“The Warehouse” by Rob Hart is a 21st-century dystopian novel similar to classics like “1984,” “Brave New World,” and “Fahrenheit 451.” The story revolves around a company called Cloud that operates mega-warehouses around the U.S. and the world that provides workers with on-campus dormitories, restaurants, and healthcare as each new incoming recruit is placed in color-coded job functions such as pickers, service, tech support, security, and other “classes” with varying access to areas as their job placement requires.
The story revolves around Paxton, a security officer, who was a former prison guard and CEO of a failed company for an invention he developed, and Zinnia, a picker, who was hired to infiltrate Cloud to steal corporate secrets, detailing the inner workings of the company. Zinnia chooses the “loyal” Paxton as her mark to gain access and information as she hacks into the infrastructure at Cloud.
Hart details the horrifying extremes of capitalism when companies get bigger and stronger, and the government’s ability to protect the individual becomes more and more difficult. Ideas such as a sacrifice of freedom for protection, individual benefits of employees decreasing as job competition becomes stronger, and rating systems with subjective marks that force employees to strive for higher yet unattainable goals to get the most out of an employee are all central themes of the book.
The scariest part of Hart’s thriller is that most of the technology utilized is currently available today: drones for fast delivery of products, wi-fi connected watches that track a person’s vital signs and GPS location, key cards for allowing and restricting access to secure areas. Little of the futuristic technology is far-fetched and with enough power and a coordinated infrastructure in place using predictive modeling, artificial intelligence, and IOT technology it is believable that a company could monitor and control an entire campus of employees with only instructions from their watch and their built-in GPS tracking.
I loved the book. I think it is a good cautionary tale to take seriously when we look at companies that get bigger and bigger and the “free hand” of the market only emboldens them to see how far they can stretch the limits before facing serious push back by consumers, employees, and the government. It is a thought-provoking book that helps one re-examine the balance between caring about a company’s profit and its people.