Rob Hart continues to build on his promise as a writer. After his five novel arc of unlicensed private detective Ash McKenna, delving into several different sub genres, he now melds thriller, satire, and a touch of sci-fi. The result is The Warehouse, a novel about a future that could occur by the the time your finished reading the book.
Global warming is frying Earth, automation is on the rise, employment on the drop, but consumerism is still chugging along. Hence, The Cloud, an amazon on steroids, that has become a literal refuge. The employees, live, shop, and dine in the place where they work, Mother Cloud facility, factory, mall, and apartment complex in one.
Hart views the the story through three characters. He first introduces us to Gibson Wells, the founder of Cloud, communicating through his blog posts. He informs the public that he is been diagnosed with cancer and is taking a farewell tour of the Mother Cloud facilities across the country as he decides on who will be taking control of the company. Paxton, a newly minted security guard for a Cloud facility, takes the role of protagonist. His back story of his small business being put out by Cloud will sound familiar to some who remember the amazon-Hachette feud several years back. His boss tasks him with finding the distributors of a designer drug, employees are using in the facility. He falls for Zinnia, another new hire, except she is on the shipping floor. She is also working as a spy for another corporation, trying to discover the energy source that powers the facility.
The story’s expert craftsmanship moves both plot and characters along, threading the two with emotion. Hart could have gotten away with a dark satire about the lack of humanity in runaway capitalism with the characters as symbols, but he realizes we can’t truly think about what a story has to say unless we feel. He brings each character to emotional life. Paxton is the perfect underdog. A regular guy who has lost out so often, he’s got to win something this time. Zinnia proves to be a perfectly constructed bad ass lady, who we slowly sympathize with as she has to fight her own sympathy for Paxton and her “fellow workers.” As in previous works, Rob Hart shows his talent at dealing with people fighting the behavior that life has shaped for them.
Gibson Wells proves be a creation of nuance. Introduced to us by telling us he’s dying, we are already connected. He has both a sense of humor and purpose. He is out to fight global warming. At first he appears to be a descent if sometimes misguided man. However, blog post after blog post, we glimpse more of the ego that leads to the hubris of men who make decisions that affect the many.
Hart also builds a believable world, less Mad Max than just crappy. It has become a world owned by the one percent with everyone else working for them, if they’re lucky, and becoming more aware of that reality that day. The people are more accepting of the circumstance and search to numb it, whether through drugs or consumerism. a few choose to fight. The book captures the inertia of it and how something could give at any moment.
The Warehouse serves as a keen observation of things to come without ever losing track of the people who live and work in that future. Hart realizes we can’t fear for humanity if we feel no human contact with the characters. With The Warehouse he creates a frighteningly big world seen through an intimate scale.