The Companions is a sweeping near-future dystopian that spans many years and explores the connections between many characters, creating a beautifully earnest vision of a future that feels all too real right now. This story hit me in a way that I haven’t experienced since I read Station Eleven, and I love this slow, deliberate style of story-telling. What Station Eleven did with the post-apocalyptic genre, The Companions does for science fiction, melding and mixing literary fiction with the speculative genre in a very sincere and realistic way.
The Companions opens in a United States under quarantine because of a dangerous and highly contagious virus moving throughout the world. People are sequestered in their apartments, and are, inevitably, bored out of their minds. Maybe that opening sounds a little too close to reality right now, but the story does open up from there in a very sci-fi way. In The Companions, people can elect to have their consciousness uploaded when they die, so that they can return in android form and serve as Companions to their families or to other people.
There’s a “big bad” company, Metis Corporation, at the core of this Companion process, and it actually owns the intellectual property of each and every person uploaded into their system. These Companions are from many different backgrounds and are uploaded under totally different circumstances. Some are murder victims, some are elderly individuals who elect to be uploaded to spend more time with their families, and some are just people who choose to sell their consciousnesses for whatever reason. Nearly all of the people uploaded into Companions, though, have some sort of trauma resulting from their deaths. This trauma starts breaking through in (sometimes) dangerous ways, and Companions must eventually deal with a world that created them, but no longer wants them.
The Companions follows many characters, and explores the relationships between humans, between Companions, and in human/Companion relationships. The story spans many, many years, and we see some characters grow up, some characters die, and some characters change into very different people than who they open as. People change forms, change bodies, and lose memories. It’s a story of reincarnation, of aging, of love, and of a changing world. It’s really beautiful and I can’t recommend it enough.
Bottom Line: 5/5 star read. This book got me out of a bit of a reading slump, and that’s the highest praise I can give a book. Not only that, but it gave me serious Station Eleven vibes and has the depth of a novel twice its length.
Thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! The Companions is out now!