by Rob Hart
AMBER LOVE 21-AUG-2019 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at Patreon.com/amberunmasked; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’m also an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.
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.
Film rights sold to Imagine Entertainment for director Ron Howard!
Paxton never thought he’d be working for Cloud, the giant tech company that’s eaten much of the American economy. Much less that he’d be moving into one of the company’s sprawling live-work facilities.
But compared to what’s left outside, Cloud’s bland chainstore life of gleaming entertainment halls, open-plan offices, and vast warehouse… well, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s more than anyone else is offering.
Zinnia never thought she’d be infiltrating Cloud. But now she’s undercover, inside the walls, risking it all to ferret out the company’s darkest secrets. And Paxton, with his ordinary little hopes and fears? He just might make the perfect pawn. If she can bear to sacrifice him.
As the truth about Cloud unfolds, Zinnia must gamble everything on a desperate scheme — one that risks both their lives, even as it forces Paxton to question everything about the world he’s so carefully assembled here.
Together, they’ll learn just how far the company will go… to make the world a better place.
Set in the confines of a corporate panopticon that’s at once brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, The Warehouse is a near-future thriller about what happens when Big Brother meets Big Business — and who will pay the ultimate price.
It’s so hard to add anything more to the rave reviews for The Warehouse by Rob Hart. The book’s changing points of view are clearly delineated and each uniquely interesting.
Gibson Wells is essentially the Elon Musk/Jeff Bezos of the book. Is he the antagonist or a victim whose story provides background history? It’s hard to say. Gibson’s childhood ambition is actually sweet in that way kids who start successful lawn mowing businesses or lemonade stands are. He starts running errands for the neighborhood adults who don’t have the time to stop at the grocery store. He begins employing bigger kids who can lift more weight and that’s what defined Gibson as a meglomaniacal entrepreneur. He truly believes everyone is capable of the same kind of soul-destroying, back-breaking work regardless of their education, ethnicity, or disabilities. He, like plenty of conservatives today, thinks everyone should be working — but only if it’s for their companies with their unrealistic workloads, terrible health insurance, and control through their digital currency rather U.S. currency.
The MotherClouds are monstrous cities where people never “need” to leave unless they are cut for not living up to their employee rating system. But you can’t simply walk into a MotherCloud city and fill out an application. Nor can someone live there without working there. It’s a mall with apartments, urgent care, bars, and the warehouse operations of the biggest company in the world. Due to the desperation and lack of work anywhere else, people will go to extremes to get through the first stages hoping for Cloud employment. But if you didn’t do well at Cloud, don’t even bother applying anywhere else because are they own those places too.
“Everything was polished concrete and glass, the feel of the color blue, and Zinnia had a sense of every surface being violent.”
Author Rob Hart does an exceptional job in describing the moving conveyor belts and the absurd warehouse shelving systems which sometimes require employees on the floor (the pickers in red polo shirts) to harness themselves to the shelves and manually climb up Ninja Warrior style. Only the minute it takes for tethering a cable to the shelving unit is “precious time” that slows a picker down so even the trainers say it’s not worth taking the crucial step for safety. There are two bathroom breaks during the workday and the pickers could be anywhere, even a 10-20 minute walk from the nearest bathroom.
Speaking of amenities like bathrooms, those living quarters people have to rent in order to be a Cloud employee don’t have bathrooms. It’s dormitory style with men’s, women’s, and gender neutral facilities. Naturally a perv in middle management has figured out how to corner women alone and trap them by placing “out of order” signs on the bathroom doors. Coming from the mind of a male author, I wasn’t surprised this happened, but I was annoyed that the main threat to the female protagonist is men.
That female protagonist goes by the name Zinnia, but she’s a corporate spy who changes her name with each job she takes. She’s a Latina woman who knows she has to put up with all the worst of the worst in order to get her real job done. Through her scenes, it’s evident she’s always thinking a few steps ahead of everyone else in the room just in case she needs a backup plan. Espionage is about impossible as you can think when it comes to a place like a MotherCloud facility which requires all people to wear tracking devices that operate as everything for them. Those watches swipe open doors, tap into their currency account to pay for things, monitors their health, can answer questions, or issue commands. Supposedly Gibson Wells isn’t fond of camera surveillance but he hardly needs it when those watches can tell management when you went to the bathroom.
Paxton is the male protagonist we’re supposed to feel sorry for. He’s a former prison guard who hated that job and then gets placed in Cloud security. He’s as down on his luck as everyone else who considers employment with Cloud. Broke, single, childless, and desperate. Paxton follows the new rules of male protagonists. He wants to hook up with Zinnia but respects her boundaries — things the original James Bond types would not have done. And as much as he says he hates the power dynamic of law enforcement, when something goes against the rules, he takes the time to consider whether or not to do anything about it.
“Stay hydrated. Hit your numbers. Don’t complain. If you get hurt, walk it off. The less you have to talk to the managers, the better.”
Another thing that Hart does with ease is let readers know that there are disasters outside the walls of the MotherCloud. He mentions plastic a lot. Plastic bottle. Plastic wrappers. Plastic mattress. Yet the MotherCloud facilities proclaim to be ever-so high on their pedestal of environmentally conscious and being the greenest organization. Gibson Wells is responsible for detrimental laws like the Freedom from Harassment in Construction Act (people aren’t allowed to protest non-union construction) and the Red Tape Elimination Act where large corporations could skip any paperwork like environmental impact studies since it would impede job creation. There’s even the American Worker Housing Act and the Paperless Currency Act allowing the Cloud organization to pay less than minimum wage. Gibson Wells even privatized the FAA to make his drone deliveries easier for the company.
Readers are no doubt asking, why would anyone root for a man like Gibson Wells? There’s a subject eluded to from the beginning called the Black Friday Massacres.
If you ever wondered, “how did we get here?” when you see Amazon and Google running the world, just read through The Warehouse in a weekend and you’ll see. It started innocently enough. It started as a solution to problems. It started as the answer to people’s prayers, until it became the evil people wish they could conquer.