There is a long held notion that science fiction is a predicator of the future, but what happens when the near-future world described is much closer than anyone would like to think? In Rob Hart’s The Warehouse, that future is now (sort of.) This novel feels almost like current event journalism rather than speculative fiction. What is truly astonishing about the book is that it is simultaneously both shockingly original and comfortably familiar, both modern and retro, at the same time.
Take a moment to look briefly at the plot of The Warehouse in the most general of terms. Rob Hart has crafted a first-class near-future thriller in which two individuals confront reality when a corporate takeover of existence is no longer simply a whispered-about conspiracy theory. One of them, Paxton, is an embittered man whose very livelihood was ruined by Cloud, who now finds himself asking for work within one of their exclusive work-live environments (known as a MotherCloud.) The other person is Zinnia, a mixed-race woman infiltrating the corporation under the orders of a mysterious benefactor, intent on exposing all of their secrets regardless of the danger. These two renegades first meet just moments after arriving at this particular MotherCloud and their lives become increasingly intertwined as they proceed on their two seemingly divergent paths.
Rob Hart structures his story by dividing the action between these two point of view characters. They narrate in alternating fashion, allowing readers to witness events – sometimes the same event – through two sets of eyes. Gibson Wells, the aging and ailing founder of Cloud get his moments to say his peace at the beginning of each new section of the novel. Gibson’s “diary” entries serve to both fill readers in on the backstory, but also provide a through-line that can only culminate with a face-to-face encounter between all these characters within the MotherCloud.
In order to pull off this audacious plot, the world-building has to be on-point. Fortunately, Rob Hart is more than up to this task and one suspects the depth of this process is far more profound than is immediately evident on the printed page. After sprinkling in subtle moments that reflect on our current lives and make this whole thing more realistic and believable, the author drops tiny hints about what happened in the larger world in the intervening years – things like the collapse of the newspaper industry and the Black Friday Massacres – that explain how society got to this point in the first place.
As one would expect from a thriller, The Warehouse is chock-full of exciting set-pieces – chases, fights, accidents, and more – but Rob Hart is never one to forgo an examination of more serious matters. There is an astute understanding of the psychological impact of this type of environment and how it would manifest in a plethora of different personality types when subjected to living in this manner. The challenges and secrets necessary to run a MotherCloud provide plenty of shocks for the reader, at least one of which is likely to haunt readers for years to come.
The writing style Rob Hart uses for The Warehouse is incredibly cinematic, making the movie rights option taken by Ron Howard logical and somewhat inevitable. The reader can envision every scene with ease, but one in particular just begs for the big screen treatment. An excursion day, when Zinnia and Paxton leave the isolated seclusion of the MotherCloud to venture out into the vast wasteland and ruined city in the surrounding area is not only described in visually stunning detail, but it is also where some of the darkest warnings about our future are laid bare. This journey marks a major turning point in the plot of The Warehouse, when missions change and the risks increase.
In the end, The Warehouse joins a long tradition of Utopian novels – works like George Orwell’s 1984, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – in which the reader is warned against complacency when faced with the loss of individual identity and extreme control from centralized powers. Like those other novels, The Warehouse is destined for cult classic status. This is the type of book the term buzz-worthy was invented for. The Warehouse will be talked about for years to come…Don’t miss out on being part of the conversation.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.