Book Review: The Warehouse by Rob Hart
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Crown (August 20, 2019)
Length: 368 pages
I confess, I am a big Amazon consumer; I love my Prime shipping and being able to find great prices on practically anything at “the everything store”, saving me a considerable amount of time and money over the years. But sometimes, it does feel like every time I turn around the retail giant is rolling out yet another program to break into more markets, or they’re creating their own brands to compete against the very merchants they’re partnered with. No surprise, this has led to a lot of concerns, as evidenced by the accusations of Amazon becoming a monopoly, or the news articles with headlines like “Is Amazon Getting Too Powerful?” cropping up all over the internet.
And it’s a fair question to ask as well as an interesting one to ponder, which I’m pretty sure is how the inspiration for this novel came about. The Warehouse by Rob Hart is clearly riffing on the tech giant with Cloud, a megacorp in the future that has completely consumed the American economy, becoming the only thriving company in this dystopian world ravaged by recession and high unemployment. Competition for work is fierce especially since the government can no longer be relied upon for any kind of social support, so naturally, desperate jobseekers turn to Cloud en masse in the hopes of scoring a position in one of their many sprawling warehouses. These facilities, in addition to serving as the company’s distribution and fulfillment centers, are also where employees eat, sleep and live when they’re not spending the long hours working on the floor. On top of room and board, workers also get healthcare and other benefits to go along with the job.
But the truth at Cloud is a lot more sinister. Through the eyes of three characters, readers are given insight into just what it’s like to work for the company. Paxton is the former owner of a once successful business which went bankrupt because it could not compete with the aggressive practices of Cloud. Now he finds himself employed by them, working as a security guard. Zinnia is another employee, though she’s at Cloud under false pretenses. Working as an undercover agent for a mysterious client, she has infiltrated Cloud to further her own agenda, one that involves getting close to Paxton to access the security privileges he has. And finally, every so often we’re also provided with a third perspective, that of Gibson Wells, the founder and CEO of Cloud himself. Delivering his messages via a series of updates to the public, he first reveals that he is dying, stricken with late stage cancer. Explaining that all he’s ever wanted was to make the world a better place, Wells begins telling his life story, describing the American Dream. From humble beginnings, he was able to become the most powerful man on the planet through sheer hard work and ingenuity. Meanwhile, the world is also holding its collective breath, waiting to see who he will name as his successor.
To start, the novel’s tagline of “Big Brother meets Big Business” is highly appropriate. Rob Hart’s depiction of a dystopian future where workers no longer have any rights and everything is about the bottom line is eerily disturbing, if for no other reason than how realizable the situation is if we no longer have the regulations in place to reign in large corporations. On top of that, Cloud is everywhere—in our media, in our houses, and in our faces. Consumers put up with it for the convenience, but for Cloud employees, working the job every day and trying to keep it is a like living through a waking nightmare. Every worker in a Cloud facility is monitored at all times and rated on a five-star scale like the inventory they process and ship out. And when you also live at the place you work, this means constant surveillance and absolutely no privacy.
I have to say though, for a thriller, The Warehouse did not pull me in immediately. The story is rather slow moving at the beginning, and overall very straightforward. Sure, the conditions at the Cloud facility were tense and disconcerting to read about, but they were also completely expected of a book like this which practically spells out its themes and intentions. For me, its initial appeal was mostly in the suspenseful atmosphere and mystery, of wondering what Zinnia is up to and what designs she has on Paxton. But for most of the novel, my favorite POV was Gibson Wells. You can tell Hart probably had a lot of fun writing the character. Gibson is a complicated man, and it was fun reading about his life even though you could tell there was something not quite right beneath that thick layer of charisma. He was a very well written character and surprisingly convincing, given the many aspects of his personality the author had to juggle.
But the second half of The Warehouse was undoubtedly its stronger half. The pace certainly picked up at this point, though I still wouldn’t call this one a standard thriller. And in the end, that might be one of the novel’s most appealing draws. I enjoyed that it read more like a sci-fi dystopian, one that features a fascinating premise that is at once imaginative and all too feasible, and I liked how the ending revelations pulled it all together.
Bottom line, a very good read, with a climax that was gripping and absolutely compulsive. I would recommend The Warehouse for fans of the genre, especially if you enjoy dystopian scenarios that get under your skin and make you think.