In brief: In a future America, people are too scared to go out to shop. Fortunately, Cloud takes care of their every need. New employee Paxton wants revenge while Zinnia is working for someone else. But is Cloud as pure as its name?
The good: Very original and inventive.
The not-so-good: I would have liked more closure on Zinnia.
Why I chose it: Sounded quirky, thanks Penguin for the copy.
Publisher: Bantam Press (Penguin)
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Every now and then a book comes along that is stunningly original and you can’t help but think about it when you’re not reading it. The Warehouse was that book for me and reminded me why I really love to read. It’s part sci-fi, part dystopian and part romance but always gripping. Rob Hart takes a concept that we are all familiar with (that online store for all your needs, great and small) and turns it up to extreme.
In a future America, stores are deserted and small towns extinct. The Black Friday massacres destroyed shopping in person and climate change has made it difficult to exist outside. The giant company Cloud controls everything – shopping, employment and even the FAA. The government is seen as nothing but an inefficient and ineffective (not to mention old fashioned) way of doing things. Cloud is where it’s at. Cloud can take care of your every need in the comfort of your own home as drones deliver what you need when you need it. For the masses of unemployed, working and living at a MotherCloud is a dream come true. Every month, a number are taken to an area to complete the test, but not all of them will be employed. Paxton is one of those people this month. His business was destroyed by Cloud and now…he wants revenge but he also needs a job. Zinnia is there with an ulterior motive and another employer. Paxton becomes a ‘blue’ (security) while Zinnia is a ‘red’ (distribution warehouse runner). Can Paxton’s access get what Zinnia needs to complete her mission? And what dirty secrets lie within Cloud?
The great thing about Cloud is that it’s recognisable with technology we all know but taken that one step further. You can’t get around without your CloudBand – an ID tag like a smartwatch that allows you to find your way around, read messages and pay for things. It also means that Cloud knows where you are at all times. Having the privilege of living and working at MotherCloud gives the employees long shifts and rare days off, but it does provide them with cheap access to beef (now scarce due to environmental pollution risk) and a discount at Cloud. Wow. Cloud also has the ear of the government – well, more than that because it’s taking them over slowly and steadily. Sometimes the parody is fun, but other times it’s a whole lot darker. As the story progresses, Paxton isn’t sure what he wants from Cloud – an apology? An easy life? Zinnia is more and more determined to complete the instructions of her employer, especially when there is an added task. To give an opposite point of view, each chapter opens with a blog from Cloud’s founder who really does believe in what he’s doing. It’s equal parts creepy and inspiring – bookstores are gone and very, very strangely all copies of The Handmaid’s Tale and Fahrenheit 411 seem to be gone from the Cloud store.
The finale of the novel is great. Very taut, tense and exciting but with a few light moments thrown in. The ending was somewhat abrupt and I would have loved a hint as to Zinnia’s fate. Does this mean there is a sequel? Or is it for us to ponder what we, as the market, are dictating to global retail giants? What effects does that have? Is this world heading towards Cloud?
The Warehouse packs a punch well above its weight and is a fantastic debut novel. Highly recommended.