[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
A fascinating theme, that ties with certain questions I see raised when it comes to consciousness, AI, and “the cloud”: what if, someday, we found a way to upload human consciousness at or shortly before the moment of death, so that our minds could keep existing on a server, or, in the case here, in artificial bodies? With an added theme in “The Companions”: all these “reborn” humans are actually no more than slaves, being the property of the Metis corporation, leased to people wealthy enough to afford them, and hindered by safeguards so that they remain the, well, obedient little slaves they’re meant to be.
Interesting, right? There are so many things wrong here, starting with the property part, and going on with what happens when the artificial body is damaged, or how memories fare after years spent like that. This is one of the conundrums of Lilac’s existence: now the companion to a teenager named Dahlia, she was murdered as a teenager herself, and keeps her memories alive at first by telling Dahlia her “story”. Up until the day she gets information that the person who killed her is still alive, and realises that, for some reason, her “failsafes” aren’t exactly working.
The narrative itself turned out to be increasingly… random. At first, having Lilac’s perspective to rely on was fairly intriguing, and the additional, other characters’ points of view seemed seamless at first (after Lilac, we get Cam, who works at the place where Lilac goes to find her killer, so that does make sense). However, it quickly became quite muddled, with the characters themselves not leaving much of an impression. In a way, this read at times like a collection of short stories that were trying to form into a novel, and in the end, that made for neither strong short stories nor a strong novel. The overall story, all in all, kept meandering, and never gave the sense of an actual plot/red thread tying everything together.
Conclusion: Good theme, but not particularly well-handled.