The Warehouse is a 2019 novel by Rob Hart where three characters collide in a dystopian near-future America dominated by an Orwellian global corporation called, Cloud.
The novel1 sets up the three main characters proficiently, Gibson Wells is the charismatic, slick talking, self-promotional, storytelling owner of Cloud. In his creepy blog posts and video addresses he talks about the value that Cloud adds to American society, and his family values. Zinnia is a tough industrial spy and she’s been tasked with infiltrating the organisation to discover its secret sauce. Paxton used to own a small company that was bankrupted by Cloud’s aggressive supplier cost cutting and use of patents to monopolise its position.
The America of the future is a grim place where the infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and global warming has transformed most of the country into an arid semi-desert resembling the dustbowl of the 1930s. Government has grown smaller to become non-existent, effectively being replaced by Cloud. Anything that can be deregulated has been opened up to the free market (mostly due to Cloud’s pressure). Cloud is an Amazon-like mega-business, one of the last employers in the US.
What is the secret of Cloud’s success? Why are they so security obsessed? Will Zinnia learn the truth? Where will Paxton’s loyalties lead him — to help her, or to stop her?
The Warehouse is an enjoyable bestseller-type read that’s frighteningly plausible. It’s also an intelligent novel that deliberately reigns in the action to explore the psychological motivations behind each of the three main characters. Recently, I’ve been thinking about science fiction as literary fiction and this goes in the other direction, investing depth and psychological context into a mainstream genre novel. In some ways this is possibly harder to pull off because the writer is working against reader expectations (more depth and psychology equates with less action). Instead of being solely about guns and fist fights, The Warehouse also asks a big question — is Cloud’s Big Brother-like power benefiting America, or itself?
1 To be more accurate, I listened to the Audible audiobook — the performances by Emily Woo Zeller, Karissa Vacker, Jason Culp are excellent, I also read sections of the ebook.↻