The Companions

The Companions

Station Eleven meets Never Let Me Go in this debut novel set in an unsettling near future where the dead can be uploaded to machines and kept in service by the living.In the wake of a highly contagious virus, California is under quarantine. Sequestered in high rise towers, the living can’t go out, but the dead can come in—and they come in all forms, from sad rolling cans t...

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Title:The Companions
Author:Katie M. Flynn
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Companions Reviews

  • Gerhard

    'People haven’t yet forgotten what happened, but someday they will— they always do.'

    A wonderful experience as a reader is to pick up a book you know little about, and then to be blown away by the reading experience. This happened to with Katie M. Flynn’s rather wonderful The Companions, one of the most affecting novels about androids I have read in a long time.

    The book seems to have garnered lukewarm appreciation on Goodreads, which I suspect is due to the fact that not only is it a bit of a slo

    'People haven’t yet forgotten what happened, but someday they will— they always do.'

    A wonderful experience as a reader is to pick up a book you know little about, and then to be blown away by the reading experience. This happened to with Katie M. Flynn’s rather wonderful The Companions, one of the most affecting novels about androids I have read in a long time.

    The book seems to have garnered lukewarm appreciation on Goodreads, which I suspect is due to the fact that not only is it a bit of a slow burn, but its complexly intertwined narrative is told from about eight different viewpoints in alternating chapters. Do not let this put you off though. The book packs a real emotional wallop as the years, and then the decades, pass by.

    A devastating virus has resulted in mass deaths, quarantine and closed-off borders, and has also (inevitably) increased the stratification and class divisions that modern society is rife with. Metis – which kind of reminded me of Wallace Corp from Blade Runner – develops what it calls ‘companions’, crude wheeled robot-like structures (though they do evolve into ‘skinjobs’ eventually) into which the dying’s final memories can be downloaded as a last bid for the wealthy to cling desperately to the final vestiges of their loved ones.

    Of course, the last thing Metis anticipated was for its ‘companions’ to develop consciousness … Here the key character is Lilac, a V1 upload after being murdered in her teens. Once a companion, she then defies her security programming and embarks on a rather rambling quest to track down her murderer.

    Lilac encounters a motley bunch of characters along the way. These include Cam, who works at an old age home (in the book it is referred to as an ‘elder-care facility’); Rolly, a teenager living on a slowly dying farm whose father supplements their income by running a machine that breaks down and incinerates ‘retired’ companions as they’re replaced with the latest models; to Gabe, a stubborn and damaged nine-year-old orphan.

    How all these disparate characters are drawn into the arcs of each other’s orbits is what gives this book its gravitas. The centre though is always Lilac, whom we follow from the very inception of the Metis companions, to a point far in the future where they are ultimately deemed a threat to humanity and hence outlawed.

    Robots and androids so often get the short end of the stick in science fiction as a handy deus ex machina. It is truly eye-opening to read a book that seriously looks at the ethical and psychosocial ramifications of uploaded consciousness.

    Great science fiction is not only about ideas though, but has to have believable characters in order to allow for an immersive, lived-in reality. Flynn takes a risk with her diverse cast, especially a character as young and mercurial as Gabe, but it is a risk that pays off in spades. This is a deceptively ambitious, but hugely successful novel.

    Flynn deftly handles a difficult subject matter without coming across as preachy or manipulative. Initially the murder subplot caused a raised eyebrow for me, as I saw the potential for melodrama. But the ultimate resolution of The Companions is as unexpected as it is heart-wrenching.

    What I also especially liked about the book is that it wears its genre stripes lightly. It is a real treasure, and a must-read for any fans of good fiction. You do not have to be a science fiction geek to be deeply affected by it.

    On the other hand, genre fans will pick up on the references and echoes that point to a larger dialectic about robot consciousness that is a staple of so much SF (a recent example is the Murderbot series by Martha Wells). The Companions is one of my top reads of 2020 thus far.

  • Sarah

    3.5 stars really. It’s a jumbled mess but I mostly enjoyed the narrative. Those last chapters need a rewrite though. Way too confusing.

  • Mackey

    A dystopian sci-fi novel that is far too close to reality for comfort....

    A pandemic sweeps through the US during which quarantines are mandated. Neither the living or the dead are allowed to leave. There are people trapped in towers who are both stir-crazy and lonely. Metis, a tech company, comes to the rescue with “companions.” Download the brain with all of its electrical currents, memories, and emotions, into a robotic body – some with skin for a more human like touch. These creations are pre

    A dystopian sci-fi novel that is far too close to reality for comfort....

    A pandemic sweeps through the US during which quarantines are mandated. Neither the living or the dead are allowed to leave. There are people trapped in towers who are both stir-crazy and lonely. Metis, a tech company, comes to the rescue with “companions.” Download the brain with all of its electrical currents, memories, and emotions, into a robotic body – some with skin for a more human like touch. These creations are pre-programmed not to harm or do violence and to operate only at the command of their human. One such “companion” – Lilac – goes off track when she learns that she is to be scrapped. Setting out on her own, she is in search of the person who murdered her human form.

    Admittedly, this one of the strangest pieces of fiction that I’ve read in a long time. When I began reading I wasn’t sure if I liked it or would finish the book. But then I became invested in Lilac as she hops from body to body. We’re then introduced to more characters, some human and some are companions. Each of the stories seemed to be unrelated – until they weren’t. Going further into the book I realized that each of these “stories” was interconnected and relevant to the others. By the end of the book, I was all in and couldn’t believe how it ended, or possibly I knew how it would end before I even began reading.

    What was so startling about The Companions is on this day, as I finished reading and am now writing this review, I’m listening on the news about quarantines being set up all over the world on the brink of what could be the early days of a Pandemic. In tandem, there is tech news about the first fully functioning AI who is frighteningly quite human. In light of those things, The Companions seemed more current events than “sci-fi.”

    This is NOT a book for everyone. It is, however, one of the best dystopian tales that I’ve read in ages. It’s also a great sci-fi experience that does not involve other galaxies, fantasy or world building. If you do not like dystopian fiction or science fiction, then you will not enjoy this book. However, if you like new, different, quirky, dark reads then I can recommend The Companions 100%.

  • Faith

    Since we are currently in the midst of a virus outbreak, I thought that this book would be timely. Actually, the virus and accompanying quarantine are pretty much irrelevant in this book. They serve only as a timing device - during quarantine/after quarantine. There is no world building that describes the virus or its impact. The book does have some interesting concepts. Upon death, your consciousness can be transferred to a new android body, of varying technological sophistication. They are pro

    Since we are currently in the midst of a virus outbreak, I thought that this book would be timely. Actually, the virus and accompanying quarantine are pretty much irrelevant in this book. They serve only as a timing device - during quarantine/after quarantine. There is no world building that describes the virus or its impact. The book does have some interesting concepts. Upon death, your consciousness can be transferred to a new android body, of varying technological sophistication. They are programmed to act as loyal companions. However, some become capable of defying their programming.

    This could have led to an exploration of philosophical questions, but the book was written in such a garbled fashion that it never really explored anything. The book dealt with a limited group of androids and humans who conveniently all kept encountering each other. Minds could be transferred repeatedly to upgraded vessels, so they were constantly changing names, appearance and gender. I was constantly asking myself “who did you used to be?” I also kept asking myself “remind me, exactly why are you killing this person?” Honestly, it was all pointless.

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  • Chelsey (a_novel_idea11)

    Set in the future on the west coast of the United States, Companions have been created and leased into the mass market. Companions are machines that are given human consciousness - the human consciousness of a formerly living person. The Companions vary in quality, some being a little more than a tin can and others looking and seeming human to the untrained eye. They are “command driven” and allegedly have safeguards in place to limit their abilities and keep them from rebelling or harming their

    Set in the future on the west coast of the United States, Companions have been created and leased into the mass market. Companions are machines that are given human consciousness - the human consciousness of a formerly living person. The Companions vary in quality, some being a little more than a tin can and others looking and seeming human to the untrained eye. They are “command driven” and allegedly have safeguards in place to limit their abilities and keep them from rebelling or harming their human hosts.

    At the same time we meet Lilac, a companion, we learn that California is in a state of quarantine. Scientists developed and unleashed a series of unnamed viruses that have wreaked havoc on the human race and terrified the remaining people.

    Because companions are created from human consciousness, many of the companions can remember their own deaths. Lilac is one such companion and she knows she was murdered. Defying her programming, Lilac travels the coast to find and confront her murderer.

    The novel spans years - toward the end of the quarantine to a decade later. We see how the companions shift from a commodity to something the wealthy choose to do to themselves in order to stay “young” forever.

    We’re introduced to many characters, many companions in many forms, and many storylines. Most feel overall forgettable and only briefly seem to intersect with the others but perhaps this was intentional to create more of a manufactured, machine feel.

    Overall, I found the premise incredibly intriguing. I’ve never read anything like this and I can envision it becoming a future Black Mirror episode. However, for much of the novel I felt confused by the author’s vagueness, over abundance of characters introduced way too late, and the numerous, undeveloped storylines.

    Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  • Barbara

    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

    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.

    You can follow my reviews at

  • Reading_ Tam_ Ishly

    *top 10 worst reads of 2019*

    Maybe this book is not meant for me. I got so hyped up regarding the description of this one but I am hugely disappointed.

    The first chapter started out good but yes, the chapters are so terribly long and it feels like the read was just dragging on and on. New character introduction and the various events described are somewhat too mundane considering it's a sci-fi dystopian kind of read. Considering the main theme tackled that is regarding quarantine, I couldn't see

    *top 10 worst reads of 2019*

    Maybe this book is not meant for me. I got so hyped up regarding the description of this one but I am hugely disappointed.

    The first chapter started out good but yes, the chapters are so terribly long and it feels like the read was just dragging on and on. New character introduction and the various events described are somewhat too mundane considering it's a sci-fi dystopian kind of read. Considering the main theme tackled that is regarding quarantine, I couldn't see much relevance regarding it in the plot build up. The characters are too mundane for such kind of read. And the plot gets really weak. The characters seemed so bored and uninterested. I lost interest in the book totally at around 44 per cent.

    The last few chapters are really slow and the ending was no surprise.

    Sadly, this one is not for me.

    Thank you #NetGalley for the book #TheCompanions in exchange of an honest review.

  • Carrie

    The Companions by Katie M. Flynn is a dystopian science fiction novel in which the story is told by switching the point of view between multiple characters. While this one is science fiction the world that is built within actually hits a little close to home with our current pandemic situation with the world inside the novel under quarantine after a highly contagious virus outbreak.

    With everyone trapped inside after the outbreak folks do tend to get a little bored being alone all the time so a c

    The Companions by Katie M. Flynn is a dystopian science fiction novel in which the story is told by switching the point of view between multiple characters. While this one is science fiction the world that is built within actually hits a little close to home with our current pandemic situation with the world inside the novel under quarantine after a highly contagious virus outbreak.

    With everyone trapped inside after the outbreak folks do tend to get a little bored being alone all the time so a company, Metis, comes up with Companions. Companions are made by downloading the brain of someone who has died into a lifelike robotic body. Of course the rich could keep their family but the poor that are downloaded are sold off to other families to become their companions. One such companion though finds that she can defy the programming and decides she is going to leave her new family to hunt for her killer.

    I have to say at the time I actually read this novel our “real” world was still going on as normal and the idea that something like a pandemic could happen didn’t seem real… oh how wrong I was. Now I can see from a different prospective how a company like Metis would be welcomed when hearing all the time how everyone is bored being at home for so long. However, regardless of how realistic the world building now feels the story was one for me that was hard to dive into and really get engaged in which I felt was due to so many different POVs, I believe at least 8 to juggle and track. If you like a busier type of novel though perhaps give this one a go especially after experiencing a locked down society ourselves.

    I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

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  • Cher

    An interesting concept within an extremely boring book that struggled to hold my interest. It's less than 300 pages but it felt like it was twice that length.

    -------------------------------------------

    Dahlia reclines on her bed during her regularly scheduled break, inspecting her hair for split ends.

  • Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell

    I won a copy of this from a Goodreads giveaway!!!! Weeeeeeeeee. I'm so happy!

    OK, this is being compared to two of my favorite books. I love STATION ELEVEN and I loved NEVER LET ME GO. I really, really hope this is good.

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