the warehouse

4 stars

An intriguing sci-fi/dystopia book about a company’s world domination.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick and easy read that I found hard to put down. One reason people have told me they don’t like science fiction books is because it all seems too weird, alien, technical or far fetched. I think even those people would like this book. It’s also more dystopia than science fiction, which helps.

The book really made me think about how much Amazon and Costco have infiltrated our lives. They just make things so darn easy, right? It’s not hard to imagine how the companies could lull people into complacency just like in the book, and end up taking over the world.

In a not-to-distant future, the world is a mess. The climate is unforgiving, with extremely high temperatures making being outside almost impossible. Consequently, agriculture is almost non-existent and the population is dependent on Cloud, a mega company that delivers anything you could ever desire by drone. It employs more than 30 million people all over the world in their live-work facilities, where people work 12 hour days and are paid in credits they can use to purchase anything they need, from – you guessed it – Cloud. The employees live at the facility, work there, and entertain themselves there. Cloud not only provides for all consumer needs, it provides health care, banking, energy, and has taken over most of the services that state and local governments used to provide for citizens. Cloud employees can literally, live, work and die, at a Cloud facility and never leave.

The story is told from three different characters’ perspective. Gibson, the founder of Cloud, is writing an autobiographical memoir blog as he takes a tour of Cloud facilities throughout the country. He’s dying of cancer, and wants to visit as many locations as he can before he dies. Throughout his story, Gibson attempts to justify some of the more questionable decisions he made on his journey to world domination. At times he casts himself as the victim in the scenario, rather than the people he subjugated to his will.

Paxton, a former prison guard, thought he was living his dream when he invented a kitchen gadget that made the perfect hard boiled egg. He quit his job at the prison and started his own company. As CEO, Paxton believed he was on his way to building a successful business. But a reluctant partnership with Cloud crushed those dreams. As demand for his product increased, Cloud exerted pressure on Paxton to provide his product cheaper and cheaper. Not able to meet their demands and survive, Paxton shuttered his company and found himself in the unenviable position of taking a job with the very company that destroyed his dream. Hoping to obtain a mindless job on the warehouse floor, he is instead given a position in the security department of the facility.

Zinnia is a corporate spy tasked with infiltrating Cloud to learn its secrets. The job will provide her with enough money to flee the US and set herself up in another country, away from her questionable job. A coincidental encounter with Paxton on the bus to the Cloud facility gives her the opportunity to use him to perform her job. She just didn’t count on caring whether or not she hurt him in the process.

Told in alternating chapters, the story unfolds in a brisk pace. There isn’t much background given about the characters, other than a few hints here and there. While normally this would annoy me, I think it works in this book because the whole point of Cloud taking over your life is that it takes away your desire to ask too many questions. You are stuck with dealing with what is in front of you as it comes. The monotony in the book shows how people left with little choice can so easily learn to accept life as it is, and quell any curiosity they used to have.

As Paxton learns more about how things are done “the Cloud way”, he is of two minds. Part of him wants to question how things are done and make things better. Part of him wants to blindly follow orders and not think about anything. Even as he realizes what working and living at the Cloud facility is doing to him, Paxton can’t decide if he wants to accept his fate or fight it. Zinnia is used to working alone and not feeling anything. Can she focus on the job and get it over with so she can move on to her new life, or will she finally allow herself to have a bit of happiness? The ending of the book will delight some people, and annoy others I normally don’t like books that end this way, but for this book, I think it’s fitting.

I highly recommend you read this book, even if you think that you don’t like science fiction novels.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.