I read two books back to back, each written by authors living in Canada, and each showing how Canada – and the world – looks in future.

And neither future is particularly pleasant – or happy.

In Madeline Ashby‘s Company Town ($34.99, Tor, Raincoast Books), a book included in this year’s Canada Reads, Hwa is one of a few people in New Aracdia, a city-sized rig off of the coast of Canada’s Maritimes, who is natural, free from bio-engineered enhancements. While that makes her an outsider, her skills as a fighter and bodyguard pairs her with the youngest son of the Lynch family, which has taken over ownership of the town. When women begin to be murdered, Hwa leads the charge to find out who the seemingly invisible killer is.

I am left with the impression that Ashby’s future is dark, maybe dirty. It’s certainly not a nice place for people to live, and it seems New Acadia residents feel there are few opportunities and even fewer possibilities of getting away.

Ashby’s world seems bleak – and depressing.

Saying that, it was a good story with some truly great characters, Hwa, Siofra and Joel among them. I was kept guessing until the end, and never did figure it out.

It was a good read, and will be interesting to see how it does in the upcoming Canada Reads.


Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules ($22.99, Simon & Shuster) showed a different world, and while it didn’t seem as physically dark – the human race reverted back to using Earth’s resources wisely after climate change literally sunk populations under water – the fact it is run by AIs (artificial intelligent) that hold the world’s leaders’ children as hostages for peace made it seem equally as awful.

AIs took over the world generations before the story began when humans were killing each other over what was left of Earth’s resources. AIs blew up entire cities, then created a rule: One child from each of the world’s nations was taken away as a hostage of peace. If a ruler decided to go to war, that person’s child would be killed. AIs made war personal in hopes humans would refrain from fighting each other.

The Scorpion Rules tells the story of Princess Greta and Elian, among other teen hostages, whose nations are coming closer to war, and with it, death to one or both of them.

Bleak. And depressing. And frightening. It was a great read, and an interesting story with brave and strong teen characters.

Note: A copy of Company Town was provided by Raincoast Books for a honest review. A copy of The Scorpion Rules was provided by Erin Bow for a honest review.