The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett – Review [Bane of Kings]
I was interested in The Company Man ever since I saw the blurb, and seeing as I enjoy alternate history, Robert Jackson Bennett’s latest novel appealed to me mainly due to the awesome blurb that it has. Check below for the blurb, taken from the highly useful thing that is the Internet:
The year is 1919.
The McNaughton Corporation is the pinnacle of American industry. They built the guns that won the Great War before it even began. They built the airships that tie the world together. And, above all, they built Evesden-a shining metropolis, the best that the world has to offer.
But something is rotten at the heart of the city. Deep underground, a trolley car pulls into a station with eleven dead bodies inside. Four minutes before, the victims were seen boarding at the previous station. Eleven men butchered by hand in the blink of an eye. All are dead. And all are union.
Now, one man, Cyril Hayes, must fix this. There is a dark secret behind the inventions of McNaughton and with a war brewing between the executives and the workers, the truth must be discovered before the whole city burns. Caught between the union and the company, between the police and the victims, Hayes must uncover the mystery before it kills him.
The blurb at first makes The Company Man look like some sort of Steampunk novel, or as I mentioned earlier, alternate history, and as you read the more this seems like a horror novel. It’s kind of like a hybrid really, especially as it includes several elements typically seen in a noir-ish crime thriller.
We’re introduced to Cyril Hayes, our main hero, who – unlike some other author’s creations, is a flawed guy, dealing with the occasional heart problems that allows Bennett to add suspension.
Although the event on the blurb does happen, it doesn’t happen until we’re at least a quarter of the way through the book, and before that – we’re introduced to several characters, including Donald Garvey, a friend of Hayes in the police force – who calls in Hayes to help him with a murder at the beginning of the novel. We also see a female called Samantha Fairbanks, introduced to be Hayes’ assistant by his superiors, despite him insisting that he doesn’t need one.
The novel in itself is enjoyable, or at least I found it to be despite the odd pacing, and as I read this I couldn’t help be reminded of LA: Noire, which I played recently on the Xbox, but set in an America that never was.
Another good thing about The Company Man is that nobody is safe. Although it seems so at first, as the novel progresses – trust me, they’re not. Another flaw that I found with The Company Man was that it, despite having an interesting set of ideas, it took a while for them to get going and even when the plot did kick off, I didn’t breeze through the pages the way I had with novels such as Cat and Mouse by James Patterson, and indeed – I found this novel a little hard to get into at first, although I found at home in the universe, which is pretty original, I think – or at least, I haven’t seen any other books similar to The Company Man.
I found the novel itself to be very anti-corporatist, informing us that the McNaughton Company, which Haynes works for, is in fact has its routes with everybody and everyone in the world. Indeed, even in the blurb, Bennett states that: “They built the guns that won the Great War before it even began. They built the airships that tie the world together.”
The description is pretty interesting, though – and I had no worries in getting to understand the setting that The Company Man gave us, as was the problems that I have had with reading other novels set in an original world.
Should you buy this book? I’m going to say if you don’t particularly mind the slow pacing for a crime novel, have enjoyed Noire-ish crime thrillers in the past, or are a fan of Robert Jackson Bennett, then you’ll hopefully enjoy this book.
More by Robert Jackson Bennett: Mr. Shivers
More by Orbit: The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham, The Black Prism by Brent Weeks, Hounded by Kevin Hearne, Cold Magic by Kate Elliot, Stormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke, The Edinburgh Dead by Brian Ruckley