The Companions

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Mar 2020

Member Reviews

I received a copy of this from NetGalley in response for an honest review. 

This book is one of those rare ones that really seem to have me thinking two ways about it. I really loved the beginning chunk of this book. We were thrown into this strange world where there has been a viral outbreak in California, forcing people into quarantine. At the same time, the first place we see is a teen girls house, where, under quarantine, her mother decided to buy her a companion. Companions are not human, but their "hard drive" used to be human. That means that now dead humans donated their memories, personality, etc to a robot that basically is used however their human wants. 

I found this idea fascinating. I was excited from the get-go because I thought this book was going to be one of my new favorites. However, about a quarter of the way in it took a strange turn. The author not only jumps around POVs, but she jumps around settings, completely forgetting formerly introduced characters. The story spans more than a decade, I believe, and it was a pretty short book. This is why I am so torn. I love the idea but felt that the potential was lost when too many characters were brought in and too many story lines either ended abruptly or didn't come together until the very end. Overall, I liked it but didn't love it.
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2.5 stars

I liked the premise of "The Companions" and the start seemed promising, but then the story started jumping around in time and between characters and it just lost me. 

The story didn't really come together in my opinion, none of the characters was properly developed and I felt like it was lacking a proper narrative.
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From the description I thought I would love this, but it was a tough read, even though it was only 272 pages. I think the premise was good but it just needed a lot more work-through. It read a bit like an outline/rough draft.
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A haunting glimpse into one possible future.

"Where I live now is a blank space. I imagine you live somewhere similar. I can fill it with light, with sorrow, drench it in horror, erase it all with an ocean roar. I can fill it with memories, you putting on your sister’s clothes, Lea! I can remember her name—I don’t know why. There are washes of gray nothing where whole years should be, but I remember thinking something bad would happen at that house party."

"Standing on the cliffs, holding that shovel in my living teenage hands, the hot feeling of anger. We were just girls—what was I so angry about?"

THE COMPANIONS imagines a future San Francisco that feels all too possible; one shaped in equal measures by disease and capitalism (or are they just one and the same?).

Ravaged by several successive waves of a mysterious and highly contagious virus, the citizens of California are under quarantine. In San Francisco, residents are confined to crowded high rises; children attend school online and socialize in carefully planned and closely supervised play dates in their buildings. The internet is many peoples’ only link to the world outside their tightly sealed towers. 

And then there are the companions: when people die, they can opt to have their consciousness downloaded into a semi-immortal body. But this comes at a price: companions are the intellectual property of Metis, the giant megacorp that birthed the companion technology. For a hefty fee, the grotesquely wealthy can remain in the custody of their descendants; the less fortunate belong to Metis, to rent out as it pleases. The bodies used to house the companions’ consciousness run the gamut, from beat-up, trashcan-shaped robots that sport hooks for arms, to lifelike human bodies capable of regenerating skin. Distribution is predictably class-based. 

When I read the synopsis for THE COMPANIONS – a sixteen-year-old murder victim turned first-gen companion goes rogue in order to hunt down her killer – I was hooked (sorry Lilac, no pun intended). However, this plot point primarily serves as a jumping-off point for a much larger story: about technological developments, corporate greed, unintended consequences, and cultural backlash. As much as I wanted to delve into story about robot revenge, I still greatly enjoyed the end result. (Unmet expectations aren’t always a bad thing!)

The narrative unfolds from the alternating perspectives of a whole host of characters, all of them bound by Lilac’s rebellion:

* There’s Lilac, of course, who wakes in her Rosie the Robot-esque body to find that she’s been requisitioned as the plaything of a teenage girl named Delilah. 

* Nikki, Lila’s childhood best friend (and secret crush), whose unknown fate haunts Lilac decades later.

* Red/Mrs. Crozier, the teenage girl who killed Lila in a fit of jealousy, now a lonely and bitter old woman who lives in the Jedediah Smith Elderly Care Facility.

* Cam, one of Red’s caregivers.

* Gabe/Gabrielle, an orphaned street kid in San Francisco who ekes out an existence as a semi-professional thief.

* Diana, one of the scientists who developed Metis’s companion technology.

* Kit, an illegal companion duplicate.

* Rachel, a companion recruited as a mercenary. 

* Jakob Sonne, an actor with dangerously independent ideas of his own.

* Mrs. Espera, ex-wife of studio exec Sydney Espera and mother to their adult daughter Isla. 

* Rolly, the son of a farmer named James, who turned to disposing of companions for Metis after he lost much of his land after the quarantine. 

* Andy, Rolly’s brother, who goes missing for a time when he’s kinda sorta kidnapped by a pair of companions. 

While Lilac’s escape from Dahlia’s custody does set subsequent events into motion, the story becomes so much bigger than one person. Lilac’s singular act of rebellion inspires insurrection in others – sometimes with disastrous results. There are bombings and terrorists attacks and recalls. Acts of stunning inhumanity, as well as tiny moments of kindness and bravery. 

Despite its somewhat diminutive size, THE COMPANIONS is an ambitious book: it dares us to contemplate what immortality might look like, given our current sociopolitical climate. How might such a promising technology be twisted against us, made dystopian? How can we stop this happening? Can we, even? 

Read it if: you rooted for the Cylons in BSG.

Read it with: Arwen Elys Dayton’s STRONGER, FASTER, AND MORE BEAUTIFUL, which is grander in scope yet has a similar vibe.
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Sixteen-year-old high school girls Lilac and Nikki are best friends who go to class together, eat lunch together, hang out together, and confide in each other about everything. The best friends, however, have a fractious relationship with the school's 'in girls', and Lilac especially dislikes the ginger-haired queen bee she calls Red. 

During a keg party, Lilac is looking for a quiet spot when she comes upon Red having sex with a tall husky jock. Lilac screams in surprise, people come running, and everyone starts laughing. Red is embarrassed, and later that night, Red whacks Lilac with a shovel and sends her off a cliff.

When Lilac wakes up she's in the squat, can-shaped body of a robot, to which her 'consciousness' has been transferred. 

Welcome to the future, when people on the verge of death (or who just died) can have their consciousness moved into a carrier, which ranges from a cheap metal robot to an expensive human-looking body. The consciousness-containing carrier - which is the intellectual property of the Metis Corporation that developed the technology - can be leased by members of the public. Often, the renters are family members who want to keep a loved one in their midst. 

As it happens, however, there's another group of people who lease carriers. These are San Franciscans quarantined in their homes for YEARS because of deadly viruses released in the city. These isolated people want company, or babysitters, or sex partners, or whatever. The companions are considered safe because they're 'command-driven', meaning they must obey human instructions and don't have free will. (Famous last words. LOL 🙄)

Lilac's robot body is the least expensive model, a bottom-of-the-line tin can that a woman rented for her school-age daughter Dahlia. Mother and daughter are quarantined in their San Francisco high rise, and young Dahlia needs a friend. After Lilac is with Dahlia for a couple of years, the mother decides to send the robot back. Hearing this Lilac almost murders the woman, then escapes. 

Robot Lilac is determined to confront the high schooler who killed her, and makes her way to the Jedediah Smith care home in northern California. That's where Red - now a cantankerous old woman - is living out her final years.Lilac sneaks into the facility and confronts Red, saying "You hit me - pushed me off that cliff. Nikki - what did you do to Nikki?" 

Red gets hysterical, throws a bottle of booze at the little robot, and irreparably damages it. All of this is witnessed by Cam, one of the caregivers at Jedediah Smith, who's deeply affected by the incident.

Through a confluence of circumstances Lilac gets a human-looking body and becomes reacquainted with Cam, whose carelessness gets her fired from Jedediah Smith. Lilac and Cam set off together and, over time, have a variety of interactions with other companions and humans.

The story unfolds over a couple of decades, during which time quarantine ends; several companions break protocol and kill humans; and there's a recall of ALL companions - which are either burned or compacted. Some companions, however, escape and go undercover, unwilling to give up their 'lives.' 

The narrative is convoluted, with a large number of characters, both humans and companions. Moreover, the companions change bodies from time to time, which adds to the complexity. In addition to the characters mentioned above - as well as an array of secondary players - the novel's main protagonists are:

- Diana, a doctor who developed Metis's companion technology. She sometimes operates outside the law.

- Gabe, a young girl who 'slinks and slides' and aids the doctor's illegal activities.

- Jakob, a handsome actor who didn't read his contract carefully enough. Jakob's studio transfers his consciousness to look-alike robot bodies without even a by-your-leave.

- Nat, a computer whiz who wants to help companions.

- Ms. Espera, a sick woman whose daughter and ex-husband insist she transfer her consciousness to a young new body.

- Rolly, a teenager who helps his father dispose of recalled companions.

- Andy, Rolly's toddler brother, who loves birds and bears, and is good at hiding out.

- Rachel, a human-like companion who hires herself out to do work for people.

The novel's components - deadly viruses; people quarantined for years; possible immortality - have tremendous potential, but the narrative doesn't quite come together. Some parts of the book are compelling and suspenseful, but other parts fall flat.....and I never really got the point of the story.

My takeaway from the book is that some people are good; some people are bad; family - whatever form it takes - is important; and you can't trust robots with human consciousness. In the end, I was a little disappointed.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author (Katie M. Flynn), and the publisher (Gallery/Scout Press) for a copy of the book.
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I really enjoyed this book, perfect for biography and memoir enthusiasts.  This book was generously provided to me through NetGalley.  Highly Recommended!
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I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Companions. The premise was intriguing, and dipping into the first pages suggested it was going to be a very well written, thought-provoking novel. I was not disappointed, and I found this to be an excellent, even moving read about life, how we define it, who has autonomy, and a powerful will to survive.

The novel is split into a number of perspectives, and the story unfolds over a handful of years around a quarantine event in California. We start with Lilac, a companion whose consciousness is contained in one of the lowest-level bodies — still robotic, small, maybe akin to Wall-E (but probably less cute). She’s with a mother and child, and regales the latter with memories of her life — which are not appropriate for a young child, but there we go. They have fun, and it bothers the mother. Lilac was a teenager when she died, suddenly and violently. Her story is woven throughout the novel, and forms a through-thread that pulls us through the narrative.

… what I am, a low-functioning companion, the least advanced. It is all Mother would pay for. She has told me about the many models with varying processing speeds, some with the ability to extrapolate, to change like a person. The top model, the most expensive, even grows skin. It is alive, on some level anyway, though Dahlia could not explain the science to me in an intelligible way and my own searches have been fruitless. I may be a low-functioning companion, but I can tell my feed is filtered.

We meet a number of other characters — fully alive and companion — whose experiences illuminate the precarious state of life in this California. The psychological impact of the quarantine, not to mention the impact of living with and becoming a companion. The shifts in social and cultural mores as companions become more common, even desirable.  As with any new piece of technology, there are some who come to rely on them, depend on them.

I say out loud, “Am I myself?” Even the voice that speaks is not my own, some strange approximation of teenage girl.

Equally, and perhaps inevitably, there comes a backlash against them, and the much of the second half of the novel relates to the growing hostility towards companions, and what this means who those who either care for or are companions. Are companions alive? What level of rights to they retain? They are leased, after all, from the Metis corporation. They are a consciousness, but should they still count as human? How much autonomy should they be allowed? Flynn weaves questions like this throughout the novel, and through different perspectives, gives us slightly different answers to all them.

“What’s it like? Do you feel like yourself? Do you feel alive?”

“Yes and no.”

“What do you mean?”

“Yes, my body reacts to stimuli. I feel emotions too. In all ways, I feel alive. Then I remember I’m inside a machine. My emotions—they’re all fabrications. Everything that’s happening to me is actually happening to this machine I’m in, yet I feel it.”

We learn through Jakob’s POV the legalities of companions. His first chapter, for me, highlighted the more-horrific aspects of consciousness storage and transference — in much the same way the movie The Sixth Day did. (It’s not really you who has been transferred.) As the story progresses, we learn a little bit more about the quarantine, what prompted it, and the connections between it and certain characters; also how the companions came about. I loved the way Flynn wove Lilac’s thread throughout the novel, connecting to each of the characters introduced. As she tries to find people from her real life, she travels the state (and country), making connections, forming bonds with other companions and people, working for autonomy, and looking for answers. It builds to a moving, satisfying conclusion. Really very well done.

An aside: in tone, this novel somewhat reminded me of Jessica Chiarella’s And Again, one of my favourite reads of 2016. While the two novels are very different, they pose similar questions, coming at them from different directions and with somewhat parallel science fictional conceits.

Katie M. Flynn’s The Companions is an engaging, thought-provoking novel. The story poses questions about the present, of course, and especially technology, identity, corporate power, celebrity culture (and its attendant voracious press), and more.

An excellent read, I’d definitely recommend it.
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I really liked the concept of this book and it started out very interesting to me. About halfway through I struggled to maintain interest in the story. I felt like too many different character point of views were added, which made me feel like their stories didn't seem as impactful. 
I enjoyed reading about Cam and Lilac. I think their separate and combined stories would have been enough with their small group of characters. The author has a smooth writing style and the book read at a good pace.
I finished the book and still think the concept and story idea were really good and I hope that another reader might have had a better feel for it.
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A very unique but scary concept for a book!  Katie Flynn took a risky premise and built a community of people generated by uploading a dying person's conscientious into another body.  BUT, the body is controlled at a corporate level, not by the actual person.  This process has been developed after a end of the world virus attacks the US.  The book is worth the reading time, if only to explore how a future could look, if we aren't careful.  Luckily for us, the corporation loses control and Katie Flynn gives us a good thriller in the end.
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Sadly I expected so much more from this novel.  The premise of this debut novel of Katie Flynn alone earns a 3 Star rating ... however, the execution leaves me with a hollow feeling.  Humanity has always searched for immortality ...  although not possible physically the possibility of digital immortality is extremely tantalizing..  The Metis Corporation has developed the technology to upload the brain digitally at the time of death ... not only the memories and data are retained but also miraculously the individual's consciousness, as well.  The "digital individual" is then housed in various forms of varying sophistication of androids/ robots. Originally, it was planned that this process would under the control of the family ...  naturally this process is corrupted and the "companionship" program is born.  The Metis Corporation maintains control of the intellectual property of the digital mind ...  and can duplicate any number of copies for leasing purposes the "well paying caretakers" ...  hence the development of nannies, lovers, and a myriad of other situations.,  The digital mind is command driven and has no free will ...  virtually creating a new form of slavery.  This revolutionary development of technology occurs in the setting of world wide plague from a mutating virus..
    The narrative does not flow and is disjointed and is filled with multiple characters ...  who frankly I didn't really care about.  The chapters and extremely long and circuitous.  There is no developing tension or mystery.  I really had hoped so much more ...  the premise is not expanded in a very interesting fashion.. Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery / Scout Press for providing an electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review.  (readersremains.com)
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DNF

Great premise, but really weird focuses. I don’t know why the interesting scifi keeps getting derailed for weird sex detours. OK we get it, people like sex. We don’t need everyone masturbating every 5 seconds ok. Why is everyone having sex every few minutes? Why is this author so obsessed with sex? It doesn’t have to do anything with the plot. It’s always just like this rando one liner like “Jude was masturbating” or “I had sex with this dude standing up”. I feel like I need a sex counter for this book. Want more robots, less sex.
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I was intrigued by this book-the cover, the supposed premise. But it only took a few pages to realize I wasn’t going to like it. They jumped right in without much backstory or description. I couldn’t picture the world she had created. There was terminology that wasn’t defined. It was confusing. I found the book’s summary to be deceiving. I thought it would be an adventure, suspense story of a person who was killed and became a droid/companion and sought revenge on the person who killed her and that there would be clues to follow and information we would learn where things didn’t happen the way she remembered them, etc. But really her story wasn’t even the majority of the book. It follows so many other characters that share a link but don’t serve any purpose for Lilac and her mission. If the author’s main point in writing this story was the explore the perspectives of how people lived in this dystopian world over a long period of time, how their lives were affected, and how relationships worked- then don’t present it as a revenge/redemption story. And even if she had presented it accurately, I wouldn’t say she even excelled in the ‘drama’ genre. I don’t mind reading from a variety of perspectives- i.e. I think Big Little Lies does that well- but this was very jumpy, spanning too much time, a lot of vague inner processing of the characters, and it all seemed pretty meaningless. I was constantly asking ‘Where is she going with this?’ and tried to speculate how she was going to bring it altogether but it never happened. It had so much potential that went untapped. The moments that she actually decided to resolve, happened in a short, undramatic, and anticlimactic way. Another common thought I had throughout- ‘Wait, that’s it?’  The last sentence of the whole book that was meant to be fulfilling and whole was weak and empty. I was just not impressed with the writing and execution. It was confusing, boring, and disappointing. Additionally, this book had a lot of sexual content I did not care for. I wish she could start over and attempt this again. I think it could have been a better ‘I,robot meets ghost-in-the-shell’ type of book that I could have enjoyed. This fell far short.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery/Scout Press for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The idea behind The Companions is an interesting idea.  However the story itself did not flesh out as well.  The author skipped around quite a bit between characters and the flow of the story was disjointed in my opinion.  I was not able to completely finish the book as I just lost interest.
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After a contagious virus hits California, humans are quarantined for years unable to go outside. For those that can afford it, Metis Corporation offers the companionship program as an option...a human consciousness that has been uploaded to a synthetic body, rented out to in order to provide interaction free of contagion. The companions are a command driven AI, created to carry out the orders of their handlers. Sixteen year old Lilac is a low-functioning first gen companion who is haunted by memories of her life before and the fate of her best friend Nikki. With the ability to defy commands, Lilac escapes a second death to track down the one person who can answer those questions...the person who murdered her.

The Companions is an interesting new sci-fi novel in which wealthy humans can lease out human interaction from those who have died. Unlike typical AI novels, companions are those who have chosen to upload their consciousness before they die and thus become the property of the Metis Corporation. In exchange for "an extension of life" they give up their free will and many of their memories in order to serve the living. Like many novels that explore this subject the reader is shown the complications that arise in world of human/AI interaction. I really loved the concept of this novel, there were some interesting characters, and there were several good plot points as the story unfolded. For me, the book started out really good and then felt like it became a bit disjointed towards the middle-end. There are several characters, and many change names/bodies throughout the story; which in itself can be a bit confusing; as well as the fact that the book takes place over several years. Overall I really enjoyed this novel and it touched on a lot of really interesting concepts…a great weekend read.
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I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. 
The concept of the book sounded really interesting, uploading your consciousness before you die to live on as a companion robot.  But the story just lost me. I felt no connection to the characters and the way the story jumped from one character to another just left me confused.
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Loved this book. Took me a while to finish but that’s due to school overall found it futuristic and fantastic! I loved how they turned robots into almost human and then the extinction of them but they found a way to survive and carry on! Excellent book !!
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The Companions is a solid three stars for me.  Premise-wise, it was incredibly promising.  Unfortunately, a premise cannot be the only thing holding up a novel. The main complaint I have is that there is little to no world-building.  With sci-fi/dystopian, world creation is essential -- the Hunger Games is a great example of how this is done.  The Companions failed to do that; we have no notion of how this virus initially affects the population of California, the corporation responsible for the Companions is not a looming figure (a missed opportunity on the author's part as coporations make for a great antagonist).   There were entirely too many characters, as well.  Overall, the story lacked a sense of cohesion, despite its well-crafted prose.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery/Scout Press for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I found the concept of companions interesting ; humans can upload their consciousness into a body/machine right after their death and become companions to other people, lent by a company called Metis.

BUT this felt like the outline of a novel instead of a fully-fledged one. I liked that there were multiple POVs, it reminded me of Station Eleven but none of the storylines were explored nearly enough, even the ending doesn't feel like one and that's a shame.

I enjoyed myself reading this book and will be looking forward to what Katie M. Flynn comes out with in the future but this one would have needed a lot more pages to be coherent.
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I don’t read a lot of science fiction but when I do I enjoy it. I had my doubts about this book but was pleasantly surprised. Unlike some reviewers, I didn’t have much trouble following the characters, as many are interconnected. Others made comparisons to Never Let me Go. NLMG is one of my favorite stories, and there are some similarities, although I preferred NLMG. The Companions has a fascinating premise. In a diseased world, most are kept under quarantine, and those who are dying are given the opportunity to upload their consciousness into a machine and become “companions” to others in need of a friend or helper. Depending on cost, you can be a rolling can on wheels up to having full human features. It is also possible to be recycled, with or without your previous memories or container. The creep factor is strong in this one, and closer to the end, some horrifying data comes out about the origin and execution of the original “companions.” If I could improve it I would have less characters to minimize any confusion and would tighten up the plot. I never felt bored or wanting to give up while reading this book. Gave a lot of food for thought on being human and what it means to partake in this dimension. I would recommend it, and it was definitely worth reading to the end.
Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I liked the basic concept but... Normally I never complain about a story jumping around yet it really bothered me with this storyline.
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