A Review By: Amelia
I love steampunk. I just love it. It’s a great world/style to muck about in! It takes the best parts of Victorian society and adds technological advances that might have happened and that’s super fascinating for me because I love alternate histories! The Company Man isn’t quite steampunk, but it is just enough for me to have jumped on his book without a second thought.
The McNaughton Corporation is a corporation so large, so groundbreaking, so extraordinary, it is the apex of American industry. They supplied weapons for the great war, built massive airships, created a shining metropolis from the fishing wharfs where the Union skulks all the way to the sky high buildings where CEOs play their business games. But something is wrong in the city. One day a subway car pulls into a station with eleven dead bodies inside. It had left the last station four minutes ago and each person lay butchered like they never saw it coming. Worst of all, all eleven were Union. Cyril Hayes, a semi-washed up, mostly addicted detective must fix it. There is a dark secret behind the inventions of McNaughton and with a war brewing between the executives and the workers. Caught between the union and the company, between the police and the victims, Hayes must uncover the mystery before the whole city burns.
This isn’t the first Robert Jackson Bennett book I’ve reviewed. Devotees of my reviews will remember my American Elsewhere one (which was so super hard for me to write because it was such a complex book and I was trying not to give anything away). The Company Man is his second full length novel and was nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award as well as an Edgar Award. I said it in the last review and I’ll say it again here: Bennett is a master of speculative fiction!
The main character of The Company Man is Cyril Hayes and boy is he messed up! He suffers from a pseudo-physic condition that leaves him more or less crippled when it comes on and has left him addicted to any pain killers he can get his hands on. He works for McNaughton as a kind of internal affairs officer and when he’s put in charge of the mass murder in the subways his life only gets harder and more messed up. He’s not really a hero or an anti-hero, just a guy trying to do his job because he has too. That changes a little near the end of the book (but I’ll stop myself there to keep from spoiling anything) but mostly it’s just a guy trying to get through his life.
The shining light of this story is definitely the locations in this steampunk story. The huge shining city of Evesden is so spectacularly detailed: there’s not a scene that doesn’t go in the story where all the intricacies are described or noted upon. There’s giant airships, underground trolleys, dirty slums, and a shining downtown. There’s underground machines that only a sixth sense can feel and secrets hidden just below the gleaming facade. All in all, it’s a setting that isn’t seen every often and won’t soon be forgotten!
The Company Man is such an interesting mash-up of genres. It’s steampunk, sci-fi with crime noir and mystery thriller all rolled up into one! The characters progress the story nicely and the location is unique and original. It’s truly a joy to read.
My final thoughts on The Company Man are that it’s a great read! It was a little slow to get going but the finale more than enough makes up for that because Bennett is amazing at ending his books with unexpected twists and serious action. Honestly, the last hundred pages of this book had be wishing there were a thousand more I could read about this universe!