The Companions

Scout: Gallery. Mar. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781982122157. $27. SF
DEBUT In the near future, a viral outbreak has swept the country, leaving the populace living under quarantine. Meanwhile, the Metis corporation has developed technology that allows the consciousness of a person to be placed into an artificial host. The resulting entities, called companions, are either wards of their relatives or property, with no rights. Lilac is one such companion, but she cannot forget her life and escapes her assigned post to seek out someone from her past. Her search covers decades in which society’s stance on companions changes, while both regular humans and others like Lilac struggle with the question of what makes someone human. Lilac’s story weaves in and out of the narrative, and the author gives plenty of other points of view, including a human caregiver, a homeless teen, a movie star who becomes a companion, and one of the scientists involved in creating the technology that made companions possible.
VERDICT While the worldbuilding might not be robust enough for some sf fans, the strength of this first novel is in the writing and nuanced characters. Through the experiences of people who might no longer be considered fully human, the author thoughtfully explores the nature of humanity.
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