A guest review by Jenre
Shaku Suihana doesn’t remember more than the last twelve years of his life. All he knows is that he is a Company Man, a cold and efficient assassin called in to do jobs without question.
His newest assignment is more inexplicable than most, starting with meeting Úlfur, who thinks Shaku is a man named Shiro—a man who disappeared twelve years ago. When the Company tries to kill Úlfur, it sends Shaku into a tailspin… especially when Úlfur is magically transformed into Leif, a beautiful, younger man who Shaku feels drawn to protect.
Shaku is tired of being in the dark about who he is, but he can’t bear the thought of putting Leif in danger to find out. He decides they should run as far and as fast as from the Company as they can. It’s when he meets a mysterious sensei who ignites both his and Leif’s passions that Shaku realizes his miscalculation: the Company Man might not be the greatest danger around.
Having read and enjoyed the previous book by this author, Dreamlands, I was very much looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, whilst the writing was still as good as Deamlands, the story itself was confusing and too heavily reliant on erotic content to for me to highly recommend.
The story begins with us meeting our hero, Shaku. I say hero, but he’s very much an anti-hero at least at first. Shaku has lost all memories of everything that occurred before about 12 years ago when he was selected by the Icelandic based company, Forráðamaður, and turned, through extensive biological modification, into a ‘fixer’. As a fixer he is sent by the company into situations where he uses his special skills to fix problems, usually through a mixture of sex and violence. He is programmed to obey whomever is given authority over him. At the beginning of the book he is sent to Boston where he is told to obey a man called Padrig. Padrig recognises Shaku, although Shaku has no memory of him, and he introduces Shaku to Úlfur, a brain damaged middle aged man. Things are thrown into chaos when Úlfur is abducted and disappears, only to reappear as a young, mentally whole man. This leads to Shaku running from the company to keep Úlfur, now called Leif, safe whilst also fighting his strong physical attraction to the young man.
Company Man is divided into two halves. The first half is the most complex and perhaps also the most interesting and intriguing part of the book. Shaku is not an easy character to like as he is a trained killer and whore who comes across as extremely matter of fact, even cold hearted about his job and what he is trained to do. At first this makes him difficult to like, but as the story progresses and Shaku regains some of his memories as well as starts to display some humanity, then I found myself warming to his character. As the book is written in the first person from Shaku’s point of view, and also because Shaku has a very detached air, it was difficult to really understand the other characters or their motivations in the story. This is especially true for those who represent Forráðamaður because Shaku never questions why he is asked to do the things he does, he just does them, shrugging off any qualms he may have and blaming his modifications for his lack of feelings. As a result Shaku is almost like a robot. One consequence of this is that as a reader I also became detached from the other characters. I didn’t care about them, not even Leif, for whom Shaku does develop slight feelings, and so, unlike many first person narrative stories which allow you a great deal of insight into at least one character, I had no real insight into any of the characters.
The world building in the first half was quite unique, but also rather confusing. It is never clear what the sinister company of Forráðamaður actually deals in, although we are told that part of their mission is to create demon hunters who kill the demons that threaten humankind. Other than that, and their supposed altruistic charitable donations, the company is a shadowy threat always on the horizon, bent on unknown nefarious deeds for what purpose we are never really told. When the story begins and Shaku is brought to Boston, I thought that the story would involve Shaku fixing some problem with the Boston branch of Forráðamaður, especially as that is the focus of the first part of the story with Shaku landing in Boston and having a boardroom meeting. Then the story takes a sharp left turn which seems to come out of nowhere and suddenly Shaku is on the road protecting Leif from Forráðamaður for a reason which is unknown right up to the end of the story. To say I was a bit surprised and a confused by these turn of events is an understatement and I found myself wondering what the purpose of the whole first part of the book had been.
Once Shaku and Leif are on the road the story takes yet another turn and the second half of the book is made up of page after page of sex between Shaku and Leif, followed by the introduction of another character for no apparent reason than an opportunity for ménage sex and a possibility of escape and a happy ending for Shaku and Leif. For those of you who like lots of sex in their books, this might be a bonus, especially as much of the complicated world building is set aside as Shaku and Leif explore each other instead. The sex is well written, but suffered again from that lack of connection because of Shaku’s detachment from himself and his surroundings. The book does end with an explanation of sorts as to why Leif is as he is, why Forráðamaður are trying to kill him and a HEA, but all that information is crammed into the last 30 pages leaving me with an impression that the book is a mass of confusing plot twists plus lots of sex.
I’ve given Company Man three stars just because it has some interesting ideas and the writing is good. However, the plot is too overly complicated and the last half of the book too heavily weighted in favour of sexual content for me to highly recommend this book.