A thrilling dystopian novel.
Author of short-stories, articles and the Ash McKenna detective series, Rob Hart, recently released his first stand-alone novel, The Warehouse.
Set in the near-future, it images a fairly realistic dystopia, where climate change has run rampant. Looming over America and much of the rest of the world is Cloud, a retail behemoth clearly based on Amazon. Cloud’s founder, Bill Gibson, sees himself as the saviour of mankind, rather than a greedy corporate cowboy.
Hart’s book is structured around three narratives: the first-person blogs of Gibson who, dying of cancer, wants to put down his thoughts; and the third-person narratives of Paxton and Zinnia, two new workers at a Cloud facility. Zinnia, however, has been hired by an unknown client to carry out corporate espionage. The characters are nicely drawn, making them a bit more than mere ciphers, but not detracting from the plot which sits at the heart of the work.
Like most good dystopian novels, The Warehouse extrapolates into the future, but also looks back into history. Cloud provides full living facilities for its workers, and pays them in Cloud credits, rather than actual money. This is reminiscent of the early industrialists in 19th century Europe. These historic threads lift a work out of being simply speculative into something with a little more intellectual gravitas. Hart doesn’t shy away from raising some uncomfortable questions and never opts for directing our sympathies via the black-and-white narrative arc. It would make a great read for a first-year ethics class!
However, don’t think that this is a serious, difficult read. It is anything but. Hart’s work moves along at a cracking pace, with the three main characters developing and interweaving. There are enough twists and surprises to keep you reading late into the night, but not so many as to make your head spin.
This one would be a perfect read on the plane or on the beach over summer; meaty enough to keep you engaged, but first and foremost a rollicking good tale.
Oh…and Ron Howard has bought the film rights…
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: August 2019