Company Town, by Madeline Ashby

Company Town

Meet Hwa. One of the few in her community to forego bio-engineered enhancements, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig. But she’s an expert in the arts of self-defence, and she’s been charged with training the Family’s youngest, who has been receiving death threats – seemingly from another timeline. Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city’s stability – serial killer? Or something much, much worse…?

When I saw Company Town on NetGalley, the striking cover was what initially drew me in. I’ve yet to see a Joey Hi-Fi cover that wasn’t compelling. The blurb wasn’t 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 Mohr.]

I’ve 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 could’ve been intentional, since they followed the character getting knocked out, but it just seemed jarring to me.

Parts of the story felt clichéd. 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.

Madeline Ashby

Madeline Ashby is a science fiction writer and strategic foresight consultant living in Toronto. She has been writing fiction since she was about thirteen years old. (Before that, she recited all her stories aloud, with funny voices and everything.) Her fiction has appeared in Nature, Tesseracts, Escape Pod, FLURB, the Shine Anthology, and elsewhere. Her non-fiction has appeared at,,, Online Fandom, and WorldChanging. She is a member of the Cecil Street Irregulars, one of Toronto’s oldest genre writers’ workshops. She holds a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (her thesis was on anime, fan culture, and cyborg theory) and a M.Des. in strategic foresight & innovation (her project was on the future of border security). Currently, she is represented by Monica Pacheco of Anne McDermid & Associates.


About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

2 responses to “Company Town, by Madeline Ashby

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