Sunday, February 28, 2021

Review of The Warehouse by Rob Hart

It’s been a week and my mind is still turning over the ideas inherent to Rob Hart’s 2019 The Warehouse. Talk about creamy brain candy. Spinning a (fictional?) Amazon-esque future into an Adam-Smith, late-game, capitalist scenario, the novel raises a huge number of questions that touch upon the majority of aspects of 21st century existence in ways we consider sacred. Is it as rigorous as it could have been plot-wise, perhaps not, but what what’s there is inciteful enough—in a good way. (It’s also extremely insightful, in case you thought that was a slip.)

The Warehouse follows the lives of three people, leading up to a key moment in the history of The Cloud. An ultra-mega corporation unlike any the world has ever seen, The Cloud started as an Amazon-esque online shopping portal, but evolved into a global, corporate entity unlike humanity has ever seen. Through the hard work and acumen of its founder and leader, Gibson Wells, the company finds its fingers not only in almost every key pie that consumers have the possibility of spending money on, but also in the government organizations which regulate and deliver some of our most valued services and utilities.

The first person the novel follows is Gibson, and picks the man up as he learns he is dying of cancer. Subsequently, his parts are a series of blog posts describing his life, the evolution of The Cloud, and the business logic he used developing the company into the behemoth it has become. The second person followed is Paxton. His attempt at entrepreneurship having been quickly swallowed by Cloud, at the beginning of the novel Paxton is looking for employment at a Cloud logistics center in an attempt to both stay afloat financially and find some way of enacting revenge. The third person is Zinnia. A corporate spy, she is being paid by shadowy figures to infiltrate the same logistics center as Paxton and plant bugs to gather intel. Paxton and Zinnia meeting on their first day, the two eventually find themselves in a situation neither Orwellian, Marxian, or Adam Smithian.

A solid, balanced mix of plot and ideology, the pages of The Warehouse turn themselves as the reader gets deeper and deeper into the stories of the three characters, stories buoyed by truly interesting perspectives on consumerism, capitalism, liberalism, socialism, and others. These –isms never spelled out dictionary style, Hart instead puts these ideas into action and story, most often usig the setting to show rather than tell in a way not every book can say to do.

And it’s here that the reader finds the absolute, tip-top best thing about The Warehouse: unlike a lot of media these days, it refuses to choose sides—refuses to choose an -ism. Like most of the best science fiction, Hart presents a scenario, allowing the reader to make of it what they will. More precisely, Hart breaks down, in wonderfully engaging story fashion, the pros and cons of end-game capitalism, Elon Musk style. I won’t spoil all of the aspects here, but things like freedom, the environment, health care—the major aspects of existence—are addressed to major and minor detail, and in both imaginative but realistic manner.

In the end, there are a couple of forced plot transitions, but overall the story of The Warehouse keeps the reader stuck on the page, and the underlying substance is so chewy, so tasty, so complementary in substance that it’s impossible for the reader’s mind not to immediately reach out to the real world and start comparing and contrasting the situation—and be both alarmed and hopeful. Hart doing an excellent job showing pluses and minuses of the free market in his near-future Walmart World, it’s up to the reader to decides for themselves what both the novel and reality mean to them. One thing that is not equivocal is the recommendation to read this novel. If you have any interest in the role modern technology and consumer and corporate practices play in our lives, have a gander...

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