Company Town / Madeleine Ashby
New York: Tor, c2016.
This book was an impulse read; I saw it at work and impulsively brought it home. It's a near-future, noir science-fictiony serial killer novel with time travellers, a bit of romance and one badass heroine. It also has quite a lot of strong language & violence if that bothers you, fyi.
But it is a fresh and fast-paced story, and I really liked it. Set on an oil rig turned big city off Newfoundland, a setting that gives it an isolation similar to more traditional science fiction settings, it opens with an introduction to our heroine Go Jung-Hwa. She's one of the only "organics" left in the city; she has no tech augmentations like everyone else has. But this isn't a philosophical decision - it's because her self-absorbed mother was too cheap to pay for anything at all for a daughter she didn't want. Hwa also has a real disorder, Sturge-Weber Syndrome, which means she has a port wine stain on her face that makes it the perfect natural dazzle pattern -- no one can see her true face through their tech.
Hwa starts out as a bodyguard for the city's legal escort service, and is part of the sex workers union. But the town is changing: after an explosion a few years before (in which Hwa's brother was killed) their economy is shaky and the entire rig has been bought by a family company, the Lynches. Hwa gets pulled into a situation that ends with her being offered a role as bodyguard to the teenage son of the Lynch family, a boy who has been receiving death threats regularly. This means she starts to build a relationship with the hated new Company and to gain access to their secrets - and to her immediate boss, Daniel, who becomes more than just her boss.
It's a convoluted, complex, inventive, engaging and rapid read. Are there flaws? Sure. But Hwa herself, and all the cyperpunky bits and pieces that Ashby throws in to the story, are so interesting that I didn't really care that much. I liked the character and the world of the rig - it was dense in detail and made me think of the town in Blade Runner with the mix of inhabitants, and lots of rain and dark and threats. This was a great new discovery, with an unusual setting and some great characters. Overlook the minor plot holes and enjoy the ride.