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The Warehouse

Review

The Warehouse

First, let's address the elephant in the room. Yes, it is nearly impossible to look at the cover of Rob Hart's terrific new novel, THE WAREHOUSE, all resplendent with brown packages and a drone delivery system, and not draw comparison to the real-life online shopping giant, Amazon. In this story, the giant tech company known as Cloud will garner instant comparison to this very real company, but with something perhaps quite sinister working behind the scenes.

Unlike other books that profess of a future ruled by fear, like the classics 1984 or BRAVE NEW WORLD, Hart has written a novel where the fear could exist practically around the corner for our present world. It opens with the words of Gibson Wells, or just Gibson, as he is referred to. Possibly named in homage to sci-fi giant William Gibson, Gibson is the creator and founder of Cloud. He built it not only as an alternative to regular retail commerce but as a replacement for a way of life, excess and abuse of all our natural resources. Cloud is that answer --- a place where people can shop, live and grow in safety while they work on improving the world outside.

"This sci-fi/thriller is so engrossing that you will find it nearly impossible to put down before the dynamic finale."

The problem is that Gibson, no matter how rich he has become, cannot buy his own life and is terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. As he begins a tour of his MotherCloud locations all throughout the U.S., he is preparing to announce who will rule Cloud in his absence and take the organization to the next level. We then have the two characters who immediately become the focus of the novel, Paxton and Zinnia. Paxton, perhaps named after late actor Bill Paxton (or at least I would like to believe so), is a failed small business CEO who then spent 15 years as a prison guard. He wants a new future that he can believe in --- and may be out for a bit of revenge against the organization and man he blames for the death of his small business dream.

The young woman who is on the same bus as Paxton at the start of the book is Zinnia, a former school teacher from the Detroit area who dreams of a better future where she can teach the English language to people in foreign countries that have been victimized by the changing planet. The bus takes them to a run-down town that may as well be a ghost village. They enter the worn-down old movie theater where they begin the application process for which they traveled so far. The application is a series of questions, and the correct answers gain you an instant interview. A successful interview will grant you immediate employment and training.

The employer is, no surprise, Cloud --- and both Paxton and Zinnia make it to an offer of employment. Those who are fortunate like them get on another bus that takes them to the nearest MotherCloud location. Gibson has created a company that acts more like a small city, with every modern convenience, including residency, which will have you never needing to return to the decaying world outside. Paxton, based on his most recent experience, wears a blue polo shirt and is assigned to security. Zinnia wears red and is a picker --- selecting small items purchased online by consumers and putting it on a conveyor built for shipping. All of the roles within the Cloud city live in a form of class separation. They also now exist in a paperless and non-monetary society. All employees of Cloud wear a band that they are advised to never take off. This grants them access to various parts of Cloud and also functions as their form of payment --- with the credits achieved through both hard work and other measures of grading within a star system.

If things are sounding a bit frightening and claustrophobic at this point, just recognize that we have only scratched the surface. Yes, Gibson is dying. Even though he eventually names a successor, that does not put him out of harm’s way. You see, either Paxton or Zinnia are not who they claim to be. One of them is a master of corporate espionage of the highest order, seeking to ensure the death of not just Gibson but the Cloud itself. Our new hires will begin to learn other things about Cloud that will not paint the corporation in the humanitarian light they would have you believe, and you just may begin rooting for them.  That is, if they can succeed before the Cloud finds them out and “turfs them,” or terminates their employment --- permanently.

THE WAREHOUSE is already all the rage based on the many stellar blurbs about it, and it definitely lives up to the hype. This sci-fi/thriller is so engrossing that you will find it nearly impossible to put down before the dynamic finale. It should also cause more than a few nightmares and chills as its fictional parts start sounding more and more like our reality.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 23, 2019

The Warehouse
by Rob Hart