Book Review: The Warehouse

The Fiction Addiction
The Warehouse(novel cover art from the publisher)

Rob Hart’s new novel, The Warehouse, takes place in a not-too-distant future, where the Cloud conglomerate supplies every need, is the major employer, and controls most governmental regulations (or lack of). Unlike the typical Evil Corp scifi, the owner of Cloud isn’t a shadowy mastermind. Instead,  founder Gibson tells familiar platitudes about hard work and bootstraps,  about how there were just too many environmental regulations holding back industry,  and recounts folksy stories about dedicated Cloud workers who really had no place else to go.

Working at Cloud can be a boon — when Paxton and Zinnia apply, there are dozens of other applicants, all of whom need a job very badly. There simply aren’t any other jobs, which is simultaneously dystopian and a logical extension. No one is forced to work at Cloud or to stay at Cloud, it’s just the only employer hiring.

Cloud isn’t just a place to work. It’s a place to live. And when you’re here, you’ll never want to leave.

This is such a depressingly believable setting. Cloud has safety harnesses for dangerous work, but the time spent using them hurts productivity, and without high productivity, workers will be cut. There’s a clinic, but sick days hurt productivity numbers, and workers are encouraged to pop a painkiller and get back to work. The company provides safety equipment, healthcare, and so forth, it’s really the worker’s failure to take advantage of them.  Every part of this is believable, because of course we all  need income to survive, and of course,  a low salary in Cloud currency is better than nothing, even with fees to transfer dollars in, and fees to transfer Cloud points back to dollars, and a predatory credit card system tied in…
Text from The Warehouse(mine)

The basic struggles of survival and keeping a 5-star employee rating take a lot of effort, in way that's dystopian, sure, but enough like trying to appease customers to maintain that top rating on Etsy or Uber. Cloud life os designed that way, not in an evil conspiracy to create complacent sheeple, but with familiar metrics about maximizing productivity. You can’t get ahead? You’re just not working hard enough! Gibson wells worked hard and founded Cloud! This familiarity actually makes it much darker than if Gibson had been a mustache-twirling villian.  Fahrenheit 451 and the rest of the dystopian warning novels weren’t dramatically destroyed, they just weren’t advertised, in a world of bombarding advertisements.

I enjoyed the way different storylines and character goals interacted with each other. There’s just enough foreshadowing that I would realize OMG, she’s in on it! or OMG, it was him all along! as Paxton or Zinnia did, and then I’d realize, duh, the information was there the whole time. I also didn’t feel the Protagonist Immunity in this novel, I thought it was perfectly likely that Zinnia’s investigation would get her killed or that they’d get fired.

My only concern was the CloudBurgers. In any dark scifi novel, that surprisingly tasty and affordable meat is never a good sign, is it? It’s clearly not a good sign here. I was a bit disappointed by this reveal because I thought the rest of the novel was a little more subtle and thoughtful.

Readers of this dystopian page-turner will also enjoy Feed, Only Ever Yours, and Followers. There’s also a great Doctor Who ep, Kerblam!, about another Amazonian processing plant, and the workers who must account for every moment of their time, monitored by ankle bracelet, watched by robot Coworkers, while telling themselves how lucky they are to have an income and an annual visit home. 

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