
three sessions in a little more than a day. I enjoyed everything about this novel, from the phenomenal
world-building to the irresistible mystery surrounding the story. I also found the characters likeable,
especially the protagonist Hwa, whose personality was positively magnetic. Shes definitely not one to
hide her feelings about her condition and the associated port-wine stain on her face, wearing her fears
and insecurity on her sleeve. However, she is also emotionally and physically strong, having weathered
all kinds of challenges on her own without any help. Knowing that shes different and living with a
disorder that could incapacitate her anytime has not slowed her down. Shes a character you can
sympathize with but not pity, someone whose self-doubt does not inhibit her from doing what she
knows is best for herself. Despite having a rough life, she can still see the humor in things, as well as
the good in people. It is this that ultimately leads her to accept the job protecting Joel Lynch, who is
nothing like the rich kid stereotype. His personality appealed to me immediately as well, winning me
over with earnest charm and innocence.
Then there was Daniel Sofra. Mere words cannot describe how much I love this character! As head of
Joels security detail, hes also Hwas boss. Theres actually a thread of romance here that took me by
surprise; it is not strong nor is it a big part of the story, but nevertheless its one of the most satisfying
romance arcs I have ever read. That incredibly intense moment where Hwa finally opens up
emotionally to Sofra, the first time she has ever done that with anybody, practically had me melting
into a puddle on the floor.
But while characterization was by far the strongest point, the story didnt disappoint either. Sure, at
times there was a bit too much going on, and Im still trying to sort out my feelings about the ending
(which had a mind-blowing twist!), but overall theres no denying the allure of this mystery. The
suspense was what kept me reading long into the night.
All told, I loved this book and wouldnt hesitate to recommend this to fans of futuristic sci-fi and
mystery. Hwas not your typical sleuth but shes brilliant and accomplished in her own way, protecting
those who cant defend themselves. A fascinating setting along with an amazing cast of characters made
Company Town an unforgettable read. (less)
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Aug 26, 2016Justine rated it really liked it review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, canadian-content
Hwa is an enigma in that she is one of the only fully organic, or non-enhanced people living in New
Arcadia, a town on an oil rig in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. She is poor,
and her face and body is marked with a stain that makes her both stand out and invisible at the same
time in an era where almost anything can be fixed by implants and enhancements. But when the town of
New Arcadia is sold and the town becomes the property of the Lynch family, it turns out that Hwa is
just what they want in a bodyguard for their youngest member and heir.
It takes a bit of convincing for Hwa to leave her job as protection for union members of the United Sex
Workers of Canada out on assignment, but eventually she agrees to become the personal bodyguard and
trainer for fifteen year old Joel Lynch. The job seems straightforward until she learns that Joel has been
receiving death threats, and that his father wants to keep that information from Joel. Things become
even more complicated when, in addition to everything else, one of the women Hwa knew from her
former job turns up dead, and Hwa starts to wonder if she made a mistake taking the job after all.
Ashby has created a wonderfully rich world filled with future tech as a setting for a tightly paced
murder mystery. On another level, however, this story is as much about the relationships between
people and the bonds that they form. Hwa is the epitome of strength but at the same time so fragile. Her
character's journey is profoundly personal, yet never feels overwrought.
This is a book that is complicated and takes some time to think about, but ultimately I found it very
rewarding. (less)
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Apr 16, 2016Aaron rated it liked it review of another edition
I'm of two minds. Ashby's ideas are potent and her worldview is fascinating, frequently ripping free of
the page and lodging in the back of my headbut there's an issue with the connective tissue of this
book, and that issue grows to the point where it threatens to swallow the good. Fortunately, there's
enough good to keep the ship upright, and I found myself tearing through the book because I was
genuinely curious how all these disparate, discombobulating threads would somehow find their way
back to a center-point. And they do, mostly. But to drill a bit further into my issue with the book: it
feels, in part, like it was either underwritten and not quite fully developed, or over-edited, where the
ligature that ties muscle and bone (setting and plot) to the vascular system (characters, heart, i dunno,
this is a tortured metaphor) is surgically streamlined a bit too far. So there are frequent but not entirely
consistent stretches of abrupt plotting and brevity of description; similarly, there's a fascinating and
well-drawn main character (a young Korean girl who suffers from an all too real neurological and skin
condition called Sturge-Weber syndrome, which effectively disfigures her and dictates her worldview)
who frustratingly vacillates between making careful observations about the world and her place in it
only to spout action movie cliches a few pages later; and then there's the ever-dreamy love interest, who
is literally perfect looking, but also beautiful inside because wish fulfillment. Because the narrative is
stretched a bit thin, we have to pay particular attention to character's nameseveryone who appears is
important in some way, and they often reappear with no reintroduction. I actually prefer that Ashby
doesn't care about holding the reader's hand, and she's also not afraid to disorient us through chapters
that shift to hallucinogenic dream pieces several times throughout the book. It is a bit jarring when we
jump from a YA-feeling martial arts battle to some hard-noir serial killer murder mystery stuff, just as
the science fiction-y technological feel of the book leaps from the humdrum cyberpunk day-to-day
living in a random Canadian city divided into towers of varying technology... to supreme hard-SF
replete with time-shifting, parallel-universe existential madness... But those are the ideas Ashby wields
best, the poles of these various genres, and that's why this thing is ultimately so much damn fun despite
the issues mentioned above. I'm curious to see where Ashby goes next. (less)
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Aug 17, 2016Gary rated it really liked it review of another edition
Company Town is a very busy and insanely ambitious novel. It stuffs about a dozen different hot button
SFnal concepts - each one usually enough to support a story on its own - into a whacked out futuristic
serial killer thriller. The world-building in Company Town is so mind-blowingly dense it literally
burrows its way into the characters' bodies and hollow them out from the inside. I don't know how to
describe what a crazy mess this book is and still convince you to read it; the plotting is so frantic and
loopy it constantly feels like it's trying (and failing) to get out of its own way; the last act reads like the
entire science fiction genre is having a panic attack. It's like the author set out to write a good old-
fashioned crackerjack story but couldn't stop sledgehammering every page with her id. The fact that it
doesn't quite live up to its ambitions is more a testament to the sheer moxy of its ambitions than to its
shortcomings. A must-read for SF fans, even if reactions to it are likely to be polarizing. (less)
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Oct 07, 2016Maryam rated it liked it review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, thriller, scifi-fantasy-2016, canadian
Company town is a sci-fi thriller or a serial killer thriller or . Something else, yes thats what it is a lot
of things.
it happens in a future time in Canada, Newfoundland. Like in Infomocracy the companies govern the
cities but not by voting, they actually buy a city.
In this world the world is so broken and polluted all human beings need to be edited, augmented to be
healthy, to be able to live a normal life. Hwa is not, she is the only organic person in this city and when
new owner of city Lynch company decides to employ her as bodyguard to its future heir a series of
killing starts that somehow are connected to her.
This book tries to touch a lot of different areas. A biological modified human world, a troubled family
and its problem that somehow didnt quite sit well with we as the story line proceed, a romantic
relationship that to me was redundant, but well I enjoyed it enough.

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Rachel (Kalanadi)
May 14, 2016Rachel (Kalanadi) rated it it was ok review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, netgalley
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Sadly, I wasn't impressed with Company Town. I've been looking forward to this book for about 2 years
and it turned out to be not really the type of story I enjoy these days, and it had problems with pacing
and transitions and overall knitting the story parts together.
Hwa is a half-Korean woman who works as a bodyguard. She was born with a syndrome that leaves her
with a disfigured face, a large birthmark stain, and a ...more
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Aug 26, 2016Robyn rated it really liked it review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
4.5 stars. I just really, really enjoyed this book. It's a rich world, and the heroine is an awesome, kick ass
feminist. There's so much going on that summary feels daunting at the moment, but just let it be said,
it's full of fantastic ideas, some real world politics, and futuristic tech.
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May 01, 2016Carly rated it really liked it review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, romance, netgalley
"A man without a past and a woman without a future."

In the future Ashby envisions, bioaugmentation has become so universal that Go Jung-Hwa, unedited
and suffering from Sturge-Weber Syndrome, is effectively unique, a black swan whose interaction with
the world is not fully saturated by augmented reality. Hwa is just trying to live her life, working as a
bodyguard for the local sex workers' union and teaching them self-defense on the side when her duties
bring her into contact with Daniel Siofra, a mysterious fixer who works directly under the man who
now owns the whole town. Suddenly, Hwa finds herself tasked with protecting a vulnerable child while
around her, her old start dying under horrific circumstances.
The strongest aspect of Company Town is the worldbuilding. Ashby's new future is gritty and
immersive, familiar and yet imbued with an alien strangeness. The story takes place in a near-future
mining town in Canada that is undergoing the same sort of rusting as so many current industrial towns.
The single-product economy is on the brink of failure, and while the town's new owner/investor may
bring it back to life, everyone in the town is on edge about the potential cost. However familiar the
social and economic situation might be, the people themselves walk around in augmented reality, their
vision tagged with identifying information of the people they see, their forms obscured and defined by
virtual reality instead of physicality. Botflies--no, not those botflies; these are flying robots-- buzz
around everywhere, acting as tiny and ubiquitous paparazzi. A post-human civilization seems to be just
on the horizon.

The concept is fascinating and the book itself is packed with nonstop action. However, I found the plot
itself rather more problematic, from the core concept to the solution of the underlying mystery. I felt
that not even the basic setup could withstand cursory examination; for example, I was completely
puzzled about why Hwa, hired as a bodyguard for a kid, ends up attending school with him as a fellow
student rather than actually guarding him. Everyone knows what she's doing, so it's not a disguise, and
having your bodyguard take classes and do homework seems a great way to keep them distracted.
Outside of school, Hwa spends basically all the time on her own rather than actually guarding the kid,
again without any explanation. Not only that, but Hwa herself ends up as a target, and even though her
very presence puts her charge in danger, they keep her as his bodyguard, with no explanation for why
anyone would keep a bodyguard who is clearly getting the body into danger rather than guarding it.
(view spoiler) Very little else about the plot could bear scrutiny, from the action scenes to the final
reveal. (view spoiler) The book is also a good example of a common device used in mysteries that I call
"plot-driven obscurity," where characters withhold facts or wrap them in cryptic statements solely
because doing otherwise would reveal the mystery. (view spoiler) However, such issues aren't out of the
ordinary for thrillers, and if you're in the right mood, I think they can easily be overlooked.
Plot issues aside, Company Town is an interesting story tackling some compelling issues ranging from
post-human life to the politics of prostitution. Throughout, Hwa struggles to be seen--and to see
herself-- as a person instead of a disorder. She also fights to come to terms with her frustratingly
appearance-obsessed mother, and a culture in which people prefer to edit her out rather than see her
disfigurement. Despite a few plot weaknesses, Company Town is an interesting scifi read with an
interesting protagonist and a vivid vision of a near future.
~~I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Macmillan-
Tor/Forge, in exchange for my honest review.~~
Michael Hicks rated it it was amazing review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley-2016, sci-fi-fantasy
...and just like that, Madeline Ashby has instantly made it onto my list of must-read authors.

Company Town has all the trimmings of things I love. There's a good dash of sci-fi with some near-
future razzle dazzle cybernetic augmentation, genetic engineering, Singularity conspiracy, and a nice
heaping of serial killer mayhem to round it all off. The setting is wonderfully impressive (and forms the
basis of that kick-ass cover!) - the titular Company Town is a city-sized oil rig off Newfoundland that
has just been bought by the Lynch Corporation.
Hwa, a body-guard for the city's sex workers, has been brought on board to protect the youngest of the
Lynch heirs after a series of death threats are made toward the boy. Hwa is a wonderful character in her
own right, and deeply layered. Afflicted with Sturge-Weber, half her body is stained red; this genetic
abnormality perfectly reflects and informs her personality. She's an outsider in Company Town both
because of her physical imperfections and her choices. She's one of the ultra-rare denizens of Company
Town to have absolutely no genetic modifications or cybernetic upgrades, which makes her an outcast.
Her employment with Lynch only serves to further separate her from those she was once close to. She
refers to her physical affliction as a stain, but it's a stain that runs bone-deep and straight up into her
psyche as she struggles against being an outcast and fighting to remain at arm's length from the world
around her. In Ashby's hands, Hwa is perfectly defined, as interesting and she is engaging.
Company Town is a great read, but primarily because of the characters. There's plenty of great ideas on
display here, and plenty of room for future installments should Ashby be planning a series of this, but
it's the cast and their relationships to one another that, first and foremost, make this book truly
[Note: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.] (less)
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Michael Underwood
Feb 06, 2016Michael Underwood rated it it was amazing review of another edition
What happens when an award-nominated writer of gripping, fresh SF turns her hand to a stand-alone SF
Thriller? In this case, the result is a compelling, pacey, and thoughtful novel.

The main character is distinct (a disabled Korean woman who is a total badass), the setting is
fascinating (an off-shore company town oil rig), and the premise powerful (our heroine, an escort's
escort, is tapped to protect the city-rig's heir apparent against a threat that seems to come from another

Company Town is Terminator for the 21st century. (less)

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Apr 19, 2016Allison rated it liked it review of another edition
Another of those fairly eye-opening near-future sci-fi novels that makes you wonder just how far from
this kind of technology and world we really are. Hwa was a terrific, kick-ass, and fully-realized
protagonist. *Heart-clutch* Ugh, her relationship with her mother. Unique setting, tons of action, bio-
technology: pretty much exactly what I'd expect from Madeline Ashby at this point!

Thanks to Tor and NetGalley for the review copy!
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Oct 01, 2016Veronique rated it really liked it review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, stars-4-0, 2016
What an intriguing book! Ashby has put together one mind-blowing read that combines a noire thriller
with science fiction and bildungsroman.

Crazy action scenes, full of martial art - check. Smart dialogue - check. Engrossing crime mystery -
check. Cyberpunk with genetic enhancement, invisibility suits, changellings, time-travel elements -

The world building is fascinating and concentrated into one microcosm. It seems the author followed
the old crime thriller tradition of having characters restricted to one oppressing setting. Golden Age
crime writers used a mansion or island for instance; here we have a drilling platform made up of
disparate towers and components, off the coast of Canada.

As much as I enjoyed all these elements, what amazed me were the characters, especially the
conumdrum that is Hwa. Her portrayal is truly a study in contrasts. From her weaknesses to her
strengths, here is a character that grows under your skin. Throughout the story, we witness her
psychological growth through her voice and perception as well as her interactions with others. And this
leads me to Joel and Daniel, both excellent in their respective roles. I just loved seeing these three and
wouldn't mind having more!

Finally, Ashby really doesn't make it easy for her readers, expecting them to hold on and sort out the
data themselves. I feel like I've definitely missed some details and sometimes had to make the effort to
process what I had just read, but it all works beautifully. I just need to re-read this one, soon :0) (less)
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Melissa Dog Lover Martin
Apr 20, 2016Melissa Dog Lover Martin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-all
MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List

I absolutely loved this book! It was not what I thought it was going to be, it was even better! The first
line of the book got me right off the bat!

Hwa wondered if today was the day should would finally get to finish that sorry son of a bitch once and
for all.
In the beginning we meet Hwa, she is a bodyguard to the prostitutes on the rig. She makes sure nothing
happens to them. Okay, I might have to put in some mild spoilers

Hwa, along with many other people, ...more

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Sep 19, 2016Renay rated it it was amazing review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, hearts, robots, women-writing-sf, 2016, artificial-intelligence, z-ashby-
madeline, daughters-and-mothers, friendship-to-the-max
I waited so long for this book. I was so nervous to read it. But I finally took the plunge.

I read it in 12 hours.

I loved it. I loved it.

More thoughts:

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Charlie - A Reading Machine
Jun 05, 2016 Charlie - A Reading Machine rated it really liked it review of another edition
A quick and excellent sci fi ride with interesting characters, ambitious ideas and some genuinely human
moments. Highly recommend. Full review to come at
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Tammy Sparks
Jun 20, 2016Tammy Sparks rated it really liked it review of another edition
The nitty-gritty: A stellar science fiction mystery with awesome characters and some unexpected

Ill call you before you go to sleep, he said. I can see it, when your heart slows down. Thats how I
know when to call. I keep your heartthe icon of your heartin one corner of my vision. All the

Her stomach flipped over and tried to exit through her fingertips. Adrenaline jangled down her arms
like music. Her mouth went dry and all she could taste was the burn of the drug in her throat.

See, there? It skipped.

Ive had Company Town on my radar for almost exactly two yearsI did have to go back through my
blog posts and checksince June 2014 when the book was being published by Angry Robot. I had
featured it in a Waiting on Wednesday back then, and even though the book has since changed
publishers, the cover has miraculously stayed the same. I remember wondering what had happened to it
when it fell off the Angry Robot website, and so I was very excited to find it had a new publishing
home. And wow, Im so glad I read it! What a wonderful surprise this was, and you can bet Im going to
go back and check out Ashbys earlier books.

Company Town takes place in the city of New Arcadia in a not-too-distant future, where in the center of
town, the remains of an old oil rig that blew up several years ago are surrounded now by five towers
where the citizens of New Arcadia live and work. Go Jung-hwa, or Hwa for short, is a bodyguard for
the United Sex Workers of Canada, where she watches out for the girls who work for Mistress Sverine.
But the future of New Arcadia is uncertain, due to the imminent takeover of the rich and powerful
Lynch family. Hwa isnt too keen on the Lynch family taking over the city, but when shes approached
by a man named Daniel Sofra who works for them, she reluctantly agrees to take over the job of
bodyguard for their fifteen-year-old heir, a precocious boy named Joel. Hwa pretends to be a student so
she can attend high school classes with Joel, and on their off-hours she teaches him self-defense.

But after an attack at school, Hwa realizes that someone is after Joel, and when Hwas friends from her
former job start dying in horrible ways, she knows shes going to need all her resourcesas well as
Daniels helpto figure out who is behind the murders. And just what is the Lynch family up to
anyway? Hwa is determined to unravel all the mysteries, even if it kills her.

Madeline Ashby is one of those writers who gives the reader just enough information to let us put the
pieces of the mystery together ourselves without hitting us over the head with lengthy explanations and
info-dumps. I absolutely loved her understated writing style, which is both simple and elegant and fits
perfectly with the story shes telling. The story started out a little slow for me, but it was only because I
didnt understand the unfamiliar terms Ashby uses. It didnt take long, though, for this book to really
grow on me, and before I knew it I was completely immersed in the world. Ashby has created a
fascinating city full of futuristic architecture, including the five towers, each with its own style. In one
of the towers, concentric rings of apartments circle each other in opposite directions, which gives the

residents a continually changing set of neighbors. The fact that the old oil rig still stands in the center of
all these towers, dilapidated and no longer in use, is a constant reminder of the accident that killed
Hwas brother.

In the world of New Arcadia, most people have artificial enhancements and surgeries that make them
more attractive or resistant to illness, but Hwa is unique: she is unedited and pure, free of any of these
enhancements. Because shes had to rely on her own skills, shes become a kick-ass woman who can
definitely hold her own in a fight. Hwas mother was so disappointed when she was born with Sturge-
Weber disease that she refused to spend money on enhancements for Hwa. Therefore, Hwa has gone her
entire life listening to her mother call her ugly (among other unflattering names), and shes come to
believe it. Hwa dreads people seeing her stain, and it isnt until she meets Daniel that she begins to
realize she has more to offer than simply muscle.

Ashbys story has a strong murder mystery element to it, as a serial killer appears to be on the loose in
New Arcadia, killing sex workers who are connected to Hwa. I loved the authors pacing as Hwa
gradually gathers clues, which lead her to a startling discovery about the evil Lynch family.

But it was the characters that really made this story shine, particularly Hwa, Joel and Daniel. Joel was a
delightful character, a young teenager who has the huge burden of being the future heir of the Lynch
family. But that doesnt stop him from being a happy-go-lucky boy whos personality only gets better
when Hwa comes into his life. I adored their friendship and their sarcastic banter. Hwa and Daniel truly
care for each other (but not in a romantic wayshes too old for him!) and their relationship was
simply delightful.

And Danielwell, it was pretty clear almost from the beginning that there was a going to be a romance
between Daniel and Hwa, but it was so subtly done that I have to say its one of the best romances Ive
read in some time. Hwa cant believe that Daniel can actually see past her ugliness, and the raw
moments between them when they both drop down their guards were extremely romantic.

The other character I have to mention is Hwas mother, Sunny. At first she seems like a horrible mother.
She still says terrible things to her daughter whenever she sees her, but there is a moment when she
reveals a secret about herself to Hwa that was so poignant, that I completely changed my mind about
her. It takes some mad writing skills to make that happen, and boy does Ashby have those skills!

The last couple of chapters are exactly what I wanted, lots of action and danger, and I found myself
worrying about what would happen to Hwa, Joel and Daniel. I wasnt prepared for the ending, but I
have to say it was immensely satisfying, and I finished the book with my heart racing and a smile on
my face.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. This review originally appeared on Books,
Bones & Buffy

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Jun 07, 2016Jaclyn rated it it was amazing review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, futuristic, time-travel, net-galley, arc, canadian-setting, canadian-author
Originally reviewed at The Book Adventures.

Company Town is a science fiction novel that checks all my boxes: great characters, a compelling plot,
and complex ideas that arent bogged down by didacticism and explanations.

Hwa is a young woman living on an oil rig. On this self-contained ecosystem Hwa stands out. Hwa is
one of the very few who does not have any augmentations that enhance her humanity. Hwa can't fix
herself with tech. As a result, Hwa constantly strives to be work harder than anyone ...more
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May 26, 2016Ryan rated it liked it review of another edition
A really frustrating book because it has the bones of brilliance.

Really interesting modern cyberpunk setting, cute plot twist. The writing is lively and moves right
along, but is really compact and occasionally devolves into chaos. I really could have used more
explanatory exposition and internal dialogue to knit the scenes and developing relationships together
(the romance was particularly unconvincing). The end was brief and major events really seemed to
whip by.

The really heavy-handed ugly-duckling outsider main character, (view spoiler) seemed very YA. There's
even a high-school bodyguard subplot! The presence of these tired tropes in such a mature, gritty setting
was quite dissonant. At least this ripped female martial-arts master was actually written by a woman.

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Mar 14, 2016Ksenia added it review of another edition
Shelves: publicist-books
A brilliant story with a kick-ass heroine, and one of the best opening lines in a book. A story that could
take place in the very near future with all the moral complications you would expect in such a near-
future setting. Science fiction and mystery meld nicely in this one. A great stand-alone!
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Lynn Williams
Jun 07, 2016Lynn Williams rated it really liked it review of another edition
Strong 4*
Company Town by Madeline Ashby was my first book by this author and it really took me by surprise.
A book set in the future and based entirely on a town surrounding and built out of an oil rig. This is a
harsh world and a somewhat grim landscape but also one with vast leaps forward in terms of
technology not really the sort of book that I would normally be entirely comfortable with and yet I
thought it was excellent. At its core this is a murder mystery with a twist in the tale and what makes it
stand out from the crowd is the great characterisation and world building.

At the start of the story were introduced to Hwa who works as a bodyguard for the prostitutes on board
the rig. Strict regulations govern the sex worker trade but this doesnt stop things from getting out of
hand on occasion and Hwa is there try to prevent such occurences. On top of that the girls that she
protects are her friends, probably her only friends, which makes it all that much worse to come to terms
with when Hwa accepts a job as bodyguard for the Lynch company heir. By way of background, the rig
suffered an explosion a few years earlier killing a lot of workers and has recently been overtaken by the
Lynch Co who have their own plans in place. Of course this is a time of unrest with any inhabitants
with the means making a hasty departure. For the less fortunate ones, such as Hwa, there is no means of
escape and they simply have to make the best of their lives. Joel, the Heir to the Lynch company seems
to have been receiving death threats hence the need for a new bodyguard. At the same time it seems
that a number of deaths start to occur on board the rig and the victims are all former friends of Hwa.
Something is seriously rotten in New Arcadia, a deranged killer stalks the decks killing prostitutes in an
almost Ripper fashion and the entire town seems to be vulnerable to terrorist attack.

This is such a great combination of well thought out plot, excellent world creation and great characters
that I was completely hooked.

To start with Hwa is a wonderful protagonist who I really enjoyed reading about. What is really obvious
is that Ashby knows how to put enough flesh on the bones of her characters to lend them credibility.
Hwa is a tough cookie and with just cause. Born with Sturge Weber Syndrome and with a mother who
refused to spend money doing anything about it (in a world where all sorts of augmentations, implants
and other adaptations are available and used regularly by any and every one) Hwa has suffered a life of
being different, ridiculed and looked down upon. Its certainly toughened her up. Hwa is a fantastic
combination of tough and prickly exterior protecting a bit of a vulnerable, softer core and I loved this
about her. In a world where outside appearances are all that seem to count Hwa cares about people.
Shes still genuine and being one of the few organic residents left on the rig her lack of augmentation
also mean that shes immune to hackers which makes her a very attractive proposition to the Lynch
On top of this we have another stellar character in Daniel Siofra. Siofra is a man of mystery, usually
appearing in the right place at the right time and being Hwas boss he keeps an eye on her comings and
goings. You can probably deduce from this that Hwa and Siofra eventually become romantically
involved which was as much a surprise to them as it was to me! Let me be clear though, this is not a
romantic novel but the relationship between Siofra and Hwa really packs an emotional punch and I
loved that element to the story.
I cant help looking at this review and thinking Im giving very little away which makes me think that
people will be scratching their heads about now and saying what is this book actually about! Well, its
an intriguing murder mystery with high tech gadgets set in an enclosed and somewhat claustrophobic
environment that lends it a more chilling aspect and with a race to find the killer before things go to hell
in a handcart. Ive probably not really cleared things up much with that statement but there it is.

For me this is just a winning story that has characters that I feel for, a world that I can easily picture,
often grimy and frequently vicious, a plot line that makes you think its one thing and then turns that on
its head in the most unexpected fashion and great writing.

In terms of criticisms well, I did have one particular element of the story where I think I lost the plot a
little bit and wasnt quite sure what exactly had just gone on or whether the story had jumped somehow
and Id missed something. There was also quite a bit going on and in that respect I think sometimes it
was necessary to slow down a little in order to really absorb the latest revelation. Other than that I
thought this was a great read.

I have no hesitation in recommending Company Town, its a futuristic murder mystery with a sci fi
setting and with extra intrigue ladled on top.

I received a copy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks. The above is my
own opinion (less)
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Oct 15, 2016Lauredhel rated it it was amazing review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, mystery
This has a flaw or too, sure, but it's one of those "I don't care" situations, because holy crap what a book
this is. If you like cyberpunk/corporate-dystopia/time-shenigan/gory-crime SF mystery books,
especially those that come complete with a disabled female Korean sex industry worker protagonist,
this is the book for you.

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Jun 21, 2016Jacqie rated it it was ok review of another edition
Shelves: didnt-finish, netgalley
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I read and really liked Madeline Ashby's "vN" so was excited to read this book. I thought "vN" was
chock-full of original ideas that aren't spoonfed to the reader and described a future that made a
horrifying kind of sense. I was hoping for another book that made me think while remaining
entertainingly fast paced. Unfortunately, I didn't get that with this book.

The idea of the company town is an old one, but I suppose ...more
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Jul 22, 2016Kate rated it really liked it review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, canadian-author, lady-writer, lady-protagonist, poc-protagonist, canadian-setting,
android, newfie, disabled-protagonist
There was a whole lot I really liked about this book. Set in Canada - in Newfoundland, with characters
who have Newfie accents! Lots of people of colour, including our protagonist, Hwa. Lots of ladies,
including Hwa. Disabled protagonist (Hwa has Sturge-Weber Syndrome, which causes a facial
birthmark and seizures among other things). Respectful portrayal of sex workers. Great sci-fi setting.
The writing was really engaging...I know it took me 8 days to finish it but that's just because I
didn't ...more
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Whitney Milam
Jun 04, 2016Whitney Milam rated it really liked it review of another edition
A thought-provoking exploration of posthumanism & transhumanist ideas within a compelling murder
mystery narrative, featuring a kickass disabled WOC protagonist - loved it.

Coolcurry rated it really liked it review of another edition

Shelves: strong-female-character, science-fiction, protag-female, diversity
Company Towns plot didnt make a whole lot of sense, but I nevertheless enjoyed reading it. Hwas a
bodyguard for a sex workers union on a future city built around an oil rig. The citys being bought out
by a single family owned business, and Hwa is offered a new job: guard Joel, the familys 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 thats 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. Shes a half Korean woman with Sturge-Weber
Syndrome, and shes 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 shes guarding. Neither of them grew up with
supportive parents, and I think thats part of why they bonded so strongly. Before I move on, I do want
to note that given the end of the book, I wouldnt recommend Company Town for representation of
disabilities. (view spoiler)

Company Towns main failing was the plot line. It just didnt make much sense at all. I have zero clue
how the death threats from the future plot line was working, and I dont think I would understand it
any better even if I reread the book. Then there were smaller plot issues like how Hwa didnt 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.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.

I received a free ARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. (less)
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Oh my! This book is so unexpected that I'm still scrambling to catch up with and relive what went
Hwa is an amazing character. Her strengths and weaknesses, her very humanness in a world where
people embrace bio-engineering stands in sharp contrast to those around her. Her world is narrowed
down to a huge oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean off the Canadian coast--a city (Company Town) owned by
a huge corporation: Lynch Ltd. ... and wasn't the original US nuclear testing site a prototype of 'the
Company Town' ? Ah! the nefarious doings of large corporations rears it's ugly head!
Hired to be the bodyguard for Joel, the heir apparent and youngest of the 'family', Hwa comes face to
face with truths that are disturbing. The drive and ambition of the family is both bizarre and frightening,
Orwell's '1984' meets David Weber's 'Mesan Alignment' in the Harrington Books with, I don't know,
perhaps some of 'The Matrix.' Let's face it Lynch Ltd. is one scary corporation, a corporation without
ethics and driven by the few super people prototypes. Are they machine or human or neither? The lines
certainly blur.

So you have this hive type community mind that is looking to control and tailor the responses and
decisions of the heir apparent, Joel, but the non engineered Hwa, the organic is the X factor in the
equation, the wild card--and therein lies her power! Her relationship with Joel is fascinating, as is that
with Daniel. Who or what is Daniel? I am still trying to figure that out too.
So I loved this book and am unsure why. Maybe because that wild card kept frustrating the status quo,
despite the personal tragedies that happen along the way. Hwa is a strong female lead that one can
empathize with. Great character! She is in a fight for her very being, without ever realizing it.
Great stuff!

p.s. The dedication is timely. It speaks into the void. Thank you Madeline Ashby!

A NetGalley ARC (less)

When I saw Company Town on NetGalley, the striking cover was what initially drew me in. Ive yet to
see a Joey Hi-Fi cover that wasnt compelling. The blurb wasnt spectacular, but hey, TOR usually has
superb sci-fi. [edit: Joey Hi-Fi and Madeline Ashby tweeted me to correct me that the cover is by Erik

Ive always enjoyed dystopian near-future science fiction, and Ms. Ashby delivers on all fronts. My
biggest complaint about Company Town is that there was more than one leap in the narrative. These
leaps left me confused. I suppose that couldve been intentional, since they followed the character
getting knocked out, but it just seemed jarring to me.

Parts of the story felt clichd. Prostitutes with hearts of gold, the Snidely Whiplash villainy of the
Family, the extreme uncaring class separation, and the disfigured hero that is beautiful on the inside
have been done again and again, but Ms. Ashby does weave an exciting tale with a unique take on these
old tropes.

There was a little bit of whodoneit mystery sprinkled in, with plenty of red herrings, but the mystery
aspect took a back seat to the sci-fi, and the unrestrained romp Hwa achieves as she uncovers a string of
grisly murders that she just knows are aimed at her.

Overall, Company Town is a compelling read, and although portions of this review may seem negative,
I highly recommend this 4-star book. (less)
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Sachin Dev

It's a 4.5 stars really - Madeline Ashby can spin a yarn in a futuristic world and then, build the shit out
of that world. I was left agape at the wondrous imagination of hers doing over-time in this book - each
and every small element in the oil-rig town of new Arcadia in a possible near-future just blows your

mind and of course, Hwa, the korean-canadian(?) lead character in the book is just the most spunkiest
and practical, hard-as-nails woman I've read about, who makes the tale heart-felt and a compelling read,
along with the other two leading characters (Joe - the genius teenager and heir to the Company which
owns the rig-town and Daniel, who hires Hwa as the bodyguard for Joe).

If you thought science fiction was boring, try Madeline Ashby. She makes a compelling argument with
Company Town as to why spinning a potboiler with futuristic elements set in near-possible future
would still melt your heart - because ultimately, the heart of the story is still about adaptations and the
trials and tribulations that we humans undergo. It's brilliant and deserves more love!