Reading List

5 books to read if you loved Company Town

Madeline Ashby's science fiction novel was championed by soprano Measha Brueggergosman on Canada Reads 2017.
Madeline Ashby is a science fiction writer and futurist. (CBC)

If you enjoyed Madeline Ashby's futuristic sci-fi novel, here are five more books we think you'll enjoy.

Company Town was championed by soprano Measha Brueggergosman during Canada Reads 2017.

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

(Sara Maria Salamone)

What it's about: A mysterious plague is turning blonde women into crazed killers. Blonde and pregnant, Hazel flees in an attempt to save herself and her unborn child.

If your favourite thing about Company Town was: The exploration of gender, sexism and the expectations and standards of female beauty through the lens of a strong female protagonist. A smart sci-fi mystery with a Canadian setting.

From the book: "Women have stupid dreams. We laud each other only to tear each other down. We are not like men; men shake hands with hate between them all the time and have public arguments that are an obvious jostling for power and position. They compete for dominance — if not over money, than over mating. They know this, each and every one. But women are civilized animals. We have something to prove too, but we'll swirl our anger with straws in the bottom of our drinks and suck it up, leaving a lipstick stain. We'll comment on your hair or your dress only to land a backhanded compliment, make you feel pathetic and poor, too fat or too thin, too young or too old, unsophisticated, unqualified, unwanted. For women, power comes by subtle degrees. I could write a thesis on such women — and I nearly did."

How Poetry Saved My Life by Amber Dawn

(Sarah Race/Arsenal Pulp Press)

What it's about: A memoir about surviving on the streets of Vancouver, doing sex work to survive. In this heart-wrenching book, Amber Dawn explores her struggle with self-esteem, sexuality and identity.

If your favourite thing about Company Town was: A fearless female at the heart of the story. A frank, unapologetic and sympathetic exploration of sex work. Understanding the connections between self-esteem, identity and our physical selves.

From the book: "As the worker — the sex worker — the job is less about embodying the client's fantasy and more about making the imitation seem like money well spent. Lying about my age, breast size, weight, cultural background, hair colour, college education, lust for certain sex acts and so on, is a routine guile that routinely causes me anxiety. Where will the client draw the line between fantasy and deception? The fantasy holds my payment. But finding myself on the side of deception is delicate. Let's just say that in sex work, there is no standardized way for a client to lodge a complaint."

The Mercy Journals by Claudia Casper

(claudiacasper.com/Arsenal Pulp Press)

What it's about: In a dystopian future, a veteran struggles to survive in a largely lawless society. Post-traumatic stress disorder, a result of his military service, weighs heavily on him. 

If your favourite thing about Company Town was: A tough-as-nails, hard-luck protagonist, who stumbles upon companionship they didn't know they needed. A dystopian exploration of what environmental collapse looks like. 

From the book: "You break it, you own it — the old shopkeeper's rule. We broke our planet, so now we owned it, but the manual was only half written and way too complicated for anyone to understand. The winds, the floods, the droughts, the fires, the rising oceans, food shortages, new viruses, tanking economies, shrinking resources, wars, genocide — each problem spawned a hundred new ones. We finally managed to get an international agreement with stringent carbon emissions rules and a coordinated plan to implement carbon capture technologies, but right from the beginning the technologies either weren't effective enough or caused new problems, each of which led to a networks of others. Within a year, the signatories to the agreement, already under intense economic and political pressure, were disputing who was following the rules, who wasn't, and who had the ultimate authority to determine non-compliance and enforcement."

Neuromancer by William Gibson

(Elisabetta A. Villa/Penguin Classics)

What it's about: Henry Dorsett Case was one of the underworld's top hackers, until he got on the wrong side of an ex-employer. Depressed and out of work, Case has run-in with a street samurai who provides an opportunity to get his life back. Published in 1984, Neuromancer is considered a pioneer of the cyberpunk genre, and won the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award and the Hugo Award.

If your favourite thing about Company Town was: A gritty, dystopian future exploring our obsession with technology. An urban setting filled with shady characters, including a physically tough female bodyguard. A book with all the razzle-dazzle of classic science fiction, but that pushes the envelope on the form.

From the book: "The bartender's smile widened. His ugliness was the stuff of legend. In an age of affordable beauty, there was something heraldic about his lack of it. The antique arm whined as he reached for another mug. It was a Russian military prosthesis, a seven-function force-feedback manipulator, cased in grubby pink plastic. 'You are too much the artiste, Herr Case.' Ratz grunted; the sound served him as laughter. He scratched his overhang of white-shirted belly with the pink claw. 'You are the artiste of the slightly funny deal.'"

For Tamara by Sarah Lang

(Sarah Lang Twitter/House Of Anansi Press)

What it's about: A post-apocalyptic survival guide from a mother to her daughter, written in verse.

If your favourite thing about Company Town was: A future that, despite its bleakness, people manage to survive in. The practicalities of living in grim times. Strong female voices.

From the book: "Basil is very temperamental / I'm sorry I have no idea how to make a TV / Find a library sweetheart, please, / Intact.

If all resources fail: bleach. / Learn to can / fruit, vegetables.

Flamingos, / to read, / that we love you. / Rhinoceroses. / Poplar trees have sunscreen (SPF15) on the south side."

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