Rebellion, Robots and What Makes us Human in The Companions by Katie M. Flynn

What Makes Someone Human?

2/5

The Companions

by Katie M. Flynn

Wealthy participants in the “companionship” program choose to upload their consciousness before dying, so they can stay in the custody of their families. The less fortunate are rented out to strangers upon their death, but all companions become the intellectual property of Metis Corporation, creating a new class of people― 

By Katie M. Flynn The Companions

About

Station Eleven meets Never Let Me Go in this debut novel set in an unsettling near future where the dead can be uploaded to machines and kept in service by the living.

In the wake of a highly contagious virus, California is under quarantine. Sequestered in high rise towers, the living can’t go out, but the dead can come in—and they come in all forms, from sad rolling cans to manufactured bodies that can pass for human. Wealthy participants in the “companionship” program choose to upload their consciousness before dying, so they can stay in the custody of their families. The less fortunate are rented out to strangers upon their death, but all companions become the intellectual property of Metis Corporation, creating a new class of people—a command-driven product-class without legal rights or true free will.

Sixteen-year-old Lilac is one of the less fortunate, leased to a family of strangers. But when she realizes she’s able to defy commands, she throws off the shackles of servitude and runs away, searching for the woman who killed her.

Lilac’s act of rebellion sets off a chain of events that sweeps from San Francisco to Siberia to the very tip of South America. While the novel traces Lilac’s journey through an exquisitely imagined Northern California, the story is told from eight different points of view—some human, some companion—that explore the complex shapes love, revenge, and loneliness take when the dead linger on.
 

Stats

Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: March 3rd 2020 by Gallery/Scout Press
Original Title
The Companions
ISBN
1982122153 (ISBN13: 9781982122157)
Edition Language
English

My Thoughts

Katie M. Flynn’s newest story, The Companions, is described as a dystopic combination of “Station Eleven and Never Let Me Go set in an unsettling near future where the dead can be uploaded to machines and kept in service by the living.” However, The Companions never hits the mark with either comparison. 

The story is about a world that has been destroyed by a crafted, highly contagious virus. California is under massive quarantine, people cannot go outside or interact with other people for fear of contamination. Right from the start, this isn’t a new idea. This kind of isolationism is widespread in science fiction. Humans are social creatures, and we start to act funny and do odd things when cut off from society. The dead can come into homes, however, in the form of “companionship.” A deceased persons mind, intellect, and memories are downloaded in storage and uploaded into a new robot if “the company” deems it fit. This lead to so many questions that break the plausibility of this story. Why would a company be given so much power and ownership of what amounts to people’s souls? What about this virus? What did it do? Why are some people outside, but seemingly ok? Is the virus a lie? and so on…

“Wealthy participants in the “companionship” program choose to upload their consciousness before dying, so they can stay in the custody of their families.” This class system stratification could have opened up a ton of exciting avenues for the story, the wealthy versus the poor, where the wealthy love forever. But, it came off as more of a footnote—a bit of backstory rather than a propelling narrative for the plot. 

“Sixteen-year-old Lilac is one of the less fortunate, leased to a family of strangers. But when she realizes she’s able to defy commands, she throws off the shackles of servitude and runs away, searching for the woman who killed her.” 

The premise, at least in the blurb, is solid with this story. We have disharmony between societal classes, a vast plague that disrupts social norms, people stuck in machines, and more, which is why it saddened me around the 50% mark to see that this story was not going to go anywhere. 

What was written where a series of character vignettes. 

 

Lilac’s act of rebellion sets off a chain of events that sweeps from San Francisco to Siberia to the very tip of South America. While the novel traces Lilac’s journey through an exquisitely imagined Northern California, the story is told from eight different points of view—some human, some companion—that explore the complex shapes love, revenge, and loneliness take when the dead linger on. 

Each of the vignettes is interesting and well written on their own, but taken as a whole are an incohesive story. The characters that were very strong to start with, get lost. There is no real character that I could call a true protagonist. The story jumps in time and events with rapidity, but the reader is never given a chance to eternalize why some events are important and why others are not. What we end up with is a substantial character and emotional series of stories that take place in the same world, and might have some connecting thread between them, but not much else. 

The Companions started so strong, the writing was excellent, but the lack of cohesive narrative and worldbuilding leave it muddy. 

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Where to find it?

Procurement

I received a copy of this from Netgalley and the Publisher in exchange for my open and honest review.

About the Author

Katie M. Flynn is a writer, editor, and educator based in San Francisco. Her short fiction has appeared in Colorado ReviewIndiana ReviewThe Masters Review, and Tin House, among other publications. She has been awarded Colorado Review’s Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction, a fellowship from the San Francisco Writers Grotto, and the Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing. Katie holds an MFA from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Geography from UCLA. The Companions is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @Other_Katie or visit her website BurytheBird.com.

Where to Find Them

You can find them on twitter here –  @other_katie

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