This book was ruined for me by an offhand comment I saw after reading it. ‘Hey,’ the comment said, ‘wouldn’t The Company have been a really awesome horror story?’
And damn it. Because, yes, The Company would have made a truly awesome horror story. Now, instead appreciating it for what it was, all I can think about is what it could have been. Which is stupidly unfair of me. It’s like going to a Chinese restaurant and then getting upset because the food isn’t French enough. It’s not like Miss Peregine’s House of Peculier children which openly promised creepy goodness and delivered nothing of the sort. At no point does The Company claim to be a horror novel, and nowhere have a seen it marketed as such.
And yet… what a horror novel it could have been!
Five guys who were close knit when they fought side beside in a war but have since drifted a part reunite with an ambitious plan to settle on an abandoned island. They hire some servants, find some wives, and set off. We get a few hints about a hurriedly and mysteriously abandoned colony, and seemed a reasonable assumption to make that whatever made the original inhabitants clear out would also come for our heroes.
Except, no. It’s just not that kind of book. The Company is a close study of the relationship between the five men, who were once closer than brothers and have now barely spoken for a decade. They have secrets (of course they have secrets, this is KJ Parker book after all), and it's not long before these secrets start to make things complicated.
Anyone who had read anything by K.J.Parker knows that characters are her strong suite. She excels at creating realistically flawed men and women who are rarely wholly good or wholly bad. And while the five men are the focus of the book, Parker also devotes a lot of attention to their wives, only one of whom was courted and married in the traditional sense. The others were acquired in much the same way as the grain, boots and other things needed for the trip. It makes for some diverse and interesting viewpoints.
But the best part about this book is learning who these men are, what they’ve done and what they mean to each over. Which makes it hard to review because most everything I could discuss is a spoiler. Plot wise not a whole lot actually happens in The Company. It’s split between the present as the men struggle to establish a liveable colony and flashbacks of the war. It was fascinating to see how the dynamics between the men have changed and what has stayed the same over the years. The slow reveal of various secrets and events added more suspense to the book than you might have expected from the thin plot, and there’s a real sense of impending doom that hangs over the whole thing. (*cough* Not unlike as in a horror novel *cough*).
I will say that given the slow build of this novel I thought the ending was way too rushed. It reminded me a bit of Stephen King in that respect, great start great middle, disappointing finish. It wasn’t enough to ruin the book for me though, and if I can ever forgive it for not being a horror novel I’m sure I’ll remember it most fondly.
This book was a birthday gift