New Arcadia is a city in transition. Perched atop a ruined oil rig in the Atlantic, the city has just been acquired by the wealthy industrialist Zacharias Lynch, who plans to build a cutting-edge nuclear reactor in the ocean below. Hwa, our tough and resourceful protagonist, lives and works on the rig, serving as a bodyguard for local sex workers union. While the oil flowed, the rig was a boomtown, but now the future is uncertain. How will Lynch’s plans for the city and his interest in esoteric technologies change New Arcadia—and its residents?
Company Town is an enjoyable, zippy read, if not entirely satisfying. The book is bursting with ideas and puts an intriguing spin on several sci-fi staples, yet few are explored in depth. We dash from one crisis to the next and switch between plot threads frequently. Depending on your reading preferences, you may find this to be a virtue (the action revs up quickly and doesn’t stop until the end, and it’s an easy read—but by no means simplistic or lacking in creativity) or a vice (there’s little room for any one idea—or scene—to breathe, and the connections between these elements aren’t always fleshed out).
Hwa herself is a tough, sharp protagonist—the kind of hero readers will enjoy cheering for. Her relationship with Joel, the teenage grandson of Lynch himself, is especially refreshing: Hwa is his mentor and protector, but her talents and concerns aren’t ultimately superseded by his. She’s also juggling her friendships with other women in the union, a strained relationship with her mother, and a developing affection for one of Lynch’s most mysterious employees.
Bottom line: Company Town is smart and fast-paced but may not satisfy those looking for a “big idea” read.