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Company Town by Madeline Ashby

Company Town is a city-sized oil rig, set in a posthuman world. Its residents have been enhanced in some shape or form, whether it’s to make them smarter or stronger. Everyone, except for Hwa. The protagonist of Madeline Ashby’s novel has zero bio-engineered enhancements, and while this may seem like it could be limiting for her survival, it actually proves to be a great strength. 

With her martial arts expertise and her sharp wit, Hwa is always one step ahead of people who are bigger, faster, and stronger than her. She’s tough and looks it too, because of the big scar across her face. But, don’t feel sorry for her, because while this may seem like a permanent disfigurement, it actually is a huge advantage for her, as she is able to go undetected in facial recognition software.

Hwa’s a bodyguard, who teaches self-defence classes and protects sex workers. When the oil-rig is bought by a wealthy family, the Lynchs, Hwa is approached to protect the youngest member of the clan. In the meantime, there’s a serial killer on the loose, who’s targeting the sex workers. 

There’s a lot going on in this book; the posthuman ideas are interesting, and the possibility of living in this type of world becomes imaginable. However, whether it’s because I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, the challenge I found was that there was a lot of ideas that weren’t explained properly. I found myself drifting in and out of the story, attempting to connect the dots both thematically and plot wise.  It defies description but for those less informed in the minutiae of science fiction, perhaps think of elements of the movies Johnny Mnemonic, Gattaca, Blade Runner, and Dredd put into a blender and the result is this dystopian smoothie. 

This book is one of the finalists in the 2017 Canada Reads. It will be great to tune in to the debates from March 27-30th to see how Maesha Brueggergosman defends the novel. 
Read Reviews of the other finalists: