By Madeline Ashby
Company Town, the debut novel from Ottawa writer Madeline Ashby, is a delightful hybrid, mixing noir and SF along with a strong feminist line and lots of regional flavour.
The titular town is a city-sized oil platform off the Newfoundland coast (“b’y”) being run by a super-wealthy family corporation. Go Jung-hwa (or Hwa for short) is a young woman living on the platform who works as protection for the local sex workers. Though unenhanced by bio-upgrades (which leads to certain self-esteem issues) Hwa has become a master of the martial arts and her skills come to the notice of the Lynch family, who hire her to be the bodyguard for one of the young heirs to the family fortune.
As with a lot of noir, the plot gets quite tangled. Something dangerous is going on and Hwa finds herself right in the middle of it, unsure who to trust, puzzled by programmable viruses, and pursued by killers in invisibility suits. It all makes for a thrilling story set in a fully-realized and memorable new world.